Brisket is king in the world of Texas barbecue, but that doesn't mean that it's the only cut of meat worth exploring in the Lone Star State. Pork ribs and beef ribs thrive when smoked, and Texas' talented BBQ chefs know exactly how to infuse the meat with flavor, how to render the fat to perfection, and how to add spice rubs and sauces to accentuate the natural flavor of the ribs without eclipsing it. In fact, these ten BBQ joints spanning the state produce some of the finest ribs in America.
Micklethwait Craft Meats
We begin our list in a city that's not shy about touting its BBQ prowess: the Lone Star capital of Austin. In a pleasant tree-lined grassy knoll (complete with an on-site "ice house" serving local beers and natural wines) on Austin's east side, you'll find Micklethwait Craft Meats, an acclaimed destination for smoked brisket, housemade Czech-style sausages, and beautifully-prepared ribs. Micklethwait offers both pork ribs and beef ribs, the latter of which have contributed to Micklethwait's local-legend status. The rich, beefy flavor of the ribs collaborates perfectly with the smokiness from Micklethwait's "low and slow" cooking process, and their impressive size means that it's easy to make a meal out of these iconic East Austin specialties.
Another East Austin favorite, Kerlin BBQ is best known for its "Kerlaches", a spin on the Czech kolache (a filled pastry that's been adopted by Texans for generations) that's loaded with smoked brisket and cheese. But rib enthusiasts also head to this low-key food trailer for Kerlin's pork ribs, which provide a flawless balance of buttery fat, savory meat, and smoke. The "bark" on Kerlin's ribs is especially notable; no one knows exactly which blend of seasonings Kerlin uses to get that crispy, smoky, salty, and intensely flavorful bark, but their "secret recipe" makes their ribs truly destination-worthy.
The town of Lockhart in Central Texas' "Hill Country" region is home to numerous BBQ hotspots, but Smitty's Market is both among the oldest continuously-operating restaurants in town and the most highly-acclaimed. Smitty's does double duty as a restaurant and a butcher shop, so it stands to reason that they take the quality of their meat very seriously. Smitty's pork ribs get a great deal of love because of their tender texture, impressive juiciness, and the sweet, tangy, expertly-seasoned sauce that lacquers each rib.
Evie Mae's Pit Barbecue
Located in a small town just outside the northwest Texas city of Lubbock, Evie Mae's Pit Barbecue has become a regional staple since first launching in 2014. While many West Texas barbecue joints use mesquite wood in their smokers (which imparts a strong flavor that some consider overwhelming), Evie Mae's instead uses a mixture of oak wood, resulting in a less-blatant smoky flavor that accentuates the meatiness of their famous (and frequently sold-out) beef ribs. Evie Mae's seasons both their beef ribs and their pork ribs with a simple dry rub, but the beautifully-integrated flavors and luxurious texture prove that there's no need for sticky sauces.
Parked at Bouldin Acres Bar and pickle ball club, CM Smokehouse is a Texas BBQ-style food truck specializing in creative smoked dishes and innovation items sure to tickle the fancy of any whimsical foodie. Executive Chef Cade Mercer's delicious smoked creations embodies his motto, "do what you love, love what you do," serving dishes such as baby back rib wings, which are pork ribs smoked to perfection, then flash fried and tossed in wing sauce of choice.
Our favorite? The Sweet Chili Sriracha.
Truth Barbecue in East-Central Texas is a new-school BBQ joint that pays sincere respect to the traditional methods of Texas barbecue (but with its own twists). Truth makes excellent brisket (and a great Louisiana style "brisket boudin"), but they place a greater emphasis on pork than many of their competitors, even hosting weekly Carolina-style whole-hog roasts. But even if you can't make it there for the Saturday roasts, you can get Truth's impeccable pork ribs whenever they're open. The ribs are toothsome and juicy with a smoky and peppery bark.
Goldee's is a relatively new arrival on the Texas BBQ scene, opening its doors during the 2020 pandemic year. But in that short time, this Fort Worth joint helmed by a group of BBQ chefs who trained at the best spots in Austin has garnered remarkable word-of-mouth accolades and recently earned Texas Monthly's #1 spot in their annual "Top 50 In Texas" BBQ rankings. Their pork ribs have a crust that's toasty, spicy, and slightly sweet, and the succulent meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Roegels Barbecue Co.
This beloved barbecue joint in Houston regularly sells out of its pork ribs, so if you want to try these famous East Texas delicacies, you'll need to arrive early. The ribs at Roegels feature well-defined smoke rings and a bark seasoned with paprika, pepper, and a hint of brown sugar. The result is an ideal melange of salty, sweet, and savory, all underscored by a distinct (but not overpowering) smokiness.
Pack Saddle Bar-BQ
For some West Texas ribs that fully harness the power of mesquite smoke, head to Pack Saddle Bar-BQ in San Angelo. Their pork ribs and beef ribs both absorb the distinctive mesquite flavor while also delivering plenty of natural meatiness and richness from the fat. The Pack Saddle team doesn't dress their ribs with sauce, so you're getting pure Texas BBQ flavors and textures from the first bite until the last.
At this unassuming barbecue spot just outside of San Antonio, the pit team isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, but they're willing to give it a few tweaks and spins. One of B-Daddy's signature items is their sweet tea-glazed pork ribs, which combine traditional Southern flavors with classic Lone Star smoking techniques to make a dish that's pure Texas.
LaVaca BBQ, a restaurant in the waterfront community of Port Lavaca in South Texas, takes pride in maximizing both Texan BBQ techniques and Mexican flavors and traditions. One of their most Texan culinary choices involves their use of Big Red soda (a cream soda with flavors of citrus and vanilla that originated in Waco, Texas) as a marinating agent for their pork ribs. The soda's sweetness highlights the savory notes of the pork ribs, and the sugar caramelizes on the exterior to make a delicious and unique bark.