Corpus Christi  isn’t known as a barbecue mecca, but there are a couple noteworthy restaurants where out-of-staters can experience the mystique and magnificence of Texas-style ’cue. One of the only downtown options is the mediocre yet acceptable Knuckleheads (819 N. Upper Broadway St., 361/882-9997, www.knuckleheadscc.com , $6–15). Catering to the biker crowd (motor not mountain), Knuckleheads specializes in hickory-smoked brisket and beef ribs along with pork, chicken, and sausage. The sides here are better than average, so be sure to load up on the sweet potato salad and cole slaw.
For traditional pit-style barbecue, it doesn’t get much better than the legendary Joe Cotten’s BBQ (607 U.S. Hwy. 77 in Robstown, 361/767-9973, $9–18, cash only). Located about 15 miles west of Corpus, Joe Cotten’s is well worth the drive, and its reputation as one of the best barbecue restaurants in South Texas is immediately confirmed upon walking through the rustic front doors. One glance at the mounds of succulent meat stacked on wax paper and the waiters in old-school maroon blazers and you’ll know you’re in for some classic ‘cue.
Minor details make a major impression here, from the cheese plate that arrives as you place your dinner order to the option of “stringy” or “fatty” brisket (opt for the succulent and hearty stringy variety), to the large pickle and slice of tomato that accompany your meal.
One more authentic item: There’s no menu, so listen closely as the waiter explains your meat choices (sausage is a must). Make a pilgrimage to Robstown to find out why Joe Cotten’s is considered some of the best barbecue in this part of the state.