Barbecue is more than just one of the many fine meals you can have in Texas. It’s part of the state’s cultural identity, on par with Tex-Mex, the Alamo and being really, really big. So it’s no surprise that Texas finds reasons to celebrate the convergence of smoke and meat at a handful of barbecue festivals hosted throughout the year.
This fall brings three compelling events to the sauce-soaked calendar, with meaty festivals happening in Houston, Arlington and Lockhart, that ancestral Hill Country home of Central Texas barbecue. So block off your calendar, score some tickets (sooner is better!), then enjoy a few days of great food, drinks and music.
Houston, October 21-23
This Houston-based event has been an annual favorite since launching in 2015, and this year, the lineup will feature more than 60 top chefs and culinary celebrities from across the country. For attendees, that means lots of great food and photo ops.
H-Town Welcome Wagon is the opening-night party, so don’t miss that. It’s taking place at Lott Hall at Hermann Park, and it will be hosted by Austin meat wizard Aaron Franklin. Go for lots of good food from Franklin and other decorated chefs, plus Texas wines and live music. Saturday brings Southern Smoke on Ice, in which some of the South’s best chefs will unveil a massive raw bar stocked with cold seafood and shellfish. There will also be an interactive whole tuna breakdown, complete with made-to-order hand rolls, and lots of bubbly. On Sunday, the East Downtown Throwdown fills the district with live fires, trailers and barbecue pits, with smoked meats everywhere you look, plus culinary stars including Tom Colicchio, Andrew Zimmern and Stephanie Izard.
Also, it’s all for a good cause. The festival is hosted by and benefits the Southern Smoke Foundation, a nonprofit started by chef Chris Shepherd that raises money for food and beverage workers in need. The foundation’s emergency relief fund assists everyone from a bartender with unforeseen medical bills to a rancher or winemaker experiencing a natural disaster crisis.
Arlington, November 4-6
Considering that most barbecue joints serve meat by the half-pound or pound, the 30,000 pounds of brisket, chicken, pulled pork and ribs promised for this event seems like a lot of meat. For the first time ever, Q BBQ Fest — which also hosts events in Kansas City, St. Louis, Denver and Jacksonville — is coming to Texas for three days of barbecue eating, barbecue demonstrations, local music, games and other ways to pass the time. And it’s all going down inside AT&T Stadium, aka the shiny home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Over those three days, food will be prepared by 10-plus pitmasters from around the country. The lineup hasn’t yet been released, but past events have featured top-notch Texans, including pitmasters from 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio and Black’s BBQ in Lockhart.
Score a grounds pass to get in, then purchase food and drinks at your leisure on a day of your choice. Or if you really mean business, opt for the Pit Pass, which includes unlimited food, cocktails and beer.
Lockhart, November 5-6
Texas Monthly ranks the best barbecue joints in Texas, so it’s only fitting they also host a two-day barbecue bacchanalia celebrating the state’s most iconic food. This year, the festival is moving from Austin to Lockhart in the Texas Hill Country, with two events to put on your bucket list.
Saturday is the BBQ World’s Fair, which is free to attend and transforms downtown Lockhart into a smoky wonderland of food, drinks, live music and cooking demos. A marketplace will feature vendors hawking sauces and rubs, and there’s even a lineup of taquerias. Sunday brings the annual Top 50 Picnic to Lockhart City Park, wherein dozens of the barbecue joints featured on Texas Monthly’s most recent list converge to feed you. There will be no shortage of live music and cold drinks, and new to this year’s event is the BBQ Capital Corner featuring a few Lockhart favorites. After stuffing yourself throughout the day, you can feel good about all the brisket you ate, because ticket sales help support Feeding Texas and the network of food banks across the state.
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