About the Houston BBQ Guide

What is the Houston BBQ Guide?

The Houston BBQ Guide is a consumer-focused, data-driven website application that allows everyday barbecue consumers to learn about, find, and patronize Houston-area barbecue joints based on their personal preferences and circumstances. 

What Problem Does the Guide Solve?

When a typical diner decides to patronize a barbecue joint, they are usually searching for a specific dish or style of barbecue based on their current circumstances, most importantly, time and location. 

So the question a typical barbecue fan might ask is: “I wonder where I can get good Central Texas-style brisket for lunch today in the Heights?”

Other circumstances may also factor into the inquiry, for instance, they may want to sit outside on a patio, or they may want to be sure there is barbecue available and the joint won’t be sold out. 

Easily finding high-quality barbecue based on such criteria is surprisingly problematic. That’s because most sources of restaurant and barbecue recommendations don’t want to provide an answer based on your specific criteria, but rather on what they like or are paid to promote. 

For instance, most barbecue guides are based on rankings and focused on the “best” or “top” barbecue joints in a city. We love these lists and and they are very useful in certain circumstances, like when a group of friends set off on a barbecue tour to sample the best barbecue a city or state has to offer.

But how often does an everyday barbecue consumer do that? Not often. On a daily basis, most barbecue fans aren’t necessarily looking for the best barbecue. They are just looking for good-to-great barbecue that is conveniently available: is it close to me and will it be open when I get there?

Here’s an example.

It’s a Friday in the office and you have been tapped to pick a spot for lunch. Your co-workers want barbecue. How do you pick a place? Sure, you can pick the “number one” place in Houston that might be an hour away and once you get there you have to stand in line for another hour. However, you and your co-workers are on the clock and don’t have that much time.

No, you need to be able to pick from a small selection of barbecue joints that you know will provide a quality and even great experience based on the specific needs of your situation. You know your friends love brisket, so you want to go to a place that specializes in Central Texas-style barbecue. You will be taking different cars, so you need a place with easy parking. The weather on this day is beautiful, so you want the option of sitting in an outdoor patio. And you need for the place to be close to your office in the northwest area of Houston.

Wow, that’s a lot! How do you find a barbecue joint that can accommodate these requirements?

The Houston BBQ Guide provides tools for everyday barbecue consumers to find barbecue joints tailored to their current and specific circumstances, rather than depending on guides that primarily focus on the “best” barbecue without consideration for more practical or historical matters. It’s a “barbecue guide for everyday barbecue fans,” if you will. 

How Does the Guide Achieve This?

This guide provides an intuitive and easy-to-use interface that allows individual diners to create a list of recommended barbecue joints based on their own personal requirements and preferences.

This is manifested as a non-ranked database of Houston barbecue joints, and a search engine to filter and sort those barbecue joints by individual requirements. 

The barbecue joints included in the database are purposely limited based on the criteria below (Why Were These Barbecue Joints Chosen?). For each barbecue joint in the database, we have collected as much data as possible that will allow diners to evaluate each joint based on their needs. 

The database can be filtered and sorted on most of this data, to narrow down the search and make it more relevant. The resulting data can then be presented as a grid, list, or map for easy review. We then provide a full set of tools to communicate these custom lists, including integration with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as offering the ability to email and print the lists.

Did the Barbecue Joints Pay To Be in This Guide?

No, they were chosen by the editors for the quality of the barbecue and experience they produce and additionally, in some cases, for being representative of the  unique history and tradition of Houston barbecue. They did not pay anything to be included.

Why Were These Barbecue Joints Chosen?

The initial selection of barbecue joints offers a diverse cross-section of the many traditions represented by both old and new barbecue joints here. It is meant to be a broad representation of Houston barbecue and focus on small, family-run businesses. The number is initially limited due to the amount of data needed to be collected as part of the individual barbecue joint profiles. In other words, in order to get the guide launched in a timely manner, we cut off the number of barbecue joints for the launch, and will continue adding entries as we go forward.

There are a few requirements that have the greatest influence on inclusion:

  • The primary menu items served must be traditional barbecue: brisket, ribs and such. Restaurants that specialize in other dishes that have a few barbecue dishes on the menu do not qualify.
  • A commitment by the owners/pitmasters to provide a quality product and experience on a consistent basis. This may sound obvious, but there are many barbecue joints where it is clear the owners are not actively managing quality.
  • Following on to the previous requirement, it is important that the owners/pitmasters are on location frequently, if not every day. In Texas and Houston barbecue, the owners/pitmasters *are* the restaurant (often with their name(s) on the door), and guests expect to see them there frequently.
  • Local and historical considerations also factor in. We want to recommend those places that have been a part of Houston barbecue history and have a story to tell. Think in terms of out-of-town visitors who want to get a feel of Houston barbecue. They are not necessarily looking for the best barbecue, but good-to-great barbecue as part of a larger a Houston barbecue experience.
  • Food trucks can be included if they are at a permanent location. Permanent is loosely defined as at least 6 months at one location. Because this is a guide, there must be permanence in address and opening hours. We plan to offer a separate list for trucks and pop-ups that are open at different locations/times.
  • Having an active online and social media presence is important because it shows a commitment to engaging with customers as well as communicating all the great things about that barbecue joint and Houston barbecue to a wide audience. A simple, professional website and an active Instagram account would be considered a minimum requirement.
  • In general, one of the only absolute requirements is that a barbecue joint is located at a permanent address and open on consistent days and times. After all, the whole point of the Houston BBQ Guide is to get people to visit barbecue joints and make it easy for them to do so. 

So Is This a List of the "Best" Barbecue Joints or Not?

Yes and no. To be sure, all of the barbecue joints you will find here offer a consistently high-quality experience both in atmosphere and barbecue. However, some places may produce what some consider to be good-to-great barbecue, as opposed to the best barbecue. Again, the purpose of this guide is to include many factors important to everyday barbecue dining as opposed to the absolute best there is. 

We believe the experience of Texas and Houston barbecue is more than just chasing the best version of it, but rather factoring in the whole experience in which convenience and practical considerations also come into play. 

All that said, we do offer an “Accolades” search filter that allows you to create lists of those barbecue joints in the database who have received recognition in the various “best of” lists that are prevalent in barbecue. 

Is This the Definitive, Final List?

No! This guide and database is meant to be an ever-evolving, constantly-updated list based on many of the qualifying criteria above. The initial list offers an excellent presentation of Houston barbecue, while also being manageable enough to get the guide launched in a timely manner. We will begin adding more barbecue joints frequently, and removing barbecue joints occasionally, as necessary. 

How Can I Get My Barbecue Joint in the Guide?

The main way to do it is to follow the requirements listed above. Then use the link at the top-right of the page to send us information about your barbecue joint. 

Also, being active on social media and tagging your posts with “#houbbq” will ensure that we see the posts. Also, being active on social media allows you to interact with customers and potential customers which is always a plus when offering high-quality service. Also, by promoting your commitment to quality and service on social media, you become an ambassador for Houston barbecue, as these channels allow you and us to engage with national and international audiences. 

Similarly, a well-designed and informative website will also establish your commitment to professionalism and promoting Houston barbecue as a whole. 

Also, providing a link to this guide on your own website will result in data tied to your business being included in our search data (i.e. link referrals). We’ve provided easy code and graphics to add to your website here.

Can I Pay To Be In This Guide?

At this time we do not have an advertising program set up, though we plan to add one in the future. If you are interested in advertising in this guide, please email us at [email protected].

What Are Some Additional Goals of the Guide?

In addition to being a tool to match diners with barbecue joints, there are other goals we wish to accomplish with the guide. 

  • Expand the market and audience for Houston barbecue by making the process of finding, visiting and eating at a barbecue joint easy and fun.
  • Put the current boom in contemporary Houston barbecue in an historical context (HOUBBQ History). Again, many new barbecue fans are only familiar with the “best” barbecue joints without realizing the long history of Houston barbecue that has led up to the current success of many barbecue joints.
  • Become a resource for out-of-town guests and media. Houston and its many (100+) barbecue joints can seem overwhelming. This guide offers a manageable starting point.
  • Provide tips and directions to casual barbecue fans about the unique traditions and procedures that come with visiting a Houston barbecue joint (HOUBBQ 101). This helps create realistic  expectations for owners and guests to be more in line with each other, and can even speed up the ordering process if proper techniques have been communicated in advance.

Who Created the Guide?

The primary contributor and designer is Houston Barbecue Festival co-founder and Houston Chronicle barbecue columnist J.C. Reid

This Is Pretty Cool. Can You Create One for my City?

Yep. We’re working on other cities. San Antonio, Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth will be next in line. We are also planning a Texas-wide guide that focuses on small-town joints throughout the state.

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