Smoke, Heat, And Sweet Meat: The Top 7 BBQ Spots in Austin

Is there anything more quintessentially Austin than relaxing under the Texas sky with a plate piled high with savory, smoky barbecue? As a long-time local, I’m thrilled to take you on a culinary tour of the “meatiest” part of Austin. It’s all about; smoke, heat, and sweet meat. So, let’s dive right in, exploring the top 7 BBQ spots in Austin that will leave your taste buds tickling with delight, and your heart longing for just one more bite.

1. Franklin Barbecue: The Holy Grail of Austin Barbecue

First up is Franklin Barbecue, a spot so famous that it’s often the first thing out of people’s mouths when you ask, “Where should I get BBQ in Austin?”. Ever since Aaron Franklin started serving his succulent creations, this spot has been a hallowed ground for lovers of smoky, beautifully cooked meats. The devotion to the craft, from sourcing pasture-raised brisket from local farms to the careful monitoring of smoking over post oak wood, is evident. But the payoff is more than worth it when you bite into their:

  • Melt-in-your-mouth tender brisket. The smoky bark encasing it gives way to a mouthwatering, meat-filled center every time.
  • Excellent pulled pork, which combines effortlessly with their homemade sauces for a perfect mouthful.
  • The sausage links are a Franklin specialty, made from scratch in-house combining subtle flavors and a satisfying snap in every bite.
  • And don’t forget to drizzle everything with their delectable espresso barbecue sauce. It’s the perfect sweet and tangy compliment to the hefty flavors of the meat.

I must warn you though, the line at Franklin’s starts forming long before the doors swing open. So, bring a lawn chair, grab a book, and make some friends in line because believe me, it’s worth the wait.

2. La Barbecue: Be A Part of BBQ History

Now, let’s venture into Austin’s vibrant food truck scene where we find La Barbecue. Allying the traditions of family and exceptional skill, this food truck serves up a mouthwatering array of proteins to place neck-and-neck with Franklin’s in the hearts of Austinites. From their well-tempered smokers, you can savor:

  • Delectable briskets, the product of years of BBQ refinement, are smoky, moist, and glazed with a gourmet touch.
  • Their pork ribs and pulled pork are such favorites that they often sell out early in the day, offering rich flavors and a perfect smoke ring every time.
  • Sandwiches named after family members, with a pile of 3-4 different juicy meats, are a playful (and delicious) homage to their roots.
  • Don’t leave without trying their chipotle sausage. The combination of gentle heat of chipotle and bold sausage flavors is unforgettable.

3. Micklethwait Craft Meats: Innovating Tradition

Our next stop is a trailer parked modestly amongst the BBQ titans of Austin, known as Micklethwait Craft Meats. Proprietor Tom Micklethwait is a true BBQ artist, turning traditional Texas barbecue on its head in the most spectacular ways. Each dish is a product of inventive cooking techniques and seasonal ingredients:

  • Try their smoked beef rib, which is impressively large and fall-off-the-bone tender, making every bite a decadent experience.
  • The Barbecue Frito pie might sound like a fair food, but it’s an ingenious mix of smoky brisket, beans, cheese, red onion, and jalapenos on a bed of crunchy Fritos.
  • Satisfying your sweet tooth is easy with their delicious Moon Pies. These homemade sweet indulgences perfectly round off your BBQ experience.

4. Stuby’s Bar-B-Q: Where Locals Go

Stuby’s Bar-B-Q is a hidden treasure trove that locals swear by for its unique smoking method and (almost) equally impressive sides. Its charm is evident in:

  • Their meats, smoked with indirect heat, result in a smoother, less intense flavor that serves as a delightful introduction if you’re new to the BBQ world.
  • The sides at Stuby’s make them a standout. From collard greens to corn pudding, every bite balances the rich flavors of the barbecue.
  • The pièce de résistance, though, is the Shiner Bock beer-braised brisket. It’s a Texas delight, with tender brisket perfectly complemented by the silky, subtly sweet beer braising sauce.

5. Leroy & Lewis: Where New School Meets Barbecue

Next up is Leroy & Lewis, where traditional barbecue meets innovative thinking, pushing the boundaries of what you might expect in a BBQ joint. Every week is something fresh, exciting and keeping regular patrons on their toes:

  • The menu frequently features exotic, underappreciated cuts like beef cheeks, prepared barbacoa-style for a fresh twist on a classic.
  • The whole hog barbecue is a spectacle, using every part of the animal to serve up smoky, savory dishes you won’t find anywhere else.
  • Don’t forget to sample their unique sides—featuring locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, they take the humble side dish to a whole new level of flavor.

6. Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ: Where Two Worlds Collide

For our penultimate stop, we’re heading to Valentina’s, where the worlds of barbecue and Tex-Mex collide to create some truly mouthwatering fare. Whether you’re in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’ll find something to love:

  • Try The Real Deal Holyfield, a breakfast taco bursting with a fried egg, potatoes, refried beans, bacon, and a perfect slice of smoky brisket.
  • Their smoked carnitas and chicken incorporate Tex-Mex flavors in BBQ perfectly and add a unique burst of flavor.
  • Try the brisket with a Tex-Mex twist. Mesquite-smoked, it’s simply topped with sea salt, cracked black pepper, and a refreshing guajillo and citrus marinade.

7. Black’s Barbecue: A Taste of Lockhart in Austin

Our final stop is Black’s Barbecue. The Austin outpost of the historic Lockhart original, Black’s brings a richly storied barbecue legacy into the heart of the city. It’s a carnivore heaven with:

  • Their towering beef ribs, claimed by many to be the best in Austin, provide the quintessential BBQ experience.
  • The turkey at Black’s isn’t your average holiday fare—it’s juicy and tender, absorbing a smoky, full-bodied flavor from hours in the smoker.
  • Don’t miss out on the homemade sausages—a favorite family recipe for over a century, they explode with flavor in every bite.

From the smokiest, juiciest briskets to the melt-in-your-mouth ribs—Austin serves it all with a side of true Texan charm. Each of these top spots offers something unique, extending charm beyond the plate to the overall experience. Whether you’re a brisket-buff, rib-aficionado, or pulled pork pundit, these top 7 BBQ spots in Austin offer the perfect spot for everyone. Time to kick back, enjoy the smoke, heat, and sweet meat and let your culinary journey in Austin fill up more than just your stomach. Happy feasting, y’all!

Lauren Critzer

I was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and after college, I moved to San Francisco to explore new opportunities and broaden my horizons. I fell in love with the city's vibrant culture and unique atmosphere, but eventually, I moved again, this time to Austin, Texas.

As much as I loved living in different parts of the country, having a baby boy brought me back to my hometown in Charlottesville, where I now live with my husband, our little one, and two furry friends. I enjoy going to wineries, taking my pups everywhere, and spending quality time with my family.

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