Some guy from Los Angeles recently wrote an article on Thrillist called The Definitive Ranking of Barbecue Sides. Now this topic has been explored before—in FunCity Stuff’s Newcomers, Welcome to Real Texas BBQ piece—that BBQ here, isn’t necessarily barbecue there. Since Andy Kryza isn’t from around these parts, and LA isn’t exactly a BBQ mecca, I’ll let him slide. But I wanted to clap back at his title with a “little” list of my own. 

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Bonus Fun Stuff:21 Places to Eat in HEB You May Have Overlooked.

Until Andy can get down here and taste it for himself, I’m gonna help him (and you) out with a proper Texas BBQ sides ranking—DFW style. 

So let’s show off the great dishes that rule the barbecue restaurant scene in Dallas-Fort Worth-Denton.

20-25: The Barbecue Force is Not Strong with ThIS One

These sides are either not well suited to real Texas barbecue or they’re a little lackluster.

#25 – Side Salad

Salad comes in dead last. When I considered salad, I was thinking of those (usually lame) green salads, with maybe a tomato or some carrots thrown in. After some thought, I still couldn’t think of a salad that would rank higher – pea salad, bean salad, fruit salad, cucumber and tomato salad, broccoli salad. Whether they’re run-of-the mill or thoughtfully executed, salad just doesn’t usually fit barbecue’s brand in North Texas.

#24 -Onion Rings

I really love onion rings. What I love even more than onion rings are those petal-like battered onions like the Rooster Tails at Rooster’s Roadhouse in Denton.  But this list is not the definitive list of my favorite sides. At the end of the day, the connection with barbecue just isn’t that strong. Sonny Bryan’s World Famous Onion Rings are made with colossal onions (size category: massive) and probably as good an onion ring as you’ll ever eat. But even the best onion ring in town isn’t likely to make the top 20.

#23 – Baked Potato

To me, a baked potato is like an edible dish in which butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon are served. The most memorable one I’ve ever had from a barbecue spot was at Baker’s Ribs, and it was both gargantuan and beyond delicious. But can you imagine eating barbecue without a baked potato on the side? Of course you can – it’s easy! You do it all the time. Plus, at most places, it’s considered a premium item and you have to give up two regular sides to get the baker. Is it worth it to you?

#22 – Grits or Hominy Dishes

If you like your sides more “Deep South” style, you have some great grits and hominy dishes to choose from in DFW. Texas flavor leapfrogs the southern style in the Cheesy Jalapeno Grits at Cattleack Barbeque. But even the best grits dish is still grits. The out-of-the-ordinary flavor and texture are great with homestyle or southern food, but when you’re choosing BBQ sides, I say pass them up.

#21 – Corn on the cob

On social media, if you see an obviously professional food photo of a barbecue place, it’s 80% likely to have a serving of corn on the cob on the plate. You have to admit, it’s a very photogenic barbecue side. But is it worthy of a sinking your teeth into? If it’s one of those little round yellow barrels and you can’t tell if it was fresh or frozen, keep moving. Hard Eight Pit BBQ grills full ears of corn – now that might be worth trying.

Kernel corn, creamed corn, fried corn and other creative varieties get their own category. Keep reading to see how they stack up.

Not Winning Any Popularity Contests

Considered barbecue staples by some, these sides have some catching up to do in the rankings.

#20 -Baked Beans

I love baked beans, but the ones served at area BBQ Joints might end up being canned pork & beans with a little brown sugar and ketchup mixed in. (I can do that at home.) If they’re made with molasses, they’re Boston baked beans. And we don’t need any of that around here. They do taste great with barbecue, and if you have to have some, you might like the Downright Addictive BBQ Beans at Red Hot & Blue. I still suggest leaving them to folks north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

#19 – Corn Bread

This is more of an accompaniment than a side dish, unless it’s the Cornbread Salad at Hard Eight Pit BBQ. Even simple cornbread isn’t offered at many places, so if you really enjoy it, you might pick it as a special treat. it’s good with barbecue but it doesn’t elevate it.

#18 – Cobbler

Photo courtesy of Ralph Daily

Yes! At Soulman’s Bar-B-Que and a few other places, you can choose peach cobbler as a side dish. Some places even let you get banana pudding for one of your sides. That’s all well and good if you’re eating a smaller meal to have room for dessert or conversely, having a cheat day from your diet. It’s also super great if you’re a kid. But we’re all grownups here, and except for special circumstances, it’s just not right to get peach cobbler as a side.

#17 – French Fries

We love our French fries here in DFW. They’re so much in demand that just about every barbecue place, even the smallest ones, have a fryer just so they can serve fries. Just think about it – you serve meat from a smoker, refrigerate your side dishes, and cook the rest on a stove or in an oven. A whole other piece of equipment is required for fries. French fry sales more than make up for this expense and effort on the restaurant’s part. Now, I like fries as much as the next person, but I’m gonna separate myself here from the dedicated French fry lovers. If you’re honest, fries really go better with hamburgers. And as everyone knows (except maybe that Thrillist guy) grilled hamburgers are not barbecue.

#16 – Fried Okra


Photo courtesy of Hard Eight BBQ

Okra is a love it or hate it dish. I happen to fall into the hate it camp, but I still acknowledge its place in the barbecue side dish lineup. I rated it higher than some better loved dishes because for the most part, other types of restaurants don’t serve it. You have to go to a barbecue place to get it, even if it’s a swanky one like 18th & Vine in Uptown.

Great with BBQ

Now we’re getting somewhere. These five mostly southern sides almost made the top 10.

#15 – Potato salad –Mayo-based or other creative interpretation

I’ve actually been to a barbecue restaurant that didn’t serve potato salad. (What???) Even though it’s not my favorite dish, not having it on the menu felt like a travesty.

All around the country, and even in a limited geographic region like North Texas, opinions vary wildly on what style of potato salad is best. I’m on team mustard, and you might be able to guess where I ranked mustard potato salad. Keep reading anyway, it’ll be fun.

Still, I have to show some love for the other kinds, especially the creamy potato salad at Pickles BBQ & Icehouse in Watauga. They use mayo and mustard, along with smoked cheddar, bacon, sour cream, and maybe not surprisingly given their name – pickle brine. Heim has a Twice-Baked Potato Salad that might be worth your time in the long lines.

#14 – Corn (that’s not on the cob or fried)

Barbecue restaurants in DFW are all over the map with the corn dishes they serve. If you’ve eaten enough barbecue, you’ve definitely seen a few places that serve kernel or creamed corn that’s clearly out of a can. It might still be good, but it’s not special enough to break the top 10. Some places even serve Elotes or other renditions of Mexican corn. Those are (way) better than anything out of a can, but not barbecue-centric enough to bump corn up higher on the list.

The only exception I might make is for Crazy Corn, which is kernel corn in a cream cheese sauce at Buddy’s Texas BBQ in Bedford. Fried corn dishes made it a bit further up my ranking, so they get their own category. Stick with me to see where it lands on the list.

#13 – Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes aren’t really barbecue food, but dang, they’re delicious. This veggie complements barbecue well, whether it’s served as fries, in a casserole (as it is atSlow Bone) or just well seasoned and saucedat Pappas Bar-B-Q  Some of you may be thinking, “Doesn’t she know about the Hot Mess at Pecan Lodge?” I do, but that’s not a side…it’s a meal.

#12 – Collard Greens

Speaking of Pecan Lodge, it’s one of a few Dallas barbecue restaurants that offer up this love-it-or-hate-it dish. The unique flavor of collard greens nicely offsets the saltiness of most smoked meats. If you like them, grab them whenever and wherever they’re available. If you’re on the fence about them, my advice is keep moving—there are better choices coming soon.

#11 – Deviled Eggs

Usually served as an appetizer at southern cuisine restaurants, deviled eggs can be ordered as a side at Lockhart Smokehouse in Plano and Dallas, Mike Anderson’s BBQ House in Dallas and Juicy Pig Barbecue in Denton. I’d love to see this menu offering go viral. Old school or elevated, who doesn’t love deviled eggs? You don’t usually associate barbecue with delicacies, which these certainly are, but in my barbecue sides ranking, these babies nearly cracked the top 10.

Top 10 BBQ Sides in the Dallas Area

Photo courtesy of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

For the sake of this list, onions and pickles (which are house-made at Ten50 BBQ in Richardson) are not sides. They’re a must-have with barbecue, but they’re almost always free and found at a condiment bar with the barbecue sauce and other goodies. Sometimes, you’ll even find free ice cream cones and a soft-serve machine near the condiment bar too. 

Off-the-chain, dreamy, creamy, and gussied up, these sides are worthy of a spot on any barbecue plate. I’ll crown the royalty of DFW barbecue sides soon.

#10 – Bread

If you’re of a certain age, sliced white bread is part of any early memory of real Texas barbecue meals. Texas Toast is also wonderful – when it’s done well – which for me is tender but slathered with butter. On their own, those two options earn bread a top-10 spot on our list. Now, if the only bread ever served was those palm-sized bread-loaf yeast rolls at Spring Creek Barbeque, bread would rocket to the number one spot.

If you haven’t had these rolls or if I’ve made you crave them, head to your nearest Spring Creek Barbeque location. It’s a Texas-only chain that got its start in Richardson. Just try not to ogle the bread server’s basket when they load up a fresh-out-of-the-oven batch. They’ll stop by your table with a warm roll soon enough.

#9 – Coleslaw – the sweet and creamy kind

Coleslaw is kind of a big deal in the barbecue world, even in places besides Texas. Some people can’t get enough of a sweet, creamy coleslaw, and plenty of local barbecue restaurants serve it up. I myself prefer less sweet, and less creamy, so uniquely flavored coleslaws got their own category, and it ranks a little higher. For old school (but still a favorite) coleslaw, try Angelo’s in Fort Worth. They’ve had people driving for miles to eat their barbecue for over 40 years.

#8 – Fried corn (on the cob or corn nuggets)

Deep Fried Corn from Off The Bone Barbeque is corn on the cob that’s really worth eating. The best side at Intrinsic Brewing in Garland is probably a house-brewed beer, but the corn fritters at their slow smoked barbecue joint are pretty awesome too.

#7 –Loaded Potato Casserole

These and other gussied up mashed potatoes are always on my wish list. When you only get two sides, it’s tough but doable to pass them by. If potato casseroles light up your life, try the Loaded Mashed Taters at Smokey Jalapeño BBQ in Lewisville.  Another casserole type dish worth trying is the Cheese Potatoes at Old House BBQ. They’re much like a scalloped potato and you can try them out at the Lewisville or Carrollton location. Hutchins BBQ in McKinney and Frisco also serves up a great potato casserole.

#6 – Mac & Cheese – The gussied-up kind

If you’ll notice, we haven’t come to traditional Mac and Cheese yet, and I expect some fierce arguments that there’s no way regular mac and cheese can even compare to the creative and clever kind. To that, I say “Way.” I’ll tell you why really soon, but I totally understand your love of Smoked Gouda Mac n Cheese from Kenny’s Smoke House in Plano. Smoked cheese, cure 81 ham, and white truffle oil turn what some consider a kid’s dish into something else altogether. But the resulting dish still goes great with barbecue.

The Big Winners

You might find one surprise here, but even that one joins the others as a barbecue side favorite. Folks in Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton, and every city in between have enjoyed them for decades.

#5 – Green Beans

I like the flat ones best, but only because they seem prettier to me. Green beans mostly taste about the same around here. Wherever you get them, they’ve been thoroughly flavored with ham or bacon, one way or another.

Photo courtesy of Baker’s Ribs

#4 – Coleslaw — UnSweet 

I haven’t tried the Garlic Cole Slaw from Mike Anderson’s but it sounds fantastic. Cilantro Slaw at 3 Stacks in Frisco sounds awesome too.

​ Probably the best of the creamy ones in DFW is the Blue Cheese Slaw from Lockhart Smokehouse. Vinegar-base slaws are my favorite.​​3 Stacks

#3 – Mac & Cheese

I fully expect some pushback on this but let me justify such a high ranking for such a simple dish, and if you have dietary considerations (gluten or lactose intolerance), I get that this can’t be your go-to side. But if  you’re a kid or a finicky eater, it’s the perfect choice. Mayo potato salad and you like mustard (or vice versa)? Get the mac and cheese. You’ve been warned that the beans are spicy and you can’t handle the heat (like me)? Mac and cheese to the rescue. Unless it looks like it came out of a Kraft box, it’s probably gonna be good, and just might be delicious.

Some of my best barbecue memories are from catered in lunches at work from Dickey’s. I think they’ve changed the macaroni, but it used to be slightly oversized shells, always cooked beyond al dente, but not to a mushy stage. It was slathered in some very rich and cheesy sauce. What can I say? Sometimes, simple is best.

#2 –Pinto Beans

Beans are such a crucial barbecue side that there’s a category for best beans at the annual Big D BBQ Battle. That’s right, they are right up there with the awards for best brisket, ribs, pork butt, and chicken. Around DFW, and especially in Fort Worth, we’ve had a long love affair with beans.

Great Western Foods opened a plant in Cowtown in 1913, and in the late 1920’s the iconic Ranch Style Beans brand was born. The beloved Texas beans were made and canned in the Fort Worth plant for almost 80 years. After a takeover by ConAgra, the plant was closed and the beans are now made in another state. 

Photo Bumbershoot BBQPhoto Bumbershoot BBQ

Photo from Bumbershoot BBQ facebook page

But our love for that flavor lives on, and that’s why you’ll find most pinto bean sides are chili-flavored. A little spice is definitely common, and meat-laden varieties are popular too. Two of my favorite (and I’m a bit of a bean connoisseur – are the Burnt End Beans at Cattleack BBQ and a newly discovered favorite at Bumbershoot BBQ in Argyle (near Denton.) Theirs are loaded with sausage. Whee!

A Drum Roll Please As We Crown a Winner

You might find one surprise here, but even that one joins the others as a barbecue side favorite. Folks in Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton, and every city in between have enjoyed them for decades.

The #1 ranked barbecue side in DFW is Mustard potato salad.

Railhead, and Angelo’s in Fort Worth and the original Sonny Bryan’s in Dallas have probably been serving it the longest. The much younger Smoke in Dallas makes theirs with mustard seed. Some spots make it with mustard and mayo, but as long as there’s enough mustard in it to make it yellow, it’s the best barbecue side you can eat. I honestly can’t see any of the runners up bumping it down a peg. Ever.

Feel free to share your opinions (corrections, lol) in the comments or on our Facebook page. I discovered something interesting while researching this post. I think Bodacious Bar-B-Q in Arlington along with its original location in Tyler might be onto something. They only serve 3 sides: potato salad, pinto beans, and coleslaw. It’s never a bad idea to serve only the best.

If you’re not from around here, we know your cookouts don’t include these sides, and that’s OK. Just don’t call a cookout a barbecue. If you have real barbecue but can’t get these sides, or if you don’t “get” real barbecue in your neck of the woods, come on down. We’ll welcome you and feed you some proper Texas barbecue and sides – the DFW way. And Thrillist guy – Andy Kryza? We’d love you to visit us too. We’ll be happy to show you around.

Featured image of Soulman’s BBQ catering.

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