Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the Lone Star State’s smoking hot and diverse barbecue scene.
A new report ranked the 50 biggest U.S. cities based on their barbecue prowess. Texas had three cities finish in the top 10, earning it the title of the best state for barbecue.
Austin topped the list at No. 1, San Antonio at No. 3, and Houston at No. 7. Dallas finished a bit lower, coming in at No. 16.
The study was conducted by Real Estate Witch, a real estate education platform that established its rankings with data from a number of sources: Yelp ratings, the number of barbecue restaurants per capita and per square mile, prices, local events, plus a “barbecue passion” score based on Google Trends data.
The study’s 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
With that out of the way, here’s how Texas cities’ barbecue scenes stack up against each other.
No. 1 Austin
Moving up from the No. 2 spot 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, director of communications for Visit Austin. “Whether you like your ribs or brisket done old-school style or with a modern twist, you’re sure to 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. Plus, Austin’s impressive barbecue restaurants pair well with the city’s status as a top-20 town for beer lovers.
No. 3 San Antonio
San Antonio narrowly finished behind Memphis, Tennessee, to rank No. 3 in Real Estate Witch’s report. Like Austin just up I-35, San Antonio has plenty of barbecue 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 as well as molasses-based sauces. The molasses locks in moisture during the cooking process, leaving the meat tender. Given San Antonio’s passion for beef, it’s no surprise the city ranked No. 1 in the country in online search volume for “brisket.”
It’s clear that San Antonio’s vibrant barbecue scene is an enticing perk for those considering buying a home in Texas.
No. 7 Houston
Every year, more than 2 million people flock to this Texas metro for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo — the largest event of its kind in the world. 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.
While coming in at No. 7 on the list, Houston’s barbecue restaurants received the sixth-highest 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.
No. 16 Dallas
Although it dropped four spots from its 2022 ranking, Dallas tied Houston as the most passionate barbecue city in Texas, both 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.”
The Big D serves barbecue inspired by all of the 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.
Other Notable Findings
If Texas is the king of barbecue, then California is the court jester. While Texas landed at the top of the rankings, the Golden State landed at the bottom with four cities ranking in the last 10 spots: Los Angeles (No. 42), San Diego (No. 48), San Francisco (No. 49), and Riverside (No. 50).
- St. Louis beat out Kansas City’s famous scene for the best barbecue in Missouri, with better Yelp ratings and a perfect score of 100 in the barbecue passion metric.
- Washington, D.C., is the most budget-friendly city for barbecue. Buying a pound of barbecue meat weekly would cost a resident 0.21% of their annual income, cheaper than the typical 0.34% in other cities.
- Raleigh has more barbecue trucks per capita than any other city with 2 for every 100,000 people, compared to the 0.7 per 100,000 in the average city.