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.
Unlike many kolacky-bakers, the owners of Kolache Stop don't have Czech heritage or recipes passed down through generations to guide them. Rather, they let their passion for the dense Central-European pastry bloom into a menu of unconventional breakfast, lunch, and dessert options. Fillings range from traditional fruit and cream cheese to jalapeño, pulled pork, and other Southwestern ingredients that the owners have dubbed "Tex-Czech." They also veer from tradition by putting their fillings inside rather than on top of every fluffy pastry bun.
Besides its titular snacks—which are baked fresh onsite every day—Kolache Stop charms sweet teeth with cinnamon rolls, cinnamon twists, and sticky buns on the weekends. Whether guests take their treats to go or stay to use free WiFi in the café, they can wash down their baked goods with coffees ground in-house, low-fat frappes, and smoothies made from real fruit rather than vegetables in disguise.
The tradition of Sonny Bryan’s award-winning barbecue started more than a century ago on February 13, a date that would become circled on the calendar again and again throughout Bryan’s Barbecue history. February 13, 1910, marked the opening of Elias Bryan’s Oak Cliff restaurant, Bryan's Barbecue. Exactly 20 years later to the day, his eldest son, William “Red” Jennings Bryan, launched his own restaurant. When February 13 rolled around again 28 years later, Elias’ grandson, William "Sonny" Jennings Bryan Jr., and his wife, Joanne, opened another restaurant, the first Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse.
Although a different Dallas family now manages multiple locations of the restaurant chain in Utah and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the legendary barbecue lives on. Sonny Bryan's original barbecue sauce spices up its savory pulled meats and ribs, which have been devoured by US presidents, famous entertainers, sports legends, and A-list animated Disney characters alike. Sonny's seasoned chefs also cater heaps of fresh brisket and smoked chicken to parties and events.
Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse has been on the culinary radar since 1989, snapping up awards and publicity from Food Network, the Travel Channel’s Man V. Food Nation, and Emeril Lagasse’s The Originals with Emeril. The modest joints have also earned some highbrow epicurean chops through a 2006 Zagat rating and a 2000 James Beard Foundation award for Culinary Excellence and Achievement.
Valerie Broussard's purpose as Trace's forager is to source fresh ingredients from local farms and to track down the best cheeses, cured meats, jams, and hot sauces from artisan producers. Working in tandem with Broussard, Chef Lawrence Kocurek evokes the personality of Austin, crafting a menu with a conscience that complements the W Austin Hotel's pledge for sustainability and eco-friendly practices. Black lacquered tables cradle sharable plates of charcuterie and fresh oysters as waiters round up ranch strip steaks and all-natural FreeBird chicken breasts, accompanied by accents such as organic rainbow chard and Springdale Farms winter squash.
If the entire restaurant's décor was born from a single burst, the burst must have come from the dining room's modern chandelier, which features silver rods that erupt from a central point and teardrop lights that cast a dim glow through the interior's thin, sprawled boughs. Wide-set stone columns sit nobly against steel-hued drapes, leading eyes to the walls' mirror mosaics and out into the equally stylish W Austin Hotel.
In 1961, J.B. Wilson founded his own barbecue eatery and populated the menu with recipes of his own design. These recipes remained unchanged throughout the years, as did his signature welcome—greeting customers in a top hat and cane. When he fell ill in 2004, he passed the business’s reins to his close friend Amos Adetula. Afraid that J.B’s recipes would otherwise be lost forever, Amos graciously agreed to lead the restaurant into the future. His legacy now secure, Mr. Wilson passed away three days later.
Today, Amos still makes all the original sauces for the restaurant's ribs, brisket, and pork himself, including the sweet sauce that adorns the restaurant’s signature baked beans. Savory dishes complement sweet-potato or buttermilk pies, which the staff makes by hand from scratch each day. A number of longneck brews stands at the ready to cool diners’ tongues in the wake of smoked meats, hot baked potatoes, and periodic fire-breathing competitions. Inside the original location on Apache, large plasma televisions adorn the exposed log cabin–style walls, hanging above booths bedecked in the original black and red checkered style. Outside the eatery's confines, breezy outdoor seating around an original built-in concrete fire pit encourages frequent fresh-air feasts. When lovers of Wilson's require the food to come to them, culinary crews transport the eatery’s fare with full offsite catering services for events such as tailgate parties, where staffers set up and break down after the meal.
When Kipps Cheesesteak first opened in June 2010, owner Kipp wasn't sure if he'd be able to sell the 36 rolls he bought for the day. He shouldn't have worried—he was completely sold out by 11:45 a.m.
It seems that customers couldn't get enough of the cheesesteaks, which were served in classic fashion—rib eye topped with caramelized onions and slathered in Cheez Whiz or provolone—or jazzed up with green chilies, barbecue sauce, or hot sauce. The eatery is still going strong, and in addition to cheesesteaks, serves burgers, hot dogs, creative salads, and housemade cheesecakes.
The signature hot sandwiches and 23 types of frosty beers perch atop Kipps's retro-style bar, which is equipped with several wide-screen TVs broadcasting sports games and only the least-obnoxious car-insurance commercials.