There’s no food more American than barbecue, and in Deep South Texas, there is a handful of must-eat meat spots where pit pros have mastered the meaty wood-and-smoke cooking equation. Excuse me in advance for the hyperbole, but this is a story you can sink your teeth into. If you’re into consuming irresponsible amounts of meats, then you have to check out the best barbecue joints in (and around) McAllen.
Lone Star BBQ – 3619 N. 10th St, McAllen, TX
It’s not in my best interest to argue with my boss, so when he suggests Lone Star BBQ as his go-to business-lunch spot, you don’t question it. The local institution is McAllen’s standout eatery when it comes to barbecue wizardry, and it’s been keeping loyal carnivores sated since 1988 thanks to its consistently moist and flavorful smoked meats. Lone Star’s brisket is the truth, and its much-lauded BBQ sauce is closing in on legendary status. The move here is to order from its mesquite-smoked meat plate menu, and my suggestion is to never go less that the two-meat plate, with one of the proteins being brisket. Expect to take full advantage of the seemingly endless supply of napkins, and bring friends. If you want to order like a seasoned vet, go off-menu and ask for the Monster Burger, which I tout as the best burger in McAllen. The specialty burger is eight ounces of high-quality, ground in-house Ribeye seared to perfection, topped with a heaping pile of melt-in-your-mouth beef fajitas and a slice of American cheese on a toasted, buttery, house-baked sourdough bun.
Inside Info: Save room for dessert and try its homemade Grapefruit Pie.
492 BBQ – 4126 N. FM 492, Palmview, TX
There comes a time in a man’s life when he must go on a pilgrimage in search of the holy trinity of Texas barbecue. I’m talking about brisket, sausage and pulled pork, and devoted smoked-meat worshippers will journey west, to Palmview, in search of 492 BBQ. If it looks like an antique house to you, that’s because it is. J.C. and Anna Pospisil moved into the house on Thanksgiving Day, 1931. The kitchen wasn’t complete, so Anna cooked the turkey in the fireplace. Ironically, 75 years later, the Garza family bought the vacant home and combined their love for antiques and smoked meats. In 2009 the Garza’s opened 492 BBQ, where the original fireplace is the focal point for the restaurant’s dining room. The Pospisil’s would be proud of 492’s made-from-scratch menu. I went straight for the three-meat plate of perfectly barked brisket, slow-cooked pulled pork and jalapeno cheddar sausage. As sides go, I picked the Deep South Texas dynamic duo of rice and beans, but its beans are slow-simmered and served ranch style, with an unmistakable hint of bacon and spices.
Ace’s BBQ – 2535 E. Griffin Pkwy, Mission, TX
Ask my red-meat loving dad which barbecue spot is his favorite, and without hesitation he’ll tell you it’s Ace’s BBQ. It’s partially because Ace’s is ideally located on the commute between his favorite watering hole and his home, but mostly it’s because of the much-lauded barbecue. A relative newcomer to the smoked-meat scene, you’ll have to journey just outside McAllen’s city limits into Mission to find Ace’s BBQ, but it’s worth it. Its appreciation for the wizardry imparted by smoke and low heat is evident at the family-owned restaurant, and your focus should be on the signature sandwiches. You can’t miss with The Ace, which features the Texas trio of smoked meats: brisket, pulled pork and sausage, served on a warm, toasted hoagie roll. The object of my obsession is The Carolina. It features a heaping pile of pulled pork perfection, topped with a generous scoop of cole slaw because you have to eat veggies, right? Round out your experience with a traditional side of potato salad, or eat like a local and opt for the fideo. In a relatively short time, Ace’s BBQ has developed a devoted following, and the only way you do that is by mastering the art of gloriously charred, shockingly tender and delightfully excessive smoked meats.
Pro Tip: Don’t feel like playing grill master? Be the star of the backyard barbecue and have Ace’s cater your next party or family gathering.
The Red Barn BBQ – 4701 N. McColl Rd, McAllen, TX
Do a Google search for Red Barn BBQ and not much comes up, but I’m of the opinion that the best BBQ spots don’t do social media. If they do, they don’t do it very well. Perhaps it’s because they’re too busy tending to smoked meats, which I’m totally okay with. Since opening nearly 35 years ago, in what was then, the outskirts of McAllen, this family-owned restaurant has been serving up killer barbecue to loyal patrons. The red-barn façade lives up to its namesake, and is regularly cited as a favorite among die-hard smoked meat fans. The story goes that its first serving of chicken was charred beyond edibleness, but since then it’s honed the craft of perfectly smoked meats and carved out a name for itself in the grill game. Local devotees swear by this home-style restaurant, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t taste for yourself.
If you have a special reverence for chowing down on grilled meats and a total disregard for nature, then grace your taste buds with the smoked-meat artistry at one of these wondrous ‘cue spots.
Sign up for the Nine To Five Guy Newsletter below and be the first to find out about the latest blogs!