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. So, not every BBQ joint in Austin is on here, but ones you want to know about are.
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.
Also, if you’re looking to barbecue your own food, but don’t like the idea of a traditional barbecue, then a pellet grill as reviewed by Grilling Zen might be a more suitable idea. They are more environmentally friendly because you are pellet smoking your food as opposed to using gas or fuel and they are also more economical. This is definitely worth considering!
* denotes open for dinner service
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Their catchphrase of “new school barbecue, old school service” tells you what you are in for. Helmed by the former Freedmen’s pitmaster, Evan LeRoy, LeRoy & Lewis is breaking the BBQ truck mold. A constantly rotating menu means frequent trips are in order. While you will find the classics like brisket available, stick around for the signature specials like beef cheek, wild boar, lamb ribs, porchetta and lots of housemade sausage.
Oakwood fills the gap for BBQ in North Austin left when Mann’s shut their doors. The pickles are housemade and the proteins are the usual suspects, but the overstuffed BBQ sandwiches are what has this place buzzing.
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.
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).
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.
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…
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.
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.
From the iconic hill country location in Llano springs this additional location situated in the heart of downtown Austin. For urban city-que, it has a pretty good ambience and a large selection of protein options. Added bonus, they trade seven days a week.
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!
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.
A modern setting but classic menu. The sausage is exceptional and the location makes for a great lunch stop while visiting local swimming holes.
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.
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.
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. The pork steak is something special.
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 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.
Don’t have your own car? Try a Texas Q Tour – custom day trips with someone else taking care of the driving.