A hunk of brisket at VooDoo BBQ & Grill begins its journey suspended over a bed of pecan and oak logs. Coated in a dry rub of local spices, the meat slowly turns on a rotisserie rod for up to 16 hours, its skin crisping while the inside stays a warm pink. The chefs smoke all their beef brisket and pulled pork over logs from Louisiana-based trees to lend them the region's unique smoked flavor, even at the risk of confusing passing botanists. They lightly coat grilled sausages, chicken, and burgers in three signature sauces inspired by the state's Cajun recipes. To complement their menagerie of smoked and grilled meats, they sling a variety of southern sides such as corn pudding, greens, and potato salads. At each of the 13 locations, the aroma of roasting meat fills a space of dark-stained wood and wrought iron; dining rooms awash in a palette of reds, greens, and oranges buzz with the sounds of jazz and blues.
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.
Travis Dickey opened Dickey's Barbecue Pit in 1941. To keep things simple but delicious in the early days, he created a minimalistic menu with only seven items such as beef brisket and bottled milk. By the time the '60s rolled up in a Volkswagen van, Dickey's two sons had grown up and taken over the enterprise. Using their father's hickory-smoked recipes, they expanded the business from a single restaurant to a franchise. To this day, each location uses the same tried-and-true barbecue techniques employed by the founder all those years ago. From the original seven items, the menu has grown to include spicy cheddar sausage and complimentary ice cream as well as sides such as macaroni and cheese and jalapeño beans.
Resting on Barton Springs just off South Lamar, Green Mesquite BBQ and More has been “smoking the good stuff” since 1988. And it’s not just a clever, colorful name: the stools at the bar to the left of the entrance, plus all the seats and booths – not to mention the awning outside – feature some amount of forest green coloring. The restaurant is also straightforward in its specializes of all things barbecue. Diners can dig into brisket, pulled pork, sausage and other traditional meats – but it’s the signs intriguing “more” that often keeps customers coming back. Sometimes, it’s a Green Mesquite cheese steak taco basket, made up of two ribeye tacos with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and pico de gallo. Other times, customers call for a po’ boy, bowl of jambalaya or chef’s salad. There’s a little bit of everything found inside Green Mesquite.
Buster's BBQ offers meaty morsels in flavorful smoke, cooking meats to tender perfection in owner Tim Cook's pecan-fired smoke pit. The dinner and lunch menu boasts a slew of carnivore-pleasing chow, including sliced or block-chopped beef brisket, garlic-stuffed pork shoulder, or skinless turkey smoked in mayonnaise and cracked black pepper (each $6.65 per half pound). Meats can arrive delectably displayed atop a sandwich ($5.99), as a platter with savory sides ($8.99+), or dressed up in fashionably fringed leather jackets.
Mann's menu is the work of owner Jim Mann, an artist whose medium is meat and whose canvas is your face. No-nonsense noshers can order meat by the pound—sausage ($11.99), brisket ($12.99), ribs of bovine ($9.09) or porcine ($12.99) origin, pulled pork ($12.99), and more. To keep a hand open for impromptu gong solos, have Jim slap some of that meat between ground-wheat slabs for a barbecue sandwich ($5.59) and side it with potato salad, turnip greens, or black-eyed peas ($2.59 for one serving, $4.99 a pint). Larger appetites have their choice of combo plate with two sides (two meats, $11.59; three meats, $12.99; four meats, $15.79; veggie plate, $7.59). Once your plate looks like a pig exploded on it and your mouth and clothes are gloriously slathered in barbecue sauce, potato salad, and flecks of cobbed corn, finish up your power lunch with a jumbo Texas sweet tea ($2.29) and banana pudding ($2.89), then go nail that job interview.