When people think of Austin, they think barbecue and Tex-Mex. It’s always been that way and lucky for all the meat lovers out there, some of the best BBQ in Texas sits right in the state’s buzzy capital.
Fueled by the ascendance of greats such as Aaron Franklin and the reappearance of John Mueller, the barbecue culinary scene has exploded with a nice army of rustic trailers and chic hubs offering everything from the best old-school salt-and-pepper ribs to stacks of post oak-smoked brisket or sausage links all well worth waiting in line for. Here’s a list of some of the finest barbecue joints in town. So go forth and chow down because BBQ is just another part of everyday life in this oh so ‘weird’ southern town. Here are the six best barbecue places in Austin.
Don't Miss These Incredible Barbecue Spots In Austin
1. La Barbecue
Despite many moves location-wise, this hotspot has finally found a colorful new home at the Aztec Food Park on East Cesar Chavez and continues to serve plenty of smoking hot briskets, ribs, and sausages that people are known to wait in line for. It was founded by head pit-master Dylan Taylor and is basically the most hopping BBQ joint in town—all from a low-key stand with picnic seating.
Make sure to chow on the pulled pork and the Frito pie, as well as that beautiful dry-rubbed brisket which is smoked for at least 12 to 15 hours at a super low temperature. You’ll be able to see a distinct red smoke ring hovering above when you slice up that tasty baby—and thanks to an uber talented pit crew, you’ll be glad to know that everything’s always served with the highest grade meats and lots of love. There also tons of free cold beer offered to all patrons as well. Yeah.
2. Mickelthwait Craft Meats
Over the past few years, this tiny trailer has provided one of Austin's best barbecue experiences—it also has arguably the best quality-to-wait time ratio in town. The meat-lover’s mecca not only pays homage to old-school Texas barbecue, but also manages to incorporate innovative twists to even the most traditional of dishes. Let’s just say that mouths continue to water.
Their briskets pop with oak smoke flavor. You’ll also come across rarer offerings, such as like pulled goat, barbacoa, and a beef rib that won the Austin Chronicle's "best in town." Those cheese grit sides are also some of the best in the City of Weird. And with a scratch-focused approach to all their grilling, this hotspot is great for Saturday afternoon cravings or full-on weeknight meals of house made sausages and terrific moon pies.
3. Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ
This one’s famous for cranking out some of the best smoked meat south of Lady Bird Lake, and those homemade tortillas and smoked corn are definitely worth making a trip out for, especially when paired with smoked carnitas or mesquite brisket that’s literally to die for. Valentina’s Tex Mex meshes two of the city’s favorite foods—barbecue and Mexican-- into one delicious mega meal.
Smoked brisket or pulled pork can be found in tacos or sandwiches galore, along with other fusion tacos plus sides. Early birds should definitely try out the Real Deal Holyfield breakfast taco. Plus, the trailer has got a new home in far South Austin, as well as the original permanent trailer behind Star Bar, and a sister spot in downtown called Violet Taco for quick taco fixes.
Those wanting meticulous meat for a fine dinner need to grab the only brisket in town that can be washed down with fresh smoked beets while sipping on a smoked bourbon cocktail. It’s whiskey and barbecue at its best in West Campus, where pit master Evan LeRoy overlooks a superb kitchen that smokes even its side orders and desserts—think smoked corn or banana pudding.
Try out the Holy Trinity plate (brisket, pork spare ribs, sausage) with the Ol' Schmokey cocktail while enjoying the laid back saloon-like cocktail lounge and onsite beer garden. Sunday brunch even features a barbecue benedict.
5. Franklin Barbecue
Everyone in town knows about the long lines at Franklin—but they really are well worth waiting for if you’re hoping for brisket perfection. From beef ribs, pulled pork, and the fan favorite Tipsy Texan sandwich, to that all-time famous barbecue brisket, James Beard winner Aaron Franklin’s lunch-only spot begins prepping their hormone- and antibiotic-free dishes at 2am every day, providing a melt-in-your-mouth tender sort of taste that’s lean, mean, and blackened to just the right amount. It’s basically the King of all things brisket. Get lunchin’!
6. Kerlin BBQ
While most traditional pit masters follow the “low-and-slow” method of cooking brisket, husband-and-wife team Bill and Amaris Kerlin takes things a step further by smoking their meat on high heat for a shorter amount of time. The result is a crispier, darker bark all around—not to mention a tender, rich, and moist treat that provides heaven on earth for any BBQ-crazed palate.
Pop on by the Kerlin BBQ trailer in East Cesar Chavez for plenty of outdoor seating, an easygoing picnic vibe, and tons of homey barbecue fare including brisket, pork shoulder, and potato salad. There’s also the trailer’s large array of barbecue-filled pastries like brisket stuffed into kolaches. Seriously, it’s magic.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.