Under-the-radar ’cue joints worth discovering
1509 Evans Ave., Fort Worth,
» Housed in a small, innocuous building in Fort Worth’s Poly area, Kip’z is a family-run spot, known mainly to locals and in-the-know BBQ-chasers lucky enough to be in on this place’s secrets: The food is excellent, and prices are dirt-cheap. Owner Charles “Kipz” Stone — who has been in the business, off and on, for the past decade — uses a custom barrel smoker in which he burns pecan and hickory, giving his brisket, sausage, ribs, turkey and bologna a complex flavor that goes beyond the BBQ norm. Particularly good are meaty spare ribs, whose simple rub of onion powder, garlic and pepper adds personality and bite but allows the meat to do the heavy lifting. Cakes, pies and fantastic banana pudding are made in-house by Stone’s wife, Erica.
Don’t miss: Massive baked potatoes topped with chopped brisket, three slices of sausage, sour cream, butter, green onions, bacon bits and grated cheese.
Hot tip: Excellent smoked chicken with a cracked-pepper rub goes fast; get there early for it.
Mama E’s Bar-B-Que & Home Cooking
818 E Rosedale St., Fort Worth,
» The first thing you see when you head east on Rosedale Street under Interstate 35 is this charming little ’cue and soul food dive run by Fort Worth’s only female pitmaster, Ernestine Edmond. Various family members pitch in here and there, but she’s practically a one-woman show, smoking the meat herself, making the sides herself and baking the utterly fantastic pies herself. Since she opened the joint a half-dozen years ago, in a building that originally housed a Kentucky Fried Chicken, she’s rubbed shoulders with Mayor Betsy Price, who’s been known to pop in a time or two, and become somewhat of a savior to tight-on-cash locals. Here, $10 will get you a big smile and enough food for a couple meals — good meals, too: nicely smoked brisket, tender pork ribs, even crispy planks of catfish. With an interior decorated with Bible verses and spiritual messages, Mama E’s offers a respite from the hipster pomposity that often dogs contemporary barbecue joints — but even if you have a beard and an attitude, she’ll love you anyway.
Don’t Miss: A meal here isn’t complete without a housemade mini-pie; pray she still has some lemon chess left.
Hot tip: Non-barbecue recommendation: fried pork chops, one of several soul food staples the restaurant also offers.
5300 E. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth,
» Don’t let Smokeys’ modest east side digs fool you. This is one of the best ’cue joints in the city. Owner Paul Calhoun does everything the hard way, slow-smoking meats, hand-making the sides, baking the bread in-house. Calhoun, who took over the spot in 2013 from beloved local caterer Eddie Deen, uses not one, but two smokers — a vintage all-wood smoker for brisket and an indoor Southern Pride for ribs. His moist brisket comes lined with streams of glistening fat and black crust. Ribs are the perfect combo of sweet and spicy, rubbed in black pepper and coated in a sweet glaze. Sides are excellent, especially paprika-dusted potato salad. Desserts, such as buttermilk pies, are made fresh and go fast.
Don’t miss: Sliced brisket sandwich, served on buttery and toasty housemade buns.
Hot tip: Load up on terrific bread and butter pickles, jalapeños and relish at a self-serve condiment bar.
Texas Pit Bar-B-Q
324 S. Saginaw Blvd., Saginaw,
» Texas Pit Bar-B-Q has been open 15 years but has largely gone unnoticed, despite the big yellow smiley-face sign that causes plenty of drivers on Saginaw Boulevard to rubberneck. Locals love it, though, and they’ll gladly line right up for plates, pounds and sandwiches of brisket, sausage and turkey, sliced while they watch. Owner and pitmaster Leon Adams does a fine job with ’cue essentials and also nonessentials, like tacos stuffed with pork and smoked ribeyes. A nice plus: live music on the weekends.
Don’t miss: Super-cold beers could give Angelo’s a run for its money.
Hot tip: When the dining room is packed, zip through the drive-thru window.
6513 Brentwood Stair Road, Fort Worth,
» First you have to find Wilson’s BBQ. If you’re heading east on Brentwood Stair and you come to 820, you’ve gone too far. If you’re going west and you hit the Whataburger, you’ve gone too far. Somewhere in the middle, you’ll see a tiny red building with the word “BBQ” on it. This is former IT guy Leroy Wilson’s tiny joint, where locals flock for pecan-smoked ribs, brisket, bologna and sausage. He’s not open 24 hours, as the signs outside suggest, but he does stay open late, until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. There aren’t many places in Fort Worth where you can get a good chopped sandwich at 11 o’clock at night.
Don’t miss: Excellent pork ribs, bathed in a housemade sauce.
Hot tip: For an over-the-top indulgence, try the off-the-menu barbecue nachos, made with Doritos, pinto beans, chopped brisket, sour cream and grated cheddar cheese. They’re as ridiculous as they are good.