This idiosyncratic take on an icehouse offers some seriously good meats – smoked sausage, pork ribs and Akaushi beef meatloaf – and plenty of non-carnivore options such as a grapefruit and jicama salad and a creamy tomato-topped mac and cheese. Behind the bar, some of the city’s top mixologists concoct cocktails with a chef’s eye for flavor. Awesome patio. 2310 Decatur, 713-864-2328.
Open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday. This mobile kitchen is in the process of building a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Even with the expansion, pitmaster Will Buckman will likely run out of ‘cue before 4 p.m. 24930 Budde in The Woodlands, 281-330-2178.
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday- Saturday. Considered by many to be Houston’s best barbecue, this small Heights spot sometimes has a hard time keeping up with demand for its tender brisket. Be patient. It’s worth the wait. 1221 W. 19th, 281-804-4555.
Goode Co. Barbecue
Jim Goode’s sliced brisket sandwich on house-made jalapeño-cheese bread is a modern barbecue classic. Just about everything else in this Texabilia-crammed neo-joint upholds the state’s honor, too: Czech sausage, duck, turkey and the lush pecan pie. (Bought whole, this pie makes one of Houston’s best souvenirs.)
Original: 5109 Kirby Drive, 713-522-2530.
Memorial: 8911 Katy Freeway, 713 464-1901.
Northwest: 20102 Northwest Freeway, 832-678-3562.
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Knoxville-born Jamie Fain is eager to school Texans in Tennessee-style barbecue. His pulled pork with house-made slaw is killer. 10400 S. Post Oak, 713-728-9663.
Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. Pizzitola’s has been serving up barbecue meats for more than 80 years, so it must be doing something right. The smoky ribs and planks of beef are good, but cross genres and try the fajita-style deboned chicken complete with pinto beans, pico, cheese, sour cream and tortillas. 1703 Shepherd, 713-227-2283.
Ray’s Real Pit BBQ Shack
Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. This family owned spot smokes a great sausage, as well as boudin. It also serves seafood and burgers. 4529 Old Spanish Trail, 713-748-4227.
Adrian Handsborough’s pecan-and-oaked smoked meats include hefty ribs, smoked to the bone, melting fatty-side brisket and red peppery pork links. The prim setting was hand-fashioned from the grocery store once run by Handsborough’s mother, the Virgie invoked by the name. 5535 N. Gessner Road. 713-466-6525.
Alison Cook contributed to this report.