Tasty Travels: Culinary Delights in East Texas

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Unexpected Texas: have you been to the Piney Woods area of East Texas? East of Dallas, it boasts culinary treasures that are worth a visit. I travel for food - do you? If so, you'll find sweets, award-winning BBQ, global cuisine, and farm to table creativity and innovation here.

While there are many towns - and restaurants - worth exploring in this region, we'll focus today on Jefferson and Tyler.

There's more to the area than barbecue, although three East Texas BBQ joints are on Texas Monthly's top BBQ list, including Stanley's in Tyler and Joseph's in Jefferson.

Tasty Travels: Culinary Delights in East Texas

Hungry? Me, too. Let's go! 


A town after my own heart - history, interesting things to see, and named for a president! In Tyler (before you need google, it's our 10th President, John Tyler - and here's some crazy: he has grandchildren who are still alive!), you'll find the East Texas state fair, Texas College, University of Texas at Tyler, and Tyler Junior College, Tyler State Park, the Texas Rose Festival and the largest municipal rose garden in the country, and, of course a slew of deliciousness.  

Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q 
The oldest operating Mom & Pop BBQ restaurant in Tyler (for over 50 years!), you'll find pit-smoked BBQ here that will knock your socks off. You'll also find Texas craft beers, American whiskeys, bourbons, and ryes, a full menu, and live music 6 nights a week. Guess what? Stanley's has the Best Pork Ribs in Texas, according to Texas Monthly. Stanley's is also featured in BBQ Joints: Stories and Secret Recipes from the Barbecue Belt by David Gelin and Prophets of Smoked Meat by Daniel Vaughn.

Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q. From Tasty Travels: Culinary Delights in East Texas

Janie's Cakes 
Named to Oprah's favorite things list, this cake shop is well-worth a stop. It's all about pound cakes - you can get bigger cakes and petite cakes, all made with farm-fresh eggs, creamery butter, pure cane sugar and absolutely no preservatives. Note: look at the website to mull over the flavors before you get there...it's difficult to decide. Might I suggest petite ones, so you can try more flavors? Don't worry, you can ship cakes home (Janie's has been doing this for over 20 years) - and there are gluten-free versions available. The ENTIRE middle of the bundt cake is FILLED with flavor. See why we need to taste test to find a favorite?

Janie's Cakes. From Tasty Travels: Culinary Delights in East Texas

Asian fusion - in east Texas? YES! Discover a world of flavors at Juls, which is offers a restaurant, lounge, and cafe - and hosts the Rose City Farmer's Market on Saturdays from April to November in its parking lot. On the other side, there's a patio overlooking a private lake. 

The Grove 
Fine dining more your thing? Head to The Grove. It's Tyler's first true farm-to-table restaurant, so check the menu before you go - it changes weekly, according to what is in season. You'll also discover a smoke shack, which utilizes smoked hickory, cherry, and mesquite woods to make smoked meats.

You can find delicious Mexican at Don Juan, Moocho Burrito, and Taqueria El Lugar; more BBQ at Hickory Fare, Bodacious BBQ, Spring Creek Barbeque, Dickey's Barbecue Pit (and at the annual Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival); coffee at Strada, The Foundry, Brady's, Kickerz, and Scooters (and coffee ale at True Vine Brewing); and more unusual sweets at the new Candies, Funnel cakes, and Moore (look for the crazy funnel cakes!).

Learn more about Tyler: 




Known as the most haunted town in Texas, Jefferson was an early river port to New Orleans. Stay in the Ulysses S. Grant Room at the Jefferson Hotel and watch for ghosts, take a ghost tour at The Grove, and go on a night Historic Ghost Walk. Make time to visit the small Gone with the Wind Museum, the local Historical Museum, the Museum of Measurement and Time, and Jay Gould's Atalanta Railroad Car (tickets available across the street at the Excelsior Hotel).

After all that history, you'll be hungry. Don't worry. Stop at the Jefferson General Store for the soda fountain and shopping, and find great food at:

Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue 
Also named to Texas Monthly's Top BBQ list (which notes, "the Swamp Fries put to shame all other cheese fries."), Joseph's Riverport Barbecue sells out quickly, so pull country hours for your meal times. Check their facebook page for specials.

 Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue. From Tasty Travels: Culinary Delights in East Texas
 Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue. From Tasty Travels: Culinary Delights in East Texas

Auntie Skinner's Riverboat Club 
Southern classics are the highlight here, including hot water cornbread and hush puppies. There's live music, and big, celebratory events for holidays (like Mardi Gras). Note: smoking is allowed, so if you're allergic, look elsewhere.

Auntie Skinner's Riverboat Club. From Tasty Travels: Culinary Delights in East Texas

Kitt's Kornbread Sandwich and Pie Bar 
Kitt's says "Come for the pie, stay for lunch!" And what a lunch it is - Kitt's is home of the famous Kornbread sandwiches. Imagine tasty, savory cornbread, sliced and stuffed with fillings for a sandwich. Yep. Maybe eat that first, and then pie? Whichever you eat first, you'll be happy.

Kitt's Kornbread Sandwich and Pie Bar. From Tasty Travels: Culinary Delights in East Texas

Port Jefferson Outpost
This is a general store with candy AND a restaurant and coffeeshop (mallow cup latte!). It's also one of two places downtown open for breakfast, and serves honest, home-cooked meals. If you're not full, you can get fudge and candy to go. It might help sustain you during your ghostly encounters.


Learn more about Jefferson:




Have you eaten in Tyler and Jefferson? What did you love most?