The Fourth Annual Houston Barbecue Festival  is less than two months away and we’re already salivating at the thought of tasting Houston’s best barbecue in one single spot. Started in 2013 by J.C. Reid and Michael Fulmer, the festival has grown year after year, much like Houston’s barbecue scene. Reid, who also writes about barbecue for the Houston Chronicle, said he expects this year’s festival to be the best yet and he shared a few things we should look forward to come May 22.

‘Cue With Houston Influences

Over the last few years, Houston barbecue has evolved into somewhat of a hybrid that integrates Texas-style barbecue and the diverse styles of cuisine found in the city, says Reid. He’s most looking forward to seeing how the festival’s participating barbecue joints will bring Asian, Cajun and other culinary influences from Houston into their dishes.

New Barbecue Joints

This year’s festival welcomes 24 barbecue joints, up from 21 last year. New to the festival this year are BBQ Godfather from Spring, where pitmaster Tony Faour combines Houston-style barbecue with the Italian influences of his upbringing, and Jackson Street BBQ, the downtown restaurant by Bill Floyd and Bryan Caswell of Reef and Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ. The third newcomer is Tejas Chocolate from Tomball. Their name may not make them sound like a barbecue joint but it turns out they serve up much more than chocolate. “They combine the three things that I love most: barbecue, chocolate and beer,” said Reid.

Guest Pitmasters

Aside from Houston’s best, the festival will also once again welcome pitmasters Wayne Mueller of Louis Mueller BBQ in Taylor and Bryan Bracewell of Southside Market in Elgin. Each of these places has a longstanding history when it comes to Texas barbecue. Louis Mueller BBQ is considered the cathedral of smoke in Texas barbecue, says Reid. And Southside Market is known as the oldest existing barbecue joint in Texas.

Lots of Good Food

With the best barbecue joints in the city gathered in one place, there will be lots of good food to try. Reid has one piece of advice for festival attendees: pace yourself. “There is a temptation, and I’ve done it too, I walk into the festival, I go to the first booth and I just start eating and it won’t be long after you go to the first three to four booths that you’ll be full,” he said. Reid encourages visitors to walk around, talk to vendors, get a feel for what they’re offering and then take small bites here and there. If you really like something, he adds, you can always go back for more.

A Sold Out Festival

All three previous festivals have sold out so if you’re planning to attend, get your tickets early. Tickets are only sold in advance, so don’t show up at the door expecting to buy tickets. You can buy your tickets through the Houston BBQ Festival website.