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.
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.
If the “Tortoise and the Hare” taught us anything, it’s that slow and steady wins the race. And at Tony's Barbecue & Steak House, slow and steady cooking has ordinary dinners beat with pork ribs and brisket that spend a good 12 hours sizzling over South Texas hickory. The barbecue meals are joined by hearty steaks, smoked ham and turkey plates, and quail dinners. Many of the menu items are cooked with one of founder Antonio Ruiz's secret recipes for dirty rice, barbecue sauce, and pork and brisket rubs. Before opening the first Tony’s Barbecue in Baytown, Ruiz spent 15 years developing his craft at a local barbecue restaurant in Houston.
The grill gurus at Railroad Crossing BBQ pack a menu with meat-focused eats, inviting guests to dine inside restored train cars. Perfect for restaurant-wide games of catch, baked potatoes stuff themselves with butter, sour cream, and cheese ($4.99) or your choice of protein ($7.99). Combinations of beef, links, pork tenderloin, ham, turkey, and chicken define Railroad Crossing BBQ's dinner platters, which are protected by moats of homemade sauce and feature names such as Brakeman (choice of one meat, $7.99), Conductor (ribs, $10.99), and Engineer (choice of three meats, $10.99). Both chicken-fried steak ($7.99) and fried-chicken tenderloins ($7.99) are served with two of the eatery's Side Tracks, such as coleslaw, pinto beans, or railroad ties—french fries designed to be strong enough to support the weight of a caboose.
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).
The Brisket House allows meataholics and barbecaddicts to satisfy smoky cravings with a menu of meaty favorites, all smoked with a combination of oak and pecan. Tear into the restaurant's signature "Brisket House Special," with your choice of meat (house sausage, hot sausage, brisket, pork ribs, turkey, or chicken) alongside a slab of cheddar cheese, a whole pickle, onion, and bread. Orders come in sizes of six ounces ($7.50 for one meat), eight ounces ($9 for choice of up to two meats), and one pound ($18 for choice of up to four meats). Guests can back the stomach truck right up to the counter and order smoked meat by the pound—1/3 pound ($4.50), 1/2 pound ($6.50), or one pound of juicy, flavor-dripping slow-fired goodness ($12). For people who want to rain sides on the meaty parade, The Brisket House slings up half-pints ($2.50–$2.75), full pints ($4.50–$4.95), or quarts ($6.95–$7.50) of appetizing accompaniments, with a three-meat plate ($11.50) and choice of two sides.
JJ's Cluckers satiates poultry-loving palates with an extensive menu of flavorsome fowl served in a fun and family-oriented setting. Warm up incisors with pickle chips—battered and fried dill slices served with ranch dressing ($5.25)—before treating taste buds to sauce-soused wings ($7.99 for 10 bone-in wings). Liquid wing enhancers range from the silky-smooth honey barbecue to the hotter chipotle to the scorching code 5150, which provides an epicurean experience akin to hacky sacking a lava rock with your tongue.