Pecan Lodge, Dallas
Credit: Nicholas McWhirter

This tiny whitewashed stall hit the Dallas Farmers Market in 2009 to sell something rare in this neck of the state: top-notch smoked meat in the so-called Texas Triangle, the barbecue-poor urban region bordered by the freeways connecting Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston. It takes more than the right patina to win over Vaughn. "Consistency is more important to me than history when it comes to good barbecue," he says. But sure enough, after only a few years in the business, owners Justin and Diane Fourton already sling consistently excellent mesquite-smoked meats. (The "pecan" in the name comes from the family ranch back in Abilene; native mesquite is the Fourtons' wood of choice.) Vaughn's tip: "They recently added a beef rib to the regular menu, and it already rivals those considered the best in the state."