The Lone Star State has a new point of pride. Texas has been named the best state for barbecue, as part of a new report on the country’s best barbecue scenes.
The report ranked the 50 biggest cities in the U.S. based on their barbecue prowess. Three Lone Star cities ranked in the top 10, earning Texas the title of the best state for barbecue, with Austin placing first, San Antonio in third, and Houston in seventh. Dallas finished a bit lower, coming in at sixteenth.
The report was conducted by Real Estate Witch, a real estate education platform that established its ranking with data from various sources, such as Yelp ratings, the number of barbecue restaurants per capita and per square mile, prices, local events, and a “barbecue passion” score based on Google Trends data.
The top 10 barbecue cities were:
- Austin, Texas
- Memphis, Tennessee
- San Antonio, Texas
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Houston, Texas
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Jacksonville, Florida
- Raleigh, North Carolina
A deeper look into the report’s methodology explains how certain Texas cities bubbled up to the top of the rankings.
Moving up from second place in 2022, Austin came out on top of this year’s study. Nestled in the heart of central Texas, the region’s barbecue is known for smoked briskets, ribs, and sausage treated with a dry rub and smoked over mesquite, oak, or pecan wood.
“When it comes to dining in Austin, you can’t leave town without trying some true Texas barbecue,” said Wesley Lucas, communications director for Visit Austin. “Whether you like your ribs or brisket done old-school style or with a modern twist, you’ll find your new favorite among the many sizzling barbecue hot spots in Austin.”
Austin barbecue restaurants average 4.22 stars on Yelp, the third-highest average of the 50 cities reviewed. There are 4.7 barbecue restaurants per 100,000 people, compared to just 2.3 per 100,000 in the average city.
Austin barbecue is also available on the go, with 1.7 barbecue food trucks per 100,000 people, which is second only to Raleigh, North Carolina. Austin’s impressive barbecue restaurants pair well with the city’s status as a top-20 town for beer lovers.
San Antonio narrowly finished behind Memphis, Tennessee, to rank third in Real Estate Witch’s report. Like Austin just up I-35, San Antonio has plenty of barbecues to go around. The city has 4.5 barbecue restaurants and 1.1 barbecue food trucks per 100,000 people.
With roots south of the border, San Antonio specializes in barbacoa and molasses-based sauces. The molasses locks in moisture during cooking, leaving the meat tender. Given San Antonio’s passion for beef, it’s no surprise the city ranked first in the country in online search volume for “brisket.”
San Antonio’s vibrant barbecue scene is an enticing perk for those considering buying a home in Texas.
In part, Houston earned seventh place in the ranking because of its barbecue events. Every year, more than 2 million people flock to this Texas metro for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo — the world’s largest event of its kind. The festivities kick off in February with the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. And the city will host more barbecue events in the second half of 2023 than any other city on the list.
Houston’s barbecue restaurants average the sixth-best reviews in the country, with an average star rating of 4.13 on Yelp.
Houston’s scene is heavily influenced by East Texas-style barbecue. This region is known for chopped pork and beef sandwiches that are marinated in tomato-based sauces. Meat is smoked over hickory wood until it falls off of the bone. It’s usually served with a side of dill pickles, white onions, and homemade bread.
Although it ranked sixteenth overall, Dallas tied Houston as Texas’s most passionate barbecue city, scoring 97 out of 100 in the study’s passion metric. This is based on a Google Trends score that factors in searches for 12 barbecue-related terms, including “bbq,” “brisket,” and “how to bbq.”
Dallas serves barbecue inspired by all of Lone Star State’s regions. This includes West Texas, where meat is cooked directly over the heat “cowboy style.” Unfortunately, places serving up barbecue are scarcer there than in other Texas cities. The city has just 1.2 barbecue restaurants per 100,000 people, the fifth fewest on the list.
The Worst Places for Barbecue
If Texas is the king of barbecue, then California is the court jester. While Texas landed at the top of the ranking, the Golden State landed at the bottom, with four cities ranking in the last 10 spots.
The 10 worst barbecue cities were:
- Riverside, California
- San Francisco, California
- San Diego, California
- Miami, Florida
- Seattle, Washington
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Los Angeles, California
- Hartford, Connecticut
Riverside was named the worst city for barbecue overall, with high prices, low Yelp ratings, and just 0.7 barbecue restaurants per 100,000 people — about one-third of the average city in the ranking (2.3 per 100,000).