There's just something about eating a big pile of brisket off a butcher-paper “plate.” Don't dare ask for a fork; the best BBQ is for fingers only. And great barbecue is not the state's only fun food. At festivals, rodeos and fairs much of your meal can be served on a stick, from corny dogs to chicken fried steak. In Austin, the food truck phenomenon continues. And we haven't even dug into the ubiquitous Tex-Mex scene or San Antonio’s fine upscale dining. Here are Texas’ best food experiences. 

Barbecue 

America's greatest contribution to world cuisine has a hefty following in Texas, and the flavors, styles and recipe secrets are as diverse as the state itself. From Tyler to Temple, Texans know their barbecue.

They eat it at home, at famous hole-in-the-walls or bought from a roadside smoker. It's in central Texas that you'll find the state's unofficial BBQ capital, Lockhart, with several of the most lauded meat market–style joints in the state.

A chef uses a silver ladle to pour red sauce on top of enchiladas with cheese at Mi Tierra Tex-Mex restaurant
Tex-Mex is always a good idea © Myles New / Lonely Planet

Tex-Mex

A regional variation on Mexican food, Tex-Mex includes Americanized versions of Mexican dishes, as well as American dishes with a Mexican twist. Don't spend too much effort trying to sort the two: there's a lot of overlap and, unless you're eating at a restaurant that serves “authentic” or “interior Mexico” dishes, you're probably going to have some Tex sneak into your Mex. A few popular dishes include breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros and tamales. 

Corny Dogs

Cornbread-batter-dipped-and-fried hot dogs on a stick were created in 1948 by Neil Fletcher for the State Fair of Texas. Fletcher's still sells 'em there; they're now available with jalapeño cornbread, too.

Shiner Bock 

The state's favorite amber ale came to be when Kosmos Spoetzl brought Bavarian brewing to Shiner, Texas, in 1914. Available countrywide, Shiner Bock is still brewed at Spoetzl Brewery.

Homemade Country Fried Steak
Is it chicken? Is it steak? Doesn't matter, it's delicious © bhofack2 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Chicken-fried steak 

Steak battered, coated in flour and deep-fried like chicken and later, topped with gravy, need we say more? 

Dr Pepper 

A pharmacist in a Waco drugstore/soda shop invented this aromatic cola in the 1880s. Taste the original sugarcane formula at the first bottling plant, Dublin Dr Pepper.

Big Red

Invented in Waco in 1937 by Grover C Thomsen and RH Roark, this super-sweet red cream soda has a dedicated following and is a favorite with kids.

Overhead of freshly baked blueberry cobbler topped with whipped cream
There's always room for dessert in Texas © Alice Day / Getty Images / EyeEm

Cobbler 

Nothing follows a plate of barbecue like some hot peach or blackberry cobbler with a scoop of ice cream. If you're not familiar with cobbler, picture a deconstructed fruit pie without a bottom crust. Fruit and sugar are cooked together on the stovetop then layered into a baking dish with dough on top. 

Austin food trucks

From epicurean Airstreams to regular old taco trucks, food trucks are kind of a big deal in Austin, and wandering from one to another is a fun way to experience the local food scene. 

San Antonio's Riverwalk food scene 

Several of San Antonio’s top restaurants border the River Walk, with prices to match the views. Elsewhere in the city, the buzziest scene is the Pearl District, where chef-driven ventures seem to open weekly (by no coincidence, the Culinary Institute of America has a campus there). 

Introducing Texas

You might also like: 

The ultimate guide to Texas BBQ 
A food tour of Austin: eating your way across the capital of Texas 
Boot-scootin': Texas Hill Country's iconic music scene 

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