Last month, Texas Monthly released the holy grail of Texas BBQ guides. That’s right, it’s time for the once-every-four-years Top 50 Barbecue Joints list. Long-time readers of this blog know I’ll go to great lengths for food. Hey, I regard food and travel as a package deal. Which means, of course, I have a new obsession. I must try every single one of these joints before the next list comes out. Which got me to thinking, what would the ultimate Texas BBQ trip look like?
A Texas-Sized Road Trip
Naturally, my first thoughts turned to a mega road trip to hit up every restaurant. There’s one slight problem, though. Texas is a big state, with the top 50 spread literally from corner to corner. A road trip would involve something similar to the below.
Ouch – that’s nearly 2,400 miles criss-crossing the state. Not to mention, this map is somewhat misleading, as I count anything within a one hour radius of the main city points on this map as belonging to that town. In reality, you’re looking at something approaching 3,000 miles. Plus likely 2-3 weeks to hit up every spot for brisket. Pretty sure my boss would tell me to make blogging my permanent profession if I asked for the time off. That, and I’d probably never want to see a piece of meat ever again…
Alternative: Rack Up Those Rapid Rewards Points!
If you fancy completing this trip, but hate driving, you do have air travel options. Pretty much each place is within 2 hours of an airport with commercial service. In theory, you could hop around the state on Southwest and rent a car for the balance of the trip. (Exception: Houston IAH to Tyler, and Tyler to DFW, require United Express and American Eagle, respectively.)
The problem – even on Southwest, most of these cities don’t have direct service from each other. For example, getting from Amarillo to Lubbock involves flying back to Love Field, then to Lubbock. Likewise, Corpus Christi to Harlingen means a connection through Houston Hobby. Then again, if you need Rapid Rewards points, this is one way to pick some up. Also, you still have 50 restaurants to hit, so the time commitment isn’t necessarily less. (Aside: if you really want to go overboard with points, plan your trip while Chase has their 5x on dining quarterly promotion.)
A Hungry Compromise
The good news – the next list doesn’t come out until 2021, so I actually have nearly four years to pull this off. Ultimately, I’ll use up most of that time to work on the list slowly. I hit up 4 joints before the list came out, and have visited 2 since, so I have 44 to go. All but 14 lie within a roughly 4-hour driving radius of home. I can knock those out with a Saturday day trip. Or you can really twist my arm and make me spend a weekend in Austin.
I’d have to invent a reason to vacation in the vicinity of the others. No big deal, as Palo Duro Canyon knocks out the Amarillo and Lubbock locations. A trip to Big Bend National Park takes care of Pody’s in Pecos. Meanwhile, San Antonio is always a fun getaway for a long weekend to stuff yourself silly. And of course, Ashok loves the beach, so a road trip to Padre Island lets us sample what Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley have to offer.
So what do I regard as the toughest joint to cross off the list? I’d say Austin’s legendary Franklin Barbecue. No, not because of the drive. I can get there in a little over 3 hours. It’s the wait. Franklin opens at 11, but the line is often 1-2 hours long even then. I don’t mind driving long distances for food, but I HATE standing in line. A co-worker suggested saving Franklin for last, then contacting Aaron Franklin himself to see if he can do something special to celebrate. I’m not holding my breath. But maybe I can get a free t-shirt for my trouble…
How about my fellow foodie travelers out there? Any ambitious plans to hit all 50?