Pappas Bar-B-Q, one of the only barbecue dives downtown, is a popular lunchtime destination with everybody from cops and construction workers to suit-wearing lawyers and brokers. Portions are Texas-sized, and it's not uncommon for poor souls standing at the back of the line to stare jealously while you start in on a huge plate filled with BBQ ribs, an enormous baked potato, and ranch-style beans. Bring your appetite, and don't forget to ask for extra napkins.
Since 1951, this local treasure has been catering to Houston appetites with what may just be "Texas's best BBQ." Outside, Otto's sports the sort of rusticity you'd expect from an eatery that specializes in barbecued beef, ribs, links, pork, and ham – an aluminum roof, weathered wood siding, and plenty of picnic tables on the "front porch." People who don't care for barbecue can opt for a special double-meat burger and an order of crisp French fries. Keep your eyes peeled too – Otto's bills itself as the place where "the President eats beef."
Eat inside or outside at this rustic BBQ shack, where brisket sandwiches, smoked duck and smoked chicken draw lunch crowds from all around the West University area. Be sure to have your game plan set as you make your way through the cafeteria-style line, because you'll have far too many choices to make once you get to the front. And be sure to save room for their world famous pecan pie – there are few better ways to reward yourself for cleaning your plate. One of Houston's best.
Don't give a second thought to embarking on the longish drive to suburban Richmond – Swinging Door makes the trip worthwhile, if not necessary. The rustic, smokehouse-style joint doesn't presume to be anything more than it is: a friendly place where families can enjoy one of the best Texas-style BBQ experiences imaginable. Helpings of everything from smoked turkey breast and beef brisket to juicy pork ribs and sausage are piled alongside heaping portions of homestyle potato salad and cole slaw. The adjacent dance hall opens only for special events, usually on Saturday.
For terrific Texas barbecue, savvy locals recommend this '50-style diner, where leather chairs and tile floors contribute a bit of local color. Even with its popularity, the owners –thankfully – haven't felt compelled to glitz up the place. Keeping with the theme, regulars are big business, and you'll often find born-'n-bred locals piling in by the truckload to sample good, old-fashioned eats. Standards at Barbecue Inn include heaping portions of BBQ ribs, fried steak, shrimp, and catfish.
Marked on the outside by a big pink pig head, Baker's has a reputation as a comfortable, downhome establishment. Inside, picnic tables and easily cleanable surfaces let you know that some sauce may be spilled but that you're not to fret. Simply enjoy luscious, hickory-smoked meats like pork, beef brisket, poultry, and sausage. For a well-rounded meal, add in pasta or potato salad or something more unusual, like marinated tomatoes. An offshoot of the Dallas original.
Reputedly serving some of Houston's best barbecue, Burns is a longstanding tradition in these parts. The place is essentially take-out, although a few outdoor picnic tables accommodate those who lack sufficient willpower to wait. The East Texas-style barbecue is more than fork-tender and, when topped with Burns' delectable sauce, practically irresistible. Beef brisket is the standard, but you'll also find great ribs, sausages, and chicken. A few sides can be had as well. If you come during the day, you'll likely encounter crowds; if you wait till later, you may discover that certain items have already sold out. Such is the price of popularity.
Eminently casual – courtesy of simple furnishings, classic western tunes, and ranching and agricultural artifacts – Hickory Hollow treats folks well but doesn't give in to excessive fanfare. It simply plies them with fantastic slow-cooked beef, chicken, and pork barbecue, along with tasty sausages, catfish, and steaks. As if that's not enough, they'll also tempt you with enormous servings of chicken-fried steak. Live acoustic music is an added perk on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Designed to look like a building in a 19th-century Western town, Luling City Market cultivates an air of past days. It even smokes its meats over wood for an authentic taste. Inside the place, the rustic theme continues, letting diners feel as if they've stumbled into an age-old dining room. Just like famished cowboys, patrons dive into hearty servings of beef sausages, ribs, brisket, turkey, and chicken, all accompanied by homemade sides and desserts. If you become enamored of the spicy sauce, they bottle it for shipping across the country.
There's no doubt that Pizzitola's, in operation since 1935, knows how to make some darned good barbecue. There is very little that doesn't cause the mouth to water uncontrollably. Pizzitola's specialty is brisket – lean cut and so tender it just disappears in your mouth. The pork ribs, rubbed with sea salt and pepper, seem simple but are imbued with a full, smoky flavor by the east Texas hickory used in the big brick pit.