Vegetarians be warned; good old fashioned Texan cuisine is quite simply all about the beef. There are of course delicious meat-free alternatives on offer all across the Lone Star State these days, but for a real taste of Texas tradition look no further than the humble cowboy and his herd. From Barbecue to burgers, beef is at the heart of the Texas food scene and served up in artery-clogging quantities washed down with a bottle of Lone Star beer. Throw some added spice into the mix from just over the border in Mexico and you’re well on your way to discovering what makes Texans tick. Whether tucking into Tex Mex fresh from a local vendor or sitting down to a steaming bowl of Chili (and obligatory tequila chaser), the Texans know a thing or two about flavor, even if they are a little light on the greenery.
The clue is in the title here. Part Texan part Mexican, Tex Mex combines the two to create a hybrid cuisine which is as addictive as it is delicious. It will not win any awards when it comes to presentation as it’s known for a distinct lack of color, but what Tex Mex lacks in aesthetics it more than makes up for in big, bold flavors. Meals are almost always kicked off with tortilla chips and salsa before the main meal of enchiladas or burritos turn up drowned in cheese, rice and refried beans. Healthy it is not but once you’ve treated yourself to a good Tex Mex you’ll never go back. Try Güero’s in Austen for fresh homemade tortilla chips and some of the best tacos in Texas or opt for Dallas institution Mia’s for top quality Tex Mex and great atmosphere.
BBQ in Texas is something of an art. Of course many nations also boast their barbecuing skills to be the best in the world, but in Texas they may just be right. Traditionally the meat (almost always beef but you can sometimes find the odd piece of pork or chicken sneaked in amongst the brisket) is slow cooked in a pits over mesquite or hickory wood – giving it its unique smoky flavor. An enormous plate of BBQ ribs or brisket will usually be accompanied by a generous serving of tangy barbecue sauce, potato salad and coleslaw – best consumed in anything but your Sunday best – it can be a messy affair. Try Angelo’s dilapidated BBQ joint over in Fort Worth for some of the best brisket in Texas or head to Gatlin’s in Houston for delicious ribs and pulled pork. But for those who are really committed to the cause, nothing can beat a trip on the Texas BBQ trail. We’d recommend starting in a little town just outside of Austin called Taylor where you’ll find legendary Louie Mueller Barbecue which has been serving up some of the best brisket about since 1949.
It may seem a little arbitrary to single out beef as a specific cuisine given that it is also in pretty much every Texan dish we could think of, however what we are talking about here is pure, unadulterated slabs of steak. Portions are big here and there’s a certain pride associated with being able to consume large amounts of steak in short amounts of time, (some restaurants even offer deals where if you can eat your 72 ounce steak in under an hour you don’t have to pay for it), but gluttony aside, the quality of steak served up in Texas is amongst the best in the entire United States. Try local delicacy “chicken-fried-steak” for a tender piece of beef which has been dipped in batter and deep fried like a chicken schnitzel, or stick to a good old ribeye served with fries or mashed potatoes. The Alamo Café in San Antonio does a particularly good chicken fried steak whilst Hoffbrau Steaks-West End in Dallas and Brenner’s in Houston specialize in steakhouse classics and succulent ribeyes.
No need for the “con carne” part, Chili in Texas is always served with meat. Thought to have originated in San Antonio at some point in the 1800s, Texan Chili is thick, spicy and never ever served with kidney beans. You’ll almost always be given a choice as to just how spicy you can handle it, but be warned, at some Chili stalls the rule of thumb is quite simply the hotter the better. More of a street food favorite or bar snack, there aren’t all that many restaurants which feature traditional Chili on their menu, but it is still widely available at fairs and cook-offs across the state – the most famous of which is held in the small border town of Terlingua. Almost always washed down with a cold corona and a couple of tequilas, Chili is the ultimate Texan party food.