Landmark ’cue joints untouched by time
2533 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth,
» Opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 1958, the most well-known and iconic ’cue joint in the city has been handed down from one generation to the next. Now it rests in the able hands of pitmaster Jason George, the grandson of founder Angelo George. Faces have changed, but little else has: Taxidermy still silently leers at every turn; meaty and thick pork ribs are still some of the best around; goblets of beer are still served so cold, your lips are liable to get frostbitten; and you can still smell the hickory-smoked meats blocks and blocks away.
Don’t miss: A chopped beef sandwich, so addicting you’ll want another one, even after your third.
Inside scoop: That magical chopped beef can be plopped on top of a side of smoked mac and cheese, making for an insanely and insatiably rich combo.
826 Taylor St., Fort Worth, 817-335-7469
» Around 10:30 a.m., they start lining up. By 11, there’s a line to the door, and at noon, that line is out the door and down Taylor Street. Par for the course for this one-room downtown BBQ sandwich shack. It’s been this way since Navy cook J.T. Bailey opened it in 1931, and since then, time here has barely ticked. People come in like clockwork, and they’re served like clockwork. Owner Brenda Phifer asks you what kind of sandwich you want, and seconds later, there it is, stuffed into a brown paper bag, accompanied by a side of sauce, chips and a cold canned drink; you’ll be out less than $10. Decorate your turkey or ham sandwich with pickles and onions if you want, but the juicy brisket requires no extras. Get there early to snag one of the few seats in the wood-paneled shoebox of a dining area, where you can watch every walk of Fort Worth life pass through.
Don’t miss: Oak-smoked brisket, sliced lean, then piled high on Mrs. Baird’s buns.
Hot tip: Pulled pork is worth a try. It’s served one way and one way only: spicy.
6262 McCart Ave., Fort Worth,
» Calvin and Beverly Payne opened the original location of this Fort Worth-based chain in a strip mall on McCart Avenue in 1983. Over the years, several locations have been added, including two at DFW Airport. In terms of quality and consistency, the mothership store remains the best. As you move through the cafeteria-style line, meat-carvers will cut your brisket however you’d like — moist or lean. Thanks to ribbons of fat, moist has more personality, but lean cuts aren’t a bad option. Those slices, too, have a bit more depth than those found at other ’cue joints. Other meats include two kinds of housemade sausage, ham, turkey, chicken and pulled pork, all smoked over hickory. The dozen or so sides include a few surprises, like fried okra and broccoli casserole.
Don’t miss: The Big Urban sandwich, comprised of two dissimilar components — moist brisket and jalapeño sausage — that work wonders together.
Hot tip: Not many ‘cue joints do french fries well, but Cousin’s are hand-cut beauties.
Hickory Stick BBQ
900 East Enon Ave., Everman,
» Found on a bumpy back road in the sleepy town of Everman, 42-year-old Hickory Stick BBQ is the epitome of a small-town barbecue joint. With a big metal cow out front, employees who call you “sir” and “hun,” and walls covered in newspaper clippings about the local high school football team, it’s straight out of “The Last Picture Show.” First person you’ll see when you open the creaky screen door is owner Mark Jones, who has spent the better part of his life right there, in that exact same spot, taking your money and thanking you kindly. Behind him in a small kitchen, employees cut meat while others fetch sides. If the place is packed, as it often is, Jones jumps in and helps slice and dice the meat, too. After all, he is the pitmaster. “Never thought about doing anything else with my life, never wanted to,” he says. “My daddy ran this place, and after he passed, I took it on. It’s been my life.”
Don’t miss: Brisket is the star attraction. Jones’ customers like it lean and clean. “I’ll leave a little fat and crust on for flavor,” he says. “But I don’t believe in charging people for fat and crust.”
Hot tip: Barbecue lore frowns on sauces, but Hickory Stick’s is worth disavowing that adage. The fantastic peppery sauce was dreamed up by Jones’ father, Johnnie Andrew Jones, and it’s one of the best you’ll find in North Texas.
Riscky’s Barbeque and Deli
2314 Azle Ave., Fort Worth,
» For many in Fort Worth, barbecue begins and ends at the original location of Riscky’s, found just west of the Stockyards. Longtimers and those wishing to pay tribute to this elder statesman gladly line up in the rickety, nearly 70-year-old building for frills-free brisket and ribs — simple, inexpensive and good. They sit in old booths covered in duct tape, along shelves jammed with dusty antiques and knickknacks — a reminder of when the place operated as a grocery/retail store. In 1927, Polish immigrant Joe Riscky and his wife Mary first set up shop here (the original store was rebuilt in 1950), thus beginning the Riscky’s chain that is now eight locations strong; the business is still in the family.
Don’t miss: Phenomenal butter beans, cooked with tiny cubes of ham.
Hot tip: The restaurant’s 5-for-5 special — five chopped beef sandwiches for five bucks — hasn’t been too affected by inflation; it’s now a 5-for-$7 deal.