Jess Pryles

Looking for the best bbq in Austin? Here’s your ultimate guide.

texas barbecue brisket and the guide to austin bbq
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Best BBQ in Austin. It’s a tough call, and a tougher title to stay on top of.

There are quite literally hundreds of BBQ joints in the great state of Texas, with a particular proliferation around the Austin/Hill Country area. There are SO many places to experience BBQ around town, from internationally renowned joints, to shiny new BBQ trailers, places that make you wonder how they’re still in business, “BBQ” items featured on the menus of non-BBQ restaurants and even national chains.

Don’t be disheartened – I’ve done the hard work for you and narrowed down the options into this carefully curated guide which features select eateries based on specific categories (superstars, heavyweights, new guys, standbys, Hill Country heroes), so you can easily find something that is right for you. It’s also regularly updated, so you can keep coming back and checking if something new has popped up.

Here is one of the most important things a complete newbie needs to know- traditionally, barbecue joints are lunchtime traders, with the very popular ones selling out around noon. Be cautious about scheduling your BBQ experience for dinner time, your options will be limited. Opening hours constantly fluctuate so check their individual sites (links provided) for details.

Got a new place I should know about? Let me know about it via Facebook or Twitter!

Happy eating,
Jess x

* denotes open for dinner service 

Superstars

If you only had one chance to sample Texas Barbecue, your chance will be safe at any of these joints. These guys are cooking the stuff that meat dreams are made of.

FRANKLIN BBQ   SITE  MAP 

Also known as BBQ Jesus, Aaron Franklin is arguably the biggest name in BBQ right now, anywhere. Get in the line by 9am for an 11am opening and order as much brisket as you can handle.

FREEDMENS*   SITE MAP READ MORE

A stunning historic venue, craft cocktails, great BBQ and side dishes showcasing seasonal produce. The brisket is exceptional. You MUST try one of the smoked desserts and if you’re up for something a bit different, try their Sunday brunch with BBQ Benedict. Also takes reservations.

LA BARBECUE    SITE MAP READ MORE

Order brisket and beef rib at a minimum,  pulled pork and housemade sausage if your appetite allows. Heck, even the turkey is killer. Plus the chipotle coleslaw is a signature side. Pro tip: call ahead for a to-go order and skip the line.

The Heavyweights

 Backing up the Superstars, this crew do their part to represent the fine craft of Texas BBQ. They’re not always perfect, but definitely worth a visit.

KERLIN BBQ   SITE MAP READ MORE

Moving away from traditional oak, Kerlin smoke using pecan wood. Nearly on par with the superstars, but without the line. The brisket and pork ribs are sensational. Note: Kerlins has been trading weekends only of late.

STILES SWITCH*   SITE MAP READ MORE

The neighbourhood location of Stiles Switch means you may avoid the touristy lines of the spots closer to downtown. If there is a line, it moves fast. Try the brisket (moist!),  pork ribs and corn casserole. Need another plus? They also serve beer.

VALENTINA’S TEX MEX BBQ*   SITE MAP READ MORE

It’s exactly what it sounds like. A small menu that is half Tex, and half Mex. Recently named the best taco in all of Texas. Go for the smoked brisket taco with sea salt lime guac- epic flour tortillas are made in house.

TERRY BLACK’S BBQ    SITE  MAP

After a lengthy wait, this crew finally opened the doors on their Barton Springs Rd location, serving classic Lockhart style BBQ. It’s quality ‘Q with a tolerable line, and you’ll go straight to the front if you get in early enough. Get the jalapeno sausage and brisket, and a beef rib if your appetite allows.

MICKLETHWAIT CRAFT MEATS   SITE MAP READ MORE

It’s obvious Tom Micklethwait takes great pride in his food. With few exceptions, everything served from this trailer is made in house, including the various sausages, loaf bread and desserts. The jalapeno-cheese grits are crazy good and the brisket is heavenly.

HAYS CO BAR-B-QUE    SITE MAP READ MORE

Technically not in Austin but only a short drive south, Hays Co is doing a proud job of representing the art of Texas barbecue. They’re also one of the few places to offer smoked pork chop. Make sure you get a side of tomato and avocado for a fresh twist.

SCHMIDT FAMILY BBQ*   SITE MAP

The eatery supposedly set to “bury the hatchet” of the Lockhart family feud, they use Kreuz sausage and offer prime rib and shoulder clod on the weekends.

BROWNS BAR-B-QUE    SITE MAP

A solid option with almost zero wait time. Sausage and pork rib are specialities, their brisket rub recipe seems to vary over time and is less reliable. Can be a little risky with consistency.

The New Guys

The latest kids on the block, these guys are creating quite the buzz. You’ll know they’re legit when you see their names bumped up to heavyweight! Give them a try if you fancy yourself as a pioneering eater.

SMOKEY DENMARK’S    SITE MAP

Part meat shop, part bbq joint with a side of game processing thrown in for good measure. Their pulled pork sandwich is making waves on the Twittersphere, and their beef rib (available Friday only) is sensational. With a recent pitmaster departure, it remains to be seen if they’ll remain serving general BBQ or focus on sausage only.

SCOTTY’S BBQ    SITE MAP

In their new location on the East Side, Scotty’s are positioning themselves as a value trailer. Their $12 plate gets you a half pound of meat, two sides and all the fixings. They also offer online ordering for parties of 10 or more.

SLAB BBQ*    SITE MAP

Formerly Sugar Shack BBQ now reinvented as Slab, they started as a truck and recently moved it on up with the addition of a brick & mortar location up North. They have an extensive sandwich menu (embracing all the BBQ regional styles) and seem like a quick and easy lunchtime option, plus they are open for dinner.

BLACK’S BBQ*    SITE MAP

Yes, the one in the same as the famed Lockhart Black’s. They have recently expanded both to San Marcos and Austin, where the food is brought in daily from the Lockhart location. Time will tell if this method is still conducive to serving up saucesome barbecue.

ROLLIN SMOKE BBQ*  SITE MAP

Very smartly, these boys have decided on a dinner only service, enticing the well-lubricated folks stumbling down E 6th st. Brisket looks solid and they have some fun specials like pork pozole and smoked mac n cheese.

SHUGABEES  SITE MAP

Taking up residence in the Genie carwash that formerly housed Browns BBQ, Shugabees hasn’t yet shaken the BBQ community up, but prides themselves on homemade tortillas and offers one of the only BBQ salads in town (chicken, with apples and pecans).

KINFOLK BBQ  SITE MAP

There’s quite a bit of buzz around these guys, with their pork the supposed star of the show. They also have one of the cheapest BBQ sandwich options in town, with their chopped beef costing a mere $3.75.

The Standbys

I get it, not everyone is a food snob. You don’t want to deal with lines, you’re just in town for SXSW and want something within walking distance from your hotel, or maybe you want a place with a great location and atmosphere, even if the food isn’t quite up to the views.  The places listed below all deliver a perfectly adequate meal, just be aware that these aren’t the places people are referring to when they talk about having a religious BBQ experience. 

RUDY’S COUNTRY STORE*  SITE MAP 

Don’t be fooled by the gas station exterior of some of these chain locations, it’s really nice inside! Tell em it’s your first time and you’ll receive a shout out from the counter staff and a sample tasting of all their offerings. BTW – best cream corn ever.

BOWIE BBQ AT WHOLE FOODS*  SITE MAP

Convenient location, great lunch pricing, quality ingredients. Best eaten closer to lunchtime than dinnertime (the freshness makes a difference).

IRON WORKS BBQ SITE MAP

Consistency can be hit and miss here, but the proximity to Downtown makes it a convenient choice for many tourists. Iron Works has been doing their thing since 1978 and if you really like what you tried there, you can have it shipped to your house.

LAMBERTS BBQ*   SITE MAP

Just about the only BBQ joint to accept reservations, Lamberts is an upscale “fine dining” establishment. Fancy barbecue, if you will. In addition to traditional oak smoked meats, the menu offers a broader selection such as Oak Grilled Bacon Wrapped Black Angus Filet. It’s not traditional barbecue but is a great dining experience.

COUNTY LINE*  SITE MAP 

On the Lake and On the Hill both boast pretty locations with decor that is exactly what out of towners secretly hope a BBQ restaurant will look like. The menu is large and extends beyond basic BBQ so it’s a good choice for a group with different tastes and the $2 beers during happy hour are great value.

STUBBS*  SITE MAP

A gorgeous old Austin stone building plays double duty as one of the cities most famous live music venues and barbecue restaurant. The Sunday Gospel Brunch with DIY bloody mary bar is fun option.

THE SALT LICK*  SITE MAP

In the magical Texan golden dusk light, this might be one of the prettiest BBQ venue locations. It’s quite obvious that the hundreds of patrons are not actually being fed off one tiny horseshoe shaped pit, and IMHO the reputation mainly exceeds the eating experience, but it’s still a fun and atmospheric excursion. B.Y.O.B.

Hill Country Heroes

Wanna head out of town? These places are all within an easy day trip of Austin and you’ll find some incredible old pits & dining halls too!

LOUIE MUELLER BBQ   SITE MAP READ MORE

Fondly known as the “Cathedral of Smoke”, Louie Mueller hands down wins the competition for most atmospheric space housed in a fabulous circa 1900 building. Happily, the food is as good as the appearance. Brisket and beef rib are a must.

OPIE’S BBQ*   SITE MAP READ MORE

A modern setting but classic menu. The sausage is exceptional and the location makes for a great lunch stop while visiting local swimming holes.

KREUZ MARKET*   SITE MAP 

This behemoth structure greets you as you enter Lockhart. You may also recognise the mutton-chopped pitmaster Roy Perez as one of the most photographed men in barbecue. Founded in 1900, Kreuz is truly one of the legends of Texas BBQ.

BLACKS BBQ*  SITE MAP

Epic beef ribs, huge range of sides and a dining room crammed with memorabilia. Blacks has been owned by the same family since 1932, ask to see the pits – you may just get a custom guided tour from Kent Black himself.

SNOWS BBQ SITE MAP

Run by Tootsie Tomanetz (who is still cooking at the ripe old age of 78), Snows brisket is legendary. They are only open on Saturdays from 8am until sold out, so you’d better hit the road early.

SOUTHSIDE MARKET SITE MAP

With claims of being the oldest BBQ joint in Texas, these guys have been in business since 1882. Churning out the iconic Elgin hot guts sausage, Southside have also opened a new location in Bastrop. They’re one of few places who serve mutton, and their pork ribs are great, but the sausage is the standout star of the show.

COOPER’S OLD TIME PIT BAR-B-QUE   SITE MAP READ MORE

Cooper’s employs the cowboy-style method cooking directly over mesquite coals rather than the offset smoker burning post oak as found in most Hill Country joints. Their giant pork chops are said to be quite the experience, but you can’t pass up the prime rib.

TEXAS Q TOURS 

Don’t have your own car? Try a Texas Q Tour – custom day trips with someone else taking care of the driving.

where to eat in austin

 

By Jess Pryles

Jess Pryles is a full fledged Hardcore Carnivore. She’s a cook, writer, and TV personality specializing in red meat, with penchant for grilling and bourbon. She's also a respected authority on Texas & competition style barbecue. Born in Australia, she now resides in Austin, Texas.

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