Texas Monthly BBQ Fest returning to ‘Barbecue Capital’ Lockhart

A top 50 festival, taco trail and international fare among some of the newer offerings at this year’s event.

By Casey CheekNovember 2, 2023 10:20 am, , ,

Here in Texas, we take our barbecue seriously. Indeed, barbecue lovers have a celebration all their own happens each year.

For the fourteenth time, thousands of barbecue fans from one end of the Lone Star State to the other will gather to sample the wares of some of the best joints in the business at the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival, sponsored by the magazine and, for the most part, run by barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor.

Vaughn joined the Standard to share what attendees can expect this year. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity: 

Texas Standard: What’ve been eating lately? I’m going to fall over here if you say read red spicy hot links, so be careful.

Daniel Vaughn: Barbecue sliced beef and bread, ribs and sausage and a cold Big Red, if I can quote Robert Earl Keen.

I like that. Lockhart – that’s where you guys are going to be gathering?

That’s right, yes. Second year in a row we’re going to have the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest in Lockhart. It’s going to be great to get back there. We are going to be right downtown on Saturday, and we’ll be in the shadow of the Caldwell County courthouse. And then on Sunday, we’ll have our big Top 50 BBQ Festival out at City Park there in Lockhart.

What do you mean, Top 50 BBQ Festival? What exactly goes on there?

Well, you know, Saturday it’s all open to the public and we’ve got several vendors – some up and comers. But on Sunday is when we invite all the top 50 barbecue joints from our latest top 50 barbecue list to come cook and, you know, provide samples to the crowd. That is a ticketed event. So you will need a ticket to get into that one.

But everything on Saturday is, you know, you just show up and whatever looks tasty, you can purchase.

Very cool. There on the courthouse or is it sort of about town or what?

Yeah, on Saturday it’s really all around the courthouse. So a lot of the businesses will be opening up. One of our newcomers last year, Barbs B Q, they were in a tent there right on the street. And now they’ve got a brick and mortar right downtown, right basically across from where they were serving last year. So they’ve gotten themselves a permanent spot there. They’ll be open doing business and lots of other spots, too.

I know why you picked Lockhart, but I’m wondering if you could share that with us and tell us, is Lockhart still the center of the universe when it comes to barbecue for a lot of folks or what?

Absolutely, yeah. I mean, Lockhart is the barbecue capital of Texas. It’s got some of the most legendary barbecue joints and some of the best new places, too. So I love to see all the new energy coming into Lockhart, both with the festival and with the new restaurants that have opened there.

Of course, Terry Black’s opened last year, Barbs B Q opened this year, and they join, you know, some of the most legendary places like Kreuz Market – been open for over a century. Smitty’s right in downtown. You really can’t have a complete Texas barbecue experience without being inside Smitty’s. And then Black’s Barbecue on the other side of the square, you know, been around since 1932.

So there is so much barbecue history and so much new barbecue energy in Lockhart. It’s the place to be.

I hear that there’s a few things new at the barbecue festival. A curated taco trail? And have you all had live music in the past, too?

We have had live music in the past, but yeah, we’ve got a bunch of new great bands who are coming in, as well as a DJ.

And yeah, as far as the taco trail – so we’ve got a taco editor at Texas Monthly, José Ralat, and he’s brought in some great folks: Davila’s BBQ from Seguin, Jimenez Tortilleria in Lubbock, and El Charlatan from Socorro.

So yeah, I mean we’re going to have plenty of great barbecue, great tacos, great music, and also a bunch of live fire events, too. So we’ve got NOMAD Grills, M&M BBQ, Mill Scale. They’ll be there basically showing y’all how to cook and how to tame those fires.

Anything that you’ve spotted as a trend? And I know that you have to put together these top 50 lists each year. What have you picked up on?

Well, there is a bit of an international trend in Texas barbecue. I think a lot of immigrants coming into Texas are seeing Texas barbecue as a way to really show off their native cuisine. And, you know, you’ll see some of that in our new barbecue joints that we’re featuring on Saturday.

You got KG BBQ who’s in Austin. That’s Egyptian-Texas barbecue. And then you got Khói Barbecue out of Houston, which is a Vietnamese take on Texas barbecue. They’re bottling a curry sauce and I just saw them at another festival recently and tried some of their nước chấm, which they’ll be bottling soon as well. Putting that on a slice of smoked brisket is something special.

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