If the Aue family didn’t put Texas on the map, they at least made it tastier. Max Aue founded the town of Leon Springs, Texas in the 1800s. Years later, his son Rudolph founded Rudy’s, a country store and barbecue joint that eventually spawned more than 30 outposts throughout Texas and the American Southwest. Each one of them possesses a 100% oak-fired BBQ pit that slow cooks tender slabs of meat, adding a smoky flavor and tender texture to every bite. St. Louis pork ribs, lean and moist brisket, and jalapeño sausages are a few examples of the succulent morsels that emerge from the wood-fired pits straight to the plate. Classic sides such as potato salad and corn on the cop prove delicious accomplices, while banana pudding and peach cobbler grant every meal with a sweet and satisfying coda.
Brothers Kevin and Ric Kiersh opened Red River BBQ & Grill as a catering company back in the '90s, and though it still outfits parties with heaps of classic southern comfort food (including a mashed potato bar), customers can now get their barbecue fix at two restaurant locations. Diners can stop in anytime for barbecue spuds and sandwiches, or visit on Monday night to enjoy all-you-can-eat fried chicken and stirring speeches delivered by ribs on the campaign trail. If customers don't opt for brisket, spicy sausage, and pork ribs still sizzling from their stay in the wood-fired pits, they can order steaks and fried shrimp. Sides include potato salad and beer-battered onion rings.
When husband-and-wife team Otto and Annie Sofka first founded Otto's Barbecue and Hamburgers in 1950, they never dreamed barbecue would become the meat and potatoes of the family's livelihood. The small corner grocery store specialized in canned and boxed goods—that is until Annie started cooking up hamburgers at the request of hungry regulars. As the popularity of Annie’s burgers grew, the store’s shelves were cleared out to make room for tables and chairs to accommodate the growing lines of customers. Within two years, the Sofkas were officially in the burger business. By the ’60s, they were ready to add old family barbecue recipes to the menu, and Otto’s has been a favorite pit stop for Houston barbecue lovers ever since.
Three generations have now manned the kitchen at Otto’s, satisfying customers as varied as George Bush Sr., Liberace, and George Foreman with barbecue that has been smoked in a hickory grill for 18 hours. Chefs pair seven meat choices, including beef brisket, slow-smoked pork ribs, and sausage links, with a range of homestyle sides and giant stuffed potatoes, creating full meals that showcase the flavors of the South better than an art installation built from chicken-fried steaks. The chefs at Otto’s also serve up their own line of bottled sodas, ensuring enough frothy root beer, orange soda, and cream soda to wash down the saucy eats.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has smoked beef brisket in-house nearly every night since 1941, painting each morsel with a tangy house-made sauce. Pulled pork, turkey breast, and polish sausage round out the menu with meals that are heartier than a burrito wrapped in Paul Bunyan’s plaid shirt. Boxed lunches and catered buffets brim with homestyle sides such as coleslaw, mac 'n' cheese, and jalapeño beans. Once the last pickle has been crunched and the last finger has been licked, guests can savor one of the restaurant’s most cherished traditions: a vanilla cone, on the house.
Demeris Bar-B-Q slathers meats and fingers with a plethora of tasty barbecue-sauce-laden menu items. Serve a family or a family of squirrels with the barbecue dinner, which pairs one, two, or three sauce-smothered servings of beef, sausage, chicken, ribs, chicken breast, or jalapeño sausage with a choice of two sides ($10.25+). A half-pound patty naps between comfy layers of cheddar cheese, bacon, an onion ring, and a sourdough bun inside the Hoffy burger ($6.95–$8.45, at the Shepherd Drive and Northwest Mall locations only), and butter, sour cream, cheese, and chives shower a hearty baked potato ($4.45). Escort a saucy selection with a side of jalapeño corn, barbecue baked beans, or seasoned green beans ($1.70 each). The mississippi-mud ice-cream pie helps patrons cool down their spice-slathered taste buds without sky diving with their mouths open ($4.60).
You can tell a good barbecue joint when one of its menu sections is titled simply "Meat." These meats slay the bland and defend the savory. Smoked for hours in a solid brick pit (originally built in 1934), Pizzitola's beef brisket melts into your plate, while the chicken turns buttery soft beneath skin cracked and crisped. The rough-textured sausage, made as it has been for years by two Czech brothers in Cistern, sidles up well against pinto beans and mustardy potato salad. The family-style meal includes a full pound of sliced (or chopped) beef brisket, half pound of sausage, half pound of sliced pork, half of a chicken, a side of barbecue sauce, and one pint each of pinto beans, potato salad, and coleslaw.