Saturday, June 20, 2015

How to plan the perfect Texas BBQ tour

Pecan Lodge in Dallas is a don't miss stop on any DFW BBQ tour. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)
The Posse is approaching its sixth anniversary of driving the cities, towns and backroads of Texas in search of great barbecue. Inspired by Texas Monthly magazine's 2008 list of the Best BBQ joints in Texas, our original group of six hit the road in early November 2009.

Six years later, we've made dozens of trips around the state, sharing our stories on this blog and in The Dallas Morning News. Here are a few things we've learned along the way.

1. Do your research: There's no substitute for good planning when it comes to barbecue tours. You have access to plenty of good information on the internet. Find a couple of sites you trust and go from there. When we began in 2009, the go-to source was Daniel Vaughn's Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog, but it's been inactive for several years since he became barbecue editor for Texas Monthly. However, Daniel writes for and maintains the magazine's current website for all things Texas BBQ.

I usually avoid using Yelp or Google reviews as a guide, the feedback rarely comes from people who really know barbecue, IE: "Dickey's brisket is great!" (You get the idea.) Another favorite of ours is Don O's Texas BBQ blog. Don and his friend Scott really know their BBQ and blanket the state looking for the next great joint. You can also check out our interactive Google map of the Posse's favorite Texas BBQ joints. A list of some of our favorite barbecue tours also appears on the right side of the Posse blog.

2. Pace yourself: It took us a year or two to really figure this one out, but it's crucial to having a successful tour.  You may be eating some of the greatest brisket in the world for breakfast at Snow's BBQ, but you have three or four more stops during the day. It takes practice, but limit yourself to a snack, not a full meal.

We usually eat a bite or two of brisket, sausage and turkey/chicken, along with a rib at each stop. Of course you will order more than a few bites, but that's where the cooler and ice in your trunk come in for. Take some home. And when you get there, you'll the most popular person in the dining room as your family and friends relive your tour, digging into the best barbecue they've ever eaten.

The Posse digs in at Louie Mueller Barbecue on our first tour in Nov. 2009. (Gary Barber/Texas BBQ Posse)

3. Group size matters:  Our tour groups have varied from four to more than 20 participants. Since the Posse usually travels with more than a few photographers, writers and videographers, we found the large groups pretty much overwhelmed some small BBQ joints.

We've found the perfect size to be around eight, so you can travel in a couple of cars and order pretty quickly. With eight folks, you also get a lot of BBQ opinion and debate going at the table. That's a big part of the fun on a barbecue tour.

4. Don't be bashful: The Texas BBQ community consists of some of the greatest people you'll ever meet. Strike up a conversation with the owner and/or pitmaster and you might just end up in the pit room talking BBQ secrets. Don't be pushy if the line is out the door though, these folks have to make hay while the grass is growing.

4. Find diversions along the way: It may be tempting, but you can't eat barbecue non-stop. (See above: No. 2. Pace yourself.) Texas is full of cool things to see along the way, so keep your eyes open for great diversions as you plan your tour.

Does your tour include a stop at the legendary Leon’s World Finest In & Out Bar-B-Que House in Galveston? Follow your visit with a Gulf of Mexico beach break to burn those barbecue calories. Stopping at Posse favorite Kirby's Barbeque in Mexia? Your next stop could be nearby at historic Fort Parker, where the legend of Comanche chief Quanah Parker began.

We've also been known to pack a set of horseshoes and a few chilled beverages, stopping at a local park for a recreation break between BBQ joints. Anything to get you ready to eat at the next tour stop.

5. Follow the smoke:  Keep your eyes open for unexpected stops along the way. Some of our most memorable stops have been the unforeseen ones, when someone saw a pit bellowing smoke and we pulled over, usually making new friends along the way. Meeting the citizens of the great BBQ nation of Texas will never grow old.

Snow's BBQ pit boss Tootsie Tomanetz tends the pits as the sun rises over Lexington. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

The Posse began its first anniversary tour at the original Franklin Barbecue in Austin in 2010.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Chris. I was wondering where all those extra hits came from! Hope to see y'all at Texas Monthly or Gettin' Sauced this year.

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  2. My husband and I are big fans of BBQ restaurants. We love to go out every weekend for date night and try out new restaurants! Hopefully we can find more BBQ one's to go to. http://mrbarbecue-nc.com

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  3. Replies
    1. Hi Stacey: Here are a few of our favorite joints, in no particular order:

      LA Barbecue, Austin
      Snow's BBQ, Lexington
      Killen's Barbecue, Pearland (Houston area)
      Pecan Lodge, Dallas
      Hutchins BBQ, McKinney (Dallas area)
      Miller Smokehouse, Belton
      Louis Mueller BBQ, Taylor

      Enjoy!

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