If there’s one pastime in Austin Texas that hasn’t changed over the years it’s eating. From Tex-Mex to nationally known chefs and restaurants there’s no question that Austin is a foodie kind of town. After all we were one of the first cities to have a “food trailer” subculture; those early beginnings have since spawned food trailer parks in at least three different areas of the city and inspired many more.
Barbecue in Austin – The obsession
While Austinites certainly have an appreciation for all things edible they’re obsessive about barbecue. That’s because in Texas beef is king. And its rulers and subjects are mostly located right here in Central Texas.
In fact the brisket a cut that is the cornerstone of the Texas tradition owes its status to the long cattle drives of that bygone era – and to the creative culinary genius of multiple Texas barbecue masters. Considered tough and almost worthless in the beginning it’s what was left over after the so-called prime cuts had been taken. Other meat staples in a true Texas barbecue include sausage (normally made from beef) and pork ribs an import from the Midwest.
Texas barbecue can even be broken down by region. In west Texas the meat is cooked using direct heat with mesquite wood an approach also seen in Arizona and New Mexico. In eastern Texas beef is often slow-cooked over hickory after marinating in a tomato sauce. And here in Central Texas meat is often dry-rubbed with spices and cooked using indirect heat over either oak pecan or mesquite. The South Texas style features thick sauces normally with a molasses base.
Who needs a plate? Order up!
When it comes to ordering barbecue Texans have their own style there too. Most places serve beef ribs brisket chicken and pork ribs by the pound or by the link for sausage and forgo plates – instead choosing to serve meats on plain white butcher paper.
Typical side dishes and drinks here in the Lone Star state include pinto beans potato salad coleslaw creamed corn pickles onions jalapenos cold beer iced tea lemonade – and of course plenty of slices of plain white bread.
As for the sauce it’s generally an optional thing – and some Central Texas barbecue institutions don’t offer sauce at all. That’s because the emphasis is on the meat not necessarily the sauce. Roll it up in a slice of white bread add pickles onions and maybe some coleslaw on top and it’s like heaven on earth.
Great Barbecue – Meat Temperature and Fuel
According to the National Barbecue Association the three essential elements of barbecue are good meat; the process of slow cooking at a low temperature; and the fuel used for heat and flavor. This is not the backyard style barbecue where Mom or Dad fires up the gas or charcoal grill. At its heart barbecue is slow cooking using cuts of meat that in the past were considered inferior – until super slow cooking for hours at a time turned them into something worth savoring and craving.
The native peoples of the Caribbean who used a combination of low heat wood smoke and sun to preserve their meat first practiced what we know as barbecue at the time Columbus discovered the New World. Known first as “barbacoa” it made its way to the mainland where it diversified both in location and style.
Now? It’s an art form – and it varies from state to state region to region and neighbor to neighbor. From the pulled pork of the Carolinas to the heavy sauciness of Kansas City to the sweetness of Memphis barbecue – and the way it’s cooked – is a varied culinary tradition whose rules are based mainly on location and what Grandpa did. Pork or pork sausage are a barbecue stalwart especially in the southeastern United States. And it’s not surprising to find very expensive smokers cooking up brisket sausage ham turkey and more for a crowd at University of Texas tailgates (and at every other college football game in Texas).
Barbecue in Austin – Worth Exploring
Clearly the best way to experience this mouth-watering culinary experience is to take a road trip and try it all. Because we’re famous for this stuff especially here in Central Texas – and those who live here know all too well what a gift it is to experience it when the craving strikes. And it will. Over and over again.
The following is a guide to the barbecue restaurant scene in Austin and Central Texas – use our tips to take your own delicious sticky fingers jaunt across barbecue heaven. Visit www.tourism-tools.com/texasbbq for more information. And don’t forget the napkins!
The County LineCounty Line on the Hill (original location) 6500 W. Bee Cave Rd. 512-327-11742 County Line on the Lake 5204 FM 2222 (off Bull Creek) 512-346-3664
Founded in 1975 and now boasting several locations The County Line is an Austin barbecue institution. The restaurant’s barbecue philosophy has just four principles: Deliver highest quality smoked barbecue – ribs brisket sausage and chicken – with traditional sides of cole slaw potato salad and beans; Offer generous portions at reasonable prices; Hire staff and offer friendly table service with linens and bar service; and Serve it all in an authentic location that celebrates the heritage of Texas. It’s no wonder that the restaurant’s tagline is that it’s so good you’ll want to “Get It All Over Ya!”
The Green Mesquite1400 Barton Springs Road 512-479-0485 9900 South IH-35 at Southpark Meadows 512-282-7100
Known for “BBQ Blues & Bluegrass” the Green Mesquite is another Austin favorite with two locations – the original on Barton Springs and another in the Southpark Meadows shopping center off I-35 South. With a menu that includes such classic and delicious sides as fried okra hush puppies green beans cole slaw and potato salad and barbecue plates with a choice of beef brisket pork ribs pulled pork chicken sausage ham smoked wings or turkey – plus live music – it’s a meat lover’s (and music lover’s!) paradise.
Hoover’s Cooking2002 Manor Rd.(original location) 512-479-5006 13376 Research Blvd. #400 (at Anderson Mill) 512-335-0300
Known more for its traditional Southern-style cooking and deep Texas roots of founder Hoover Alexander – a fifth-generation Texan whose food include elements of his mom’s home cooking East Texas Cajun flavors and the mouth-watering fare of barbeque pit bosses – Hoover’s isn’t your traditional barbecue restaurant. But Alexander’s ribs are out of this world and the restaurant has become known equally for its barbecue offerings. Choose from chicken wings or halves pork ribs Elgin sausage and even jerk chicken – all come in giant portions with a deep-red-brown and spicy-sweet sauce. Sides include the decadent macaroni and cheese jalapeño creamed spinach cole slaw and classic pork and beans among classic Southern specialties as mustard greens and fried okra.
House Park Bar-B-Q900 W. 12th (at Lamar) 512-472-9621
When your eyes find the “Need Teef to Eat my Beef” sign you’ll know you’ve arrived at House Park Bar-B-Q. Open since 1943 this favorite neighborhood (and city-wide) barbeque joint takes the best brisket cuts lays them in a pit – and leaves them alone for up to 18 hours. The result is flaky super-tender brisket cooked over a mesquite fire that is so tender that well if you didn’t happen to have “teef” it wouldn’t matter. House Park also serves up pork and beef sausage and pork loin plus such sides as sweet beans (secret recipe; don’t ask – and same goes for the sauce) coleslaw and a sweet potato-and-egg salad.
Ironworks Barbecue100 Red River 512-478-4855
A family-owned ironworks before it became a barbecue favorite in 1978 (check out the Weigl family-crafted weathervane on the restaurant’s roof) Ironworks is not only an Austin favorite but also counts among its many fans such visiting Austin celebs as Kevin Costner Leonardo DiCaprio Bob Dylan and Jay Leno. Offering both barbecue plates and meat by the pound specialties include sliced beef brisket chopped beef beef ribs smoked pork loin pork ribs chicken Ironworks hot sausage ham and smoked turkey plus classic sides that include beans and potato salad.
29th & Guadalupe 512-477-1651
Open since 1988 Ruby’s specializes in “real pit-smoked barbecue” with traditional and non-traditional sides plus several Cajun and vegetarian dishes. What? Vegetarian dishes at a barbecue joint? Ruby’s is all that and more – and it’s still a favorite. With tender juicy hormone-free beef smoked Elgin sausage pork ribs and a spicy sauce it’ll make meat lovers happy too. Sides include enough variety for all persuasions including two kinds of beans (black and BBQ) several kinds of cole slaw collard greens and such Cajun classics as chicken/sausage gumbo red beans and jambalaya.
Rudy’s “Country Store” and Bar-B-Q11570 Research Blvd. 512-418-9898 2451 S. Capital of Texas Hwy. 512-329-5554 7709 Ranch Road 620 512-250-8002
Rudy’s “Country Store” and Bar-B-Q had its early beginnings in Leon Springs – a small community founded just outside of San Antonio in the 1800s by Max Aue. Max’s son Rudolph later opened a one-stop gas station garage and grocery store. It took a while but barbecue was added to the operation in 1989 and Rudy´s “Country Store” and Bar-B-Q was born. Rudy’s uses 100 percent wood-fired pits with oak a slower burning wood than mesquite and cook brisket sausage turkey and more with a dry spice for unique flavors. Add Rudy’s famous “Sause” dill pickles onions and white bread and a tasty meal is minutes away.
Stubb’s801 Red River 512-480-8341
“Stubb’s is the delicious brainchild of Christopher B. Stubblefield of Navasota Texas who learned to cook in the 1930s when the family moved to Lubbock to pick cotton – and Stubb started working in local restaurants and hotels. Those skills translated into his own restaurant which he opened in Lubbock in 1968 – cooking barbecue on a hickory pit behind his place and playing the blues on the jukebox. The Lubbock location closed – and an Austin location followed. It soon became as much known for good music as for good barbecue with musicians like Joe Ely and Stevie Ray Vaughn Muddy Waters Willie Nelson Johnny Cash and others playing there regularly. Today it’s still about the food music and cold beer – try the brisket pork ribs chicken pork loin turkey or sausage plate – and definitely add the sauce made in-house and the beans cole slaw and potato salad.
Texas Rib Kings
9012 Research Blvd Suite C-4 (near Burnet Road) 512-451-7427
Founded in 1986 Texas Rib Kings BBQ & Catering had its beginnings in the west campus area near the University of Texas. The restaurant moved to north Austin in 1994 and has earned rave reviews for its brisket sausage boneless skinless chicken or turkey breast honey glazed ham and signature pork and beef ribs. With daily lunch specials that include a sandwich side and drink and an all-you-can-eat Monday buffet there’s something for everyone.
The Pit on Burnet Road4707 Burnet Road 512-453-6464
Family-owned and operated since 1969 The Pit is another Austin favorite with area residents flocking to this small down-home restaurant to feast on juicy brisket turkey sausage ribs and chicken plus the Pit’s signature peach cobbler and banana pudding. All meats are smoked in-house and the Pit is known for its house-made sides – including potato salad and beans.
The Salt Lick18300 FM 1826 (original location) 512-894-3117
Founded in Driftwood 1967 by the Roberts family The Salt Lick has a long history of serving great barbecue. People drive from all over Central Texas and beyond to relax among the picnic tables at the rustic outdoor pavilion and enjoy juicy brisket ribs and more. Specialties include the family-style meal which includes huge servings of beef sausage and pork ribs served with potato salad cole slaw beans bread pickles and onions. Homemade pecan pie and peach cobbler round out the simple and delicious menu – and those who have cravings but who don’t live in Central Texas can order complete meals online that are shipped directly to their door.
Southside Market & Barbecue
1212 U.S. 290 East 512-281-4650
This more-than-100-year-old sausage factory is one of the main reasons Elgin is known as the “sausage capital of Texas.” Great varieties of sausage and $2 per pound brisket trimmings are a real treat too. With such authentic Texas barbecue that includes beef brisket signature sauce a million awards and accolades and of course that sausage it’s a barbecue lover’s must-stop destination – and an excellent reason to drive to Elgin.
Meyer’s Elgin Sausage & Smokehouse188 U.S. 290 East 512-281-3331
A family-owned business Meyer’s Elgin Sausage expanded the family business to a restaurant that serves smoked pork ribs turkey breast brisket and that famous sausage. Try the three-meat combo with your choice of beef sausage smoked turkey pork ribs lots of sauce German-style potato salad spicy beans and a pickle. And definitely grab some sausage to take home so you can have it whenever you want.
Buster’s BBQ2125 Lohmans Crossing 512-263-2340
For over 17 years Buster’s BBQ has been serving up delicious eats for the Lake Travis community. Located in the heart of Lakeway Buster’s sits in a shopping center at the Northwest corner of Lohman’s Crossing and RR 620. Diners can enjoy eating inside or wander out back and enjoy live music during the summer on the kid friendly and shaded outdoor patio and beer garden. Buster’s Meats can be ordered either by the pound or on a sandwich platter or family pack. Options include: Beef Brisker (sliced or Block Chopped); Pulled Pork (Pork Butt Fresh Pulled and Fork Shredded); Pork Spareribs (Rubbed with Brown Sugar); Pork Shoulder (Stuffed with Fresh Garlic); Turkey Brest (Skinless Smoked in Mayonnaise and Cracked Black Pepper); Chicken Thighs (Boneless and Skinless Seasoned with Sweet Rib Rub); and more. Buster’s features two smoke pits Macon (named after owner Tim Cook’s oldest grandson) and Beau (named after his youngest grandson).
(Located between Austin & College Station)
Snow’s BBQ516 Main Street 512-979-4640
One piece of advice about Snow’s– Get there early. One of Central Texas’ most famous barbecue pilgrimages Snow’s is only open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until the meat is gone – and that’s usually by noon. Why? Consider that the brisket at Snow’s is cooked at low heat (250 to 300 degrees) for six hours then wrapped in foil and put back into the smoker for however long the pit experts at Snow’s think it should be in there. Kind of like the Jedi masters of barbecue. The result is you-don’t-need-teeth tender beef that’s smoked to perfection. The menu here is small and simple; the folks at Snow’s decided to focus only on doing a few things very well: brisket sausage chicken pork ribs potato salad cole slaw and beans. After all what else do you need?
Laird’s BBQ1600 Ford Street 325-247-5234
Located just south of town Laird’s is a Llano barbecue favorite founded by Ken and Esther Laird. Barbecue here is cooked in a pit using only mesquite wood and the Laird’s smoke their briskets for up to eight hours. Everything except the white bread is made here too. The sausage is half-beef and half-pork with lots of garlic and the pork ribs are usually gone pretty quickly so it’s always wise to get there early.
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que604 W. Young (Hwy. 71 West) 915-247-5713
The original location and still the most famous of all the Cooper’s outlets (there’s also one in New Braunfels and in Fort Worth) Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que is usually tops on the list for obsessed barbeque fans. Known for its “Big Chop” – a 2-inch-thick center cut juicy pork chop cooked over mesquite coals – the Llano institution that’s “All About the Meat” invites guests to pick their favorite from a number of huge grills just outside the front door whether it’s ribs brisket pork sausage or that famous chop. Walk inside to add beans cole slaw potato salad pickles and all the fixins’ inside and then enjoy your feast at family-style tables.
Inman’s Kitchen Pit Bar-B-Q & Catering809 W. Young (Hwy. 71 West) 915-247-5257
Inman’s has been “Smokin’ the Good Stuff Since 1967” and they’re not kidding. The Inman family recipe for turkey sausage is what made Inman’s famous and it still does. A caterer for everything from weddings birthdays and anniversaries to Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July Picnic and even Huntsville Prison Rodeos Inman’s meat specialties include the famous turkey sausage jalapeno turkey sausage beef brisket ham pork ribs turkey breast and chicken – plus all-you-can-eat pinto beans and fixin’s and of course potato salad and cole slaw.
Kreuz Market619 N. Colorado 512-398-2361
Yet another famous Hill Country barbecue Mecca Charles Kreuz opened Kreuz Market as a meat market and grocery store in 1900. Charles Kreuz opened Kreuz Market in 1900 as a meat market and grocery store. Customers would buy slow-smoked barbecue and sausage wrapped in butcher paper add some staples from the store to go with it – like crackers bread pickles onions and cheese – and eat it off the butcher paper with their hands and without sauce. A family-owned business until Charles Kreuz sold it in 1948 to longtime employee Edgar Schmidt and today it’s Schmidt’s sons who run Kreuz Market. And the same traditions are still alive and well – super-tender meat no silverware and still no sauce. Besides brisket and sausage this German-inspired barbecue landmark also features such other favorites as pork spare ribs beans German potato salad sauerkraut and jalapeno-cheese sausage.
Black’s Barbecue215 N. Main Street 512-398-2712
Besides its reputation for great barbecue Black’s is also known as the oldest barbecue restaurant in Central Texas that is still operated by the same family. Founded in 1932 by Norma and Edgar Black this barbecue institution has a slogan of “8 Days a Week” and the sign out front says it too. Even though Black’s is open seven days a week Norma Black says “if you’re here as much as we are you find a few extra days in that time. It’s easier to remember when we’re closed – Thanksgiving and Christmas – than when we’re open.” That dedication comes through in the barbecue – slow-smoked beef brisket pork ribs pork loin turkey homemade sausage chicken a range of sandwiches and classic sides like black-eyed peas cole slaw pinto beans creamed corn and more.
Smitty’s Market208 S. Commerce Street 512-398-9344
In Texas good barbecue runs in the family – and Smitty’s is just one example. Ina Schmidt Sells started Smitty’s Market in 1999 in the building that was the home to her father Edgar Schmidt’s Kreuz Market for more than 50 years – after he purchased the business from original owner Charles Kreuz. Sells’ son is now the pit master at Smitty’s and the restaurant is known for its long-smoked brisket and juicy boneless prime rib – plus potato salad beans and coleslaw. And just like at Kreuz’s there aren’t any forks (thought you can get a knife and spoon if you ask) and no sauce.
Peete Mesquite Bar-B-Que2407 Hwy. 281 N. 830-693-6531
Regularly voted the “Best Barbecue in Burnet County” Peete Mesquite’s is the perfect pick-up joint for those heading to the lake or those who just have a craving for darn good barbecue. Owned by Wayne and Lanell Henderson and serving the Marble Falls area for the last 20 years Peete Mesquite’s menu includes Angus brisket pork ribs pork steak smoked chicken turkey breast and regular or jalapeno sausage. With your choice of seven side dishes seven varieties of sandwiches and homemade peach and blackberry cobblers and pecan pies you can guarantee that no one’s going home hungry.
Fuschak’s Pit BBQ1701 I-35 South 512-353-2712
Founded in 1966 in San Marcos Fuschak’s Pit Bar-B-Q is family-owned and operated with meat specialties that include brisket fajitas sausage chicken ribs smoked turkey and a daily buffet. Meats are smoked over hickory in a rotisserie pit and are served with traditional sides like potato salad cole slaw and beans plus homemade banana pudding and pecan pie.
Louie Mueller Barbecue206 W. Second512-352-6206
Founded in 1949 this is one restaurant of many in the Texas Hill Country that is well worth the drive. A no-frills kind of place that puts all the emphasis on the meat the men is written on butcher paper and there is always a line. Meats are sold by the pound and are mouth-wateringly tender. Try the famous brisket – made with a salt and pepper rub and then slow-cooked in 50 year-old horizontal brick and steel pits using post oak wood. Word to the wise: They often sell out so if you’re bringing out-of-town guests (or planning to go yourself) it’s better to call and place your order in advance.