Play Video

Local Hotspot Welcomes 15 Texas BBQ Badasses
for 1st Annual Texas BBQ Fest

It’s sizzle season here in Texas, and the 1st Annual Texas BBQ Fest really brought the heat. As 15 Texas BBQ legends gathered Sunday at Schoepf’s Backyard in Belton, the temps rose to a record-breaking 109°. But, the heat couldn’t stop Texas Barbecue enthusiasts from all over the state from coming out to sample a variety of specialties from Texas’ best of the best!

After all,

Upon arrival at Schoepf’s Backyard, after a quick ID and ticket check, the hungry attendees grabbed a tray and hit the booths. Each stop on the way is a who’s who of the Top 25 BBQ Restaurants (of Texas Barbecue’s Rankings).

Memorable bites were served up by names like Kelly’s, Panther City, Brotherton’s, Schoepf’s, Mimsy’s, Rollin’ Smoke, Daddy Duncan’s, Brett’s Backyard, Double A’s, Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue, Wright On, Cruz Barbecue, Tejano Cookers, & Hecho en Texas.

Starry-eyed BBQ lovers filled their trays to the sounds of Zane Williams (followed by The Wilder Blue) and could take a seat in the shade of Schoepf’s beautiful Backyard or get relief from the heat in the restaurant’s back room.

It took 3 trips and 3 full trays of meaty goodness to sample the treats from each pitmaster. This Texan girl’s heart lept with each delicious bite, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, these masters of smoke would blow me away again!

I don’t claim to be a BBQ aficionado by any means, but I’m a native Texan from the same hometown as Tootsie, and as far as judging BBQ is concerned, that’s all the street cred you need. That said, here are my stand-out favorites from these crown jewels, in no particular order.

I am saying a prayer of thanks to Cruz Barbeque for bringing this incredible taco with them all the way from Maypearl, Texas. Who has even heard of Maypearl anyway? Well, if you haven’t, now you have. And now we’ll all have to take a road trip 100 miles north to cure the craving for this perfectly Texan BBQ taco. I don’t know if it was the green sauce or the impeccably seasoned meat or the way it had that perfect taco drip, but damn, Cruz Barbeque. I thank you.

Move over potato salad, there’s a new BBQ side in town! Elotes. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love you on the cob, I love you in a bowl, but, most of all, I love you when Schoepf’s BBQ makes you. Guys, look at how gorgeous it is! They’ve somehow perfected that delicate balance of roasted corn, cotija, cilantro, peppers, and seasoning so that each bite is heaven. My mouth is watering even as I type this. My praise for the elotes in no way detracts from their classic sliced brisket, pulled from the smoker with its deep ebony color, looking more like a meteorite than a meal. But it is not burnt, it’s perfectly smoked. And beneath that perfect salty, peppery delicious crust is the most tender and juicy melt-in-your-mouth meat. Classicly divine, as usual, Schoepf’s!

Y’all. It’s Porkstrami!! This creation from Wright On in Harelton, Texas combines pork shoulder brined like brisket with pastrami smoked like pulled pork on a bed of house cabbage slaw, topped with pickled red onions, fresh jalapeño, and honey mustard bbq sauce. The explosion of flavors is a far cry from traditional Texas BBQ, and that’s exactly why I loved it so much. In the heat of the day, the crunch and coolness of the veggies mixed with the surprising porkstrami was enough to make it a standout. Maybe even enough to entice me to take the quick 4-hour trip (235 mi) to Harelton to see what else Wright On is up to. Their menu of creative eats sure makes it seem worth it

Straight out of Wimberly, and into my heart. Yep. Another taco makes the best of the best list, but as similar as they were, this one was so incredibly different from the last. By name, Kelly’s Hill Country BBQ doesn’t sound like it’d be your favorite taco joint, but don’t tell it to that taco. Because damn if it isn’t my favorite.

I didn’t get a picture of the popper before I ate it. Oops. However, I did get a pic of this badass pitmaster serving it up, and I’ll do my best to describe it for you. It wasn’t just any old jalapeno popper. It was half a jalapeno filled with cream cheese and a cube of pork belly burnt end, then wrapped in bacon, doused in coarse pepper, and then smoked. The thin bacon created a crisp exterior, while the burnt end and cream cheese combined for melty dreamy goodness, and the roasted jalapeno flavor brought it all together. It was just a bite or two, but that’s all it took. I’ve been thinking about it all week. That’s not weird. (Panther City BBQ was also rated #10 on Texas Monthly’s 50 Best BBQ Joints)

Also, shoutout to ice cold beer for being the perfect complement to BBQ and hot summer days. We couldn’t have made it without you. (This lady had the right idea and went for the bucket!)

Ronnie Schoepf – photo by Christopher Winston

What an impressive start to what will surely become the event that everyone knows, loves and marks their calendar for year after year—a Sunday afternoon under the trees with live music, cold beverages, and the best damn BBQ Texas has to offer. I know I will.

(event put on by Derik Strelsky of Texas Barbecue)