Texans Barbecue Beef. These three words are often used to sum up the Texas barbecue experience. I understand why this knee-jerk explanation has become so popular: it reduces a long, complicated saga into a pat one-liner that no one can really disagree with. The true story of Texas barbecue is far more bewildering.

— Robb Walsh

Legends of Texas Barbecue

Welcome to the BBQ Tours website

This site is dedicated to the pursuit and enjoyment of smoked meats.  We are a small group of friends and barbecue enthusiasts (fanatics?).  Since 1999, we gather for our annual road trip/pilgrimage with a common objective: Barbecue!

And while this site was designed and constructed for our purposes, we sincerely hope that you find some value or enjoyment from visiting (or both!).

For more information about the BBQ Crew members, click here.

 

History of The Barbecue Tour:

Since the beginning of time, man has known of the need for male-bonding activity. This concept originally consisted of groups of men hunting and gathering food and provisions that the tribe/clan needed to survive. Thankfully, the concept has evolved over time, and today we have the "road trip". Hunting and gathering parties came with their own built-in purpose, and similarly, the key to any really good road trip is a common objective (as evidenced in the movie Fandango).

During the spring of 1999, I was musing upon road trips and common objectives and stumbled upon a 1997 issue of "Texas Monthly" that had been stashed away for later reference.  Inside was an article on the "50 Best BBQ Joints in Texas"...
  ...and the idea of the BBQ Tour was born!

 

Purpose:

Our goal is to experience all of the major American barbecue styles before our journey is finished.  And, well, Texas is a BIG state!  In addition, we still need to travel to experience Memphis, South Carolina/Georgia/Alabama, and Kentucky.

We research and plan these three-day tours to experience the barbecue culture of a selected region.  We drive the area, eat at 6 to 7 places each day, and find local recreation in the evenings.  We love talking to the owners/pitmasters about the art and craft of making great barbecue. 

Make no mistake, the era of craft-made barbecue that is cooked on wood-fired pits and using traditional methods is coming to a close.

 

Rules of Engagement:

  • Each participant will be armed with a notebook & writing instrument.
  • We want to ensure a representative sampling of the available menu items.  To facilitate that objective (when possible), we will:
    • Order meat by the pound to share with other participants
    • Order individual side items to share among the group

 

Evaluation:

Each BBQ joint will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Main Fare 45% - consists of the primary/featured barbecued meats
  • Other Fare 25% - consists of secondary meats, plus sides, sauces, & dessert items
  • Atmosphere 30% - an overall impression score consisting of history, location, building, pits, serving style/process, service & hospitality, value for the money, decor, drinks, plates/napkins/utensils, tables

 

Each participant will score against the above criteria on a scale of 1-10 "pigs", with a score of 10 being the best.

 

Criteria for True BBQ:

  • The meat must be slow-smoked by a wood burning fire (preferably in a pit).  This does NOT include:
    • Charcoal-fired cookers using wood chips for smoke flavor
    • Gas-fired ovens using wood chips for smoke flavor
    • Grilled meats (cooked over high heat and/or a direct flame)
  • The meat must come from a hoofed animal (cow, pig, goat, sheep, etc.).  This means that chicken, turkey, etc are not considered "Barbecue" in these pages.
  • The meat must be raw when prepped for cooking.  This eliminates most of the pre-packaged ham and turkey breast -- even if they are slow-smoked over the dry heat of wood coals

In addition, we seek out and hold in the highest regard BBQ  "joints".  What does that mean?  Based on empirical evidence gathered over the last six years, there are some characteristics that good BBQ joints tend to share.  These seem to hold especially true in small & medium sized towns. 

 

General Characteristics of good BBQ joints:

  • Owned by an individual or family that loves the barbecue tradition (and loves serving their barbecue to the local community)
  • The family, management, and the building (or any combination of the three) have a long barbecue history.  Their barbecue lineage can be traced back for several generations.
  • They serve a limited menu.  Selections may include smoked meats, sides, drinks, and possibly dessert.  No seafood, chicken fried steaks, chicken fried chicken, spaghetti, or salad bars.
  • Location, Location, Location.  They are located:
    • Near the center of town (maybe even on the town square)
    • On or near railroad tracks
    • On or near the main highway that runs through town

BBQ joints can also be clearly identified by what they are NOT...

 

BBQ joints are NOT:

  • Part of a restaurant chain or conglomerate; A joint may have secondary locations, but the original is typically the only one that can qualify as a "joint" (i.e., Sonny Bryan's in Dallas)
  • "Citified"; which means no table service, fine china/tableware, or guest checks.  Get your food from the counter (on butcher paper, with maybe a styrofoam cup for side items), pay cash at the counter, then find a table and eat it with your fingers.
  • Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;  Good joints make enough 'Q for the day, and close either when mealtimes are over (or when they run out of meat, whichever comes first).