In June 2013, when we published our list of the fifty best barbecue joints in the state, we declared that “we are now in the golden age of Texas barbecue.” Two and a half years later, this era continues, despite claims by heretics who say the state has achieved “peak barbecue.” It’s hard to deny barbecue’s saturation in our state—more than two thousand joints are in operation today, one for roughly every 12,000 Texans—but it remains notoriously difficult to master the craft. If smoking the perfect brisket is the cuisine’s equivalent of summiting Everest, then Aaron Franklin, pitmaster of Austin’s Franklin Barbecue, is Edmund Hillary. In 2015 he became the first pitmaster to win a James Beard Award, the food industry’s Oscar, lending barbecue a dose of much-deserved gravitas. This acknowledgment of barbecue’s influence also ignited a desire in new and old pitmasters alike to reach greater heights. The result is an abundance of succulent smoked meats—and 25 new and improved joints in Texas worth visiting. But you’ll have to wait until 2017 to find out if one of them will reach the pinnacle of their profession: the number one spot on our next top fifty list.

Cattleack BarbeQue
Opened: 2013
Pitmaster: Todd David
Pro Tip: Grab a free can of beer from the cooler.

This little joint is open only two days a week—and weekdays, at that! If you show up right when it opens, expect to wait in line with the regulars, who know that the early carnivore gets the daily special—items like smoked boudin, lamb sausage, Akaushi beef ribs, and, perhaps best of all, the Que-T-Pie, basically a brisket-stuffed turnover. Come a little later to avoid the line and you might still score some barbecue staples, like incredible brisket, succulent spare ribs, and a few slices of moist turkey breast. 13628 Gamma Rd, 972-805-0999. Open Thur & Fri 10:30–2.

The Slow Bone Barbeque
Opened: 2013
Pitmaster: Jeffery Hobbs
Pro Tip: The best fried chicken in Dallas is served here.

If we gave a “most improved” award, the Slow Bone would get it. In the past two years, the joint’s barbecue—especially the brisket—has seen a meteoric improvement. Deep smoky flavor permeates the meat without drying it out (the smoked chicken is the juiciest in Texas), but to truly appreciate the Slow Bone’s fare, order the combo plate, which comes with both barbecue and some of the joint’s should-be-famous fried chicken. It also offers brisket tamales, brisket chili, and some of the best sides anywhere (go for the pea salad, mac and cheese, or fried okra). 2234 Irving Blvd, 214-377-7727. Open daily 11–3.

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