Is Fort Worth more of a burger town than a barbecue town? Last year, when Texas Monthly did its 50 best burgers in Texas list, five from Fort Worth made the cut.
Maybe it’s no surprise that such old-school joints as Angelo’s, Cousin’s, Railhead and others didn’t make the highfalutin list — although Cousin’s made the magazine’s 50 Best BBQ Joints ... in the World! list in 2013 — but fans of such cult favorites as Billy’s Oak Acres, Grapevine/Trophy Club’s Meat U Anywhere and Arlington/Rendon’s Jambo’s BBQ Shack might be a little miffed that their fave didn’t make the cut, and there are numeorus holes in the wall — such as Everman’s Longoria’s BBQ, which also made the 2013 list — that aren’t on the new list, either.
The closest to another Tarrant joint is BBQ on the Brazos, 30 miles southwest of downtown Fort Worth in Cresson, on the way to Granbury on U.S. 377.
Granted, there are more burgers than there are burger or barbecue joints, so there are more opportunities for burgers to make a list. And barbecue aficionados tend to have high standards for their brisket, ribs and sausage. But seven Austin joints made the list, and five from Houston. Dallas only got three and Fort Worth one, with a few other North Texas cities landing on the list.
All that said, Heim has been the Fort Worth restaurant story of the past couple of years, as pitmaster Travis Heim and his wife Emma went from a trailer/smoker to a popular Magnolia Avenue brick-and-mortar, with a second location planned in the upcoming River District development on White Settlement Road.
“The barbecue initially suffered through some growing pains and inconsistency, but now it’s back to normal, and their excellent beef rib has thankfully made its way onto the daily menu,” says the article, written by Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn, who had “research assistance” from several lucky interns. Heim’s popular bacon burnt ends are also singled out as having “healing powers.”
As for BBQ on the Brazos: “The line was deep at nine o’clock on a weekend morning, with bleary-eyed customers ordering everything from brisket-and-egg tacos on handmade tortillas to Shanghai sandwiches [chopped brisket and sausage on a homemade bun]. We were just as happy with our by-the-pound selection, with pleasantly fatty brisket, nicely glazed pork ribs, and spicy jalapeño sausage.”
Three Dallas-area joints made the cut: Buzz spots Pecan Lodge and Lockhart Smokehouse, and upstart Cattleack Barbeque in Farmers Branch, opened in 2013 and now ranked No. 3 in the state, behind No. 1 Snow’s in Lexington and Franklin Barbecue in Austin (only the Top 10 are ranked in today’s list).
“Every ounce of your being recoils at the idea of eating barbecue in an industrial-area strip center,” the Cattleack entry begins. “It’s just wrong! How could it have any soul! Calm down. Walk to the end of the line and start inching along (it’s like going through airport security).” Well, hopefully you don’t have to remove your shoes.
After a little bit more about the atmosphere, there’s praise for pitmaster Todd Davis and his wife, Misty and the food: “Their Akaushi ribs give new meaning to ‘well marbled,’ while incredibly moist brisket is cradled by bark that melds into the meat. Elemental pulled pork separates into succulent strands at the touch of a fork.” Sounds like it’s worth a trip to a north Dallas-area industrial park, but be aware that it’s only open from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and the first Saturday of the month.
On Lockhart Smokehouse: “If you order actual brisket, you may find the best bites come from around its beautifully crusted edges. As for pork, the pulled stuff is nothing special, but the ribs are quite nice, with a magnificent bark. On Wednesdays, share a scandalously salted and peppered beef rib, a thing of shock and awe.”
On Pecan Lodge: “The $75 Trough is the best way to try it all, especially since a monster beef rib (the best of their smoked meats) can set you back $25 on its own. The pitmaster sandwich is another winner, with three meats, slaw, and the welcome bite of fresh jalapeño.”
Other spots on the list within an hour or so’s drive from downtown Fort Worth (assuming, ahem, perfect traffic): Top 5 BBQ, DeSoto; 4-T’s Bar-B-Q, Forney; Hutchins BBQ, McKinney; Harris Bar-B-Que, Waxahachie; Flores Barbecue, Whitney.
For the full list, go here.