Texas Monthly BBQ Fest Draws Top Contenders To Austin

By David Brown, Emily Donahue and Alain StephensSeptember 12, 2014 10:12 pm,

For Texans, barbeque is nestled somewhere between football and firearms as things closest to a state-mandated religion. We take our barbecue seriously, so it’s no surprise that Texas Monthly magazine would hold an invitation-only barbecue festival every year.

This year’s fifth, and largest, annual festival brings 25 of the best pit bosses in the state. The Texas Standard’s David Brown spoke with Texas Monthly BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn to see which of the competitors have the chops to make the cut.

“Everyone in the top 50 is invited,” Vaughn says. About every five years Texas Monthly dispatches a team of barbecue connoisseurs across the state; secretly sampling from as many barbecue shops as they can. Each venue is scored by a series of factors, not all of them of the edible variety. Things like service, setting, and even history can be factored into the final tally. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the meat – and in Texas brisket holds the most weight on the scorecard.

The best contestants make it to the top 50 list, and those joints get the invite to the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest. Out of the top 50,  24 slated to attend this year’s festival – with the addition of one “newcomer.

“Every year we invite a newcomer. It’s somebody who wasn’t eligible for the previous list maybe or maybe just wasn’t discovered at that point,” Vaughn says. “This year, it’sKillen’s Barbecue from Pearland, just south of Houston.”

For places like Killen’s, making it onto the top 50 list is akin to being on Oprah’s Book Club – it’s a path to barbecue stardom.

“It is something that could certainly be considered as an endorsement from Texas Monthly,” Vaughn says. Killen’s will now be cooking alongside Texas greats such asPecan Lodge and Franklin Barbecue. The latter being so popular that even President Obama had to make a stop when he was in town. Unlike the President however, most of us will have to wait in line. Vaughn says that for festival attendants, they may find a slight bit of relief.

“The lines certainly won’t be as long as you’d have to wait at the restaurant,” he says.

You can put Texas Monthly’s selections to the test this Sunday, Sept. 14, at The Texas Monthly BBQ Fest in Austin – just be sure to bring plenty of napkins.