Austin Restaurants For Barbecue

When many people think of Texas restaurants, they think of smoked meats and tangy sauce. Let's face it: barbecue is what Texas is really famous for. Burgers, Tex-Mex, steak, they're all good, but barbecue is what many folks have in mind when they come to Texas.

Texas barbecue traces its origins to 19th Century German immigrants, who were skilled in butchering and smoking meats. They applied their skills to what they found around them. Texas had millions of cattle and plenty of native wood.

The result: Texas traditional barbecue, consisting of beef slow-smoked over oak and mesquite. Sugar and molasses weren’t in great supply, so the sauce tends to be spicy, instead of sweet like in other parts of the country.

Watch a video about Texas barbecue and a visit to Kreuz Market in Lockhart, TX (described below):

If Texas is "like a whole other country", as the saying goes, then barbecue would be the national cuisine. Moist, tender brisket ... spicy, savory sausage ... succulent, fall-off-the-bone ribs ... no self-respecting Texas town would go without offering its residents and visitors some top-notch BBQ.

And Austin is quickly establishing a reputation as the Texas barbecue capital. There was a time when the best BBQ places were in the outskirts of town. No longer - the city of Austin now boasts a number of outstanding BBQ places to rival any found elsewhere in the state, or we daresay, in the nation.

In a city that takes its barbecue as seriously as we do, you’re bound to get some disagreements. Ask ten Austin locals and you’ll likely get twelve different lists of the best barbecue joints.

Some of the finest places are relatively new, opened in the last decade, and are in Austin's up-and-coming east side.

There's everything here from lunch trailers for a quick, satisfying meal during the workday, to iconic Austin restaurants serving all-you-can-eat family style ribs and brisket to please your entire crowd.

Austin is home to some world-class pitmasters. There seems to be a mini-war going on right now between several places to become the best in Austin, and local barbecue lovers will be the winners.

Here’s a “short list” of our favorite names that also appear frequently on lists of the best Austin barbecue places.

Our Favorites

Franklin Barbecue
900 E. 11th St., Austin TX 78702
(512) 653-1187
map website

"Delicious beyond words". "Great service". "Genuinely nice" owner. And "get there EARLY". These are some words commonly used by visitors to Franklin. Bon Appetit calls it the best barbecue in Texas, if not the country and calls the owner a “barbecue genius”. Visitors also rave about the desserts, particularly the bourbon banana pie.

The place has become incredibly popular, and the lunchtime line sometimes starts forming at 9 am. They've been known to sell out of some items before 11.

Franklin BBQ at 11 am

This was the line at Franklin at 11 am on an unseasonably warm Friday in January.

LA BBQ Cuisine Texicana
1200 E. 6th St., Austin Texas 78702
(512) 605-9696
map website

photo of LA BBQ

Nothing to do with Los Angeles or California; LA BBQ is run by LeAnn Mueller, daughter of Louie Mueller who founded a well-known BBQ place in Taylor, TX (see below). The pitmaster at LA BBQ was the longtime pitmaster at Franklin BBQ. Meats are sold by the 1/2 pound. The brisket is juicy, smoky, and fork-tender. The sausage is also highly recommended, and we hear the beef short ribs are among the best in town. Sides include potato salad, chipotle cole slaw, and pinto beans (slightly spicy, tangy, with bits of brisket - delicious). If you get there at noon, expect to wait 45 minutes or longer in line. Like Franklin BBQ, they sometimes sell out of items early.

Micklethwait Craft Meats
1309 Rosewood Ave., Austin TX 78702 (food trailer)
(512) 791-5961
map website

photo of Micklethwait Craft Meats

A relatively new food trailer that opened at the end of 2012. It's on the east side, the same side as Franklin's, and is a good alternative if you want top-notch BBQ without waiting in an interminable line (so far). Great smoked meats, homemade beans, bread, and desserts. Besides brisket, ribs, and beef sausage, they also have lamb and duck sausage, chicken, sweet and sour cole slaw, and potato and cucumber salad.

Live Oak Barbecue
2713 E. 2nd St., Austin TX 78702
(512) 524-1930
map website

photo of Live Oak Barbecue

"Market-style" BBQ dining, with two indoor dining rooms, a back patio, and a deck. You pick up your order and pay at the counter, then go sit. Succulent ribs, sausage, and chicken, as well as pork chops and roast. Their beans and salad are good as well. Depending on the day, they may have other specials: leg of lamb, duck tamales, beef short ribs, and tri tip. After dining inside our clothes, hair, and bodies smelled of smoke. But it was worth it.

Kerlin BBQ
1700 E. Cesar Chavez St., Austin TX 78702
(512) 412-5588
map website

photo of Kerlin BBQ

A food trailer that opened in 2013, run by a husband and wife team. Very tasty brisket, beef and pork ribs, pulled pork, and pork shoulder. Also beans, bleu cheese cole slaw, potato salad, and custard.

John Mueller Meat Co.
2500 E. 6th St., Austin TX 78702 (food trailer)
(512) 524-0559
map website

photo of John Mueller Meat Co.

A food trailer in east Austin run by John Mueller, who has been a fixture in the Austin area BBQ scene for over a decade (and is the brother of LeAnn, the owner of LA Barbecue). Excellent oak-smoked brisket, beef ribs, and pork ribs, as well as pork shoulder with slightly sweet coating. The BBQ sauce is unusual - clear, with a sweet-spicy flavor.

Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q
2451 S. Capital of Texas Hwy., Austin Texas 78746
(512) 329-5554
map website

11570 Research Blvd., Austin TX 78759
(512) 418-9898
map website

7709 Ranch Rd. 620, Austin TX 78726
(512) 250-8002
map website

2400 N. IH-35, Round Rock TX 78681
(512) 244-2936
map website

The restaurant that once claimed it served “the worst barbecue in Texas” actually has been drawing rave reviews from its many loyal fans. “Extra moist, juicy brisket”, “the best sausage I’ve ever tasted”, and “fantastic” smoked turkey are some of the entrees. Brisket comes in lean and moist varieties. Most people get the moist kind. The staff are super courteous and will even give you samples to try while you decide. Diners also recommend saving room for the side dishes, especially the cream corn, and the banana pudding. Each Rudy's location is also a Shell gas station, so you can fill your tank there before or after you eat.

The County Line
6500 Bee Cave Road, Austin TX 78746
(512) 327-1742
map website

5204 F.M. 2222, Austin TX 78731
(512) 346-3664
map website

"One of my favorite BBQ places since I was younger living in Austin". "Very nice service and lively atmosphere". "Took my very picky mother in law here last week and she was sold!"

The County Line is a popular place for locals to bring out-of-state guests. The barbecue is high quality and the waitstaff is friendly and attentive. Entrees include brisket, beef ribs, baby back ribs, sausage, smoked turkey, and chicken breast.

If you have larger group, you can select from several all-you-can-eat combinations.

Because of the popularity of the place, the wait can be long especially at the F.M. 2222 location. We came with a group of ten on a Saturday night in June and waited over an hour.

However, you can hardly go wrong coming to County Line. We’ve brought visitors here several times and the entire group left satisfied each time. There may be better BBQ to be had in Austin, but the BBQ here is good, and the service and atmosphere round out a combination that’s hard to beat.

dinner at The County Line

Dinner at The County Line

Watch a short video about The County Line:

Stubbs Bar-B-Q
801 Red River St., Austin TX 78701
(512) 480-8341
map website

photo of Stubbs Bar-B-Q

Stubbs is another classic among Austin restaurants that goes way back. The building it's housed in dates back to the mid-Nineteenth Century.

Stubbs is different from most other BBQ places in that it’s actually a live music venue that also happens to serve outstanding barbecue. It has an outdoor patio stage with standing room for 3,000 and an indoor stage downstairs with seating room for 200. There’s a full slate of live performances.

If you’re just there to eat, there’s ranch-style dining rooms with small tables and a bar. You place your order at the bar and a server seats you. The barbecue brisket is tender and has a smokey, slightly spicy sauce. The mashed potatoes are also good and nicely seasoned.

Neighboring towns

Austin is the hub of the Central Texas Barbecue Belt, which encompasses several smaller towns within an hour or so drive of the city. Besides the Austin restaurants, many Austinites will say the best barbecue in Texas is found here, in these countryside barbecue places. Below are some of the top choices.

Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ
604 W. Young Street, Llano TX 78643
(325) 247-5713
map website

1125 N. Loop 337, New Braunfels TX 78130
(830) 627-0627
map website

Cooper’s in Llano, about 70 miles northwest of Austin, is well-known in the Texas Hill Country and a personal favorite of former President George W. Bush. Everything here is rustic, informal, and family style.

You order by going up to the gigantic barbecue pit and pointing out which of the large slabs of meat you want. You are handed a large slab of barbecue on a tray. You can get it with or without sauce; we recommend with. The sauce here is a clear, vinegar and mustard mix, rather than the thick, spicy BBQ sauce at most other places.

Next, you go to the cutting station, where the meats are sliced into more manageable pieces, wrapped in wax paper, and bar coded. You pick up your sides and dessert, choosing from cole slaw, corn on the cob, potato salad, chips, and cobbler. Then you take it all and go to checkout.

Seating is at long picnic tables, where you sit together with other people in a large, crowded communal dining room. On the table are salt, pepper, mustard, complimentary bread, paper towels.

You get your own beverage and utensils, and unlimited beans from pots, and more sauce if you want.

Most people spend $30 per person here, though some get up to $50 or even more, depending on how many meats and sides you picked up (there are takeout bags available).

The lines do get long; it’s best to arrive in mid-afternoon to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Cooper’s recently opened a location just south of Austin in New Braunfels. It’s a copy of the original Llano location.

The Salt Lick
18300 FM 1826, Driftwood TX 78619
(512) 858-4959
map website

3350 E. Palm Valley Blvd, Round Rock TX 78665
(512) 386-1044
map website

The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas is a nationally famous Austin icon and has been featured on the Food Network and the Travel Channel.

Started in 1967, it has expanded over the years with space to accomodate weddings and corporate functions. Texas Governor Rick Perry has held parties for supporters at the Salt Lick.

The Salt Lick staff smokes their meat slowly over a wood fired open pit that you pass by as you go in. The meat is tender and slathered with tangy barbecue sauce.

You can order individual plates or go family style with beef, pork ribs, and sausage, along with sides of potato salad, cole slaw, beans, and bread. The Salt Lick is BYOB, and many customers tote coolers of beer into the restaurant.

On weekends the wait can be one to two hours for seating; many people sit outside on the large grounds while waiting. On weekends there is often live music. Note that the Driftwood location is cash only; no credit cards.

They also opened a second location in Round Rock, next to the Dell Diamond. This location does take credit cards and has a bar, banquet facilities, and a stone patio.

Louie Mueller
206 W. 2nd St., Taylor TX 76574
(512) 352-6206
map website

Louie Mueller in tiny Taylor, 25 miles northeast of Austin, is located in a rather old, rundown looking building in a rather old, rundown looking town. The screen door is on its last legs; the walls and even the posters on the walls have taken on a smoky luster from decades of indoor barbecuing.

But don’t let the shop’s appearance fool you. The most tender, moist, succulent brisket and ribs are served here. There are three types of sausage; the jalapeno is recommended. The peach cobbler with ice cream also comes highly recommended. Some visitors have proclaimed Louie Mueller the best barbecue they have had in Texas.

The meat is so delicious by itself, you don’t need to add sauce. (Good thing too, because their clear, vinegar-based sauce is pretty watery and tasteless.) The prices are also first rate: $10 per pound for brisket, $2 per sausage link.

But you have to get there early; if they’ve run out of something, they don’t make more until the next day. The staff is very friendly and seems genuinely concerned that their customers are satisfied.

Watch a video about Louie Mueller Barbecue:

City Market
633 E. Davis St., Luling TX 78648
(830) 875-9019

City Market in Luling, about 40 miles southeast of Austin, is an interesting combination. First you go to the barbecue pits in the dark, smoky room in the back to choose your meats, then you take it out, covered in butcher paper, to a comfortable, well-appointed dining room.

The recommendations here are the brisket, beef sausage, and pork ribs. The meat doesn’t really require sauce, but here the sauce is quite good; so good, in fact, that there are signs reminding patrons not to take the bottles with them. It’s orange colored, with lots of yellow mustard and black pepper.

Staff is very helpful and patient with newcomers. Note that City Market in Luling is cash only.

Also note there’s a place in Houston called “Luling City Market” which is not affiliated with this restaurant and is okay, but not as good.

Black’s Barbecue
215 North Main Street, Lockhart TX 78644
(512) 398-2712
map website

Black’s is conveniently located within a block of the town square. You get in a cafeteria-style line to pick your sides and meats.

They have a huge assortment of sides including different types of cole slaw, potato salad, green beans, peas, mac and cheese, deviled eggs, and beans. Their meats include brisket, pork spare ribs, beef ribs, baby back ribs, several flavors of sausage, and smoked turkey.

All of their meats are great. Brisket comes in lean and moist varieties; both are excellent.

Prices depend on the weight of the meats you select when you check out. Two brisket slices, three pork spare ribs, a regular sausage, and a regular drink run out to about $30.

Note that there’s a separate register for takeout orders; if you want to save time and avoid a line, get your order to go and eat it outside. Servers are very friendly and helpful in giving directions and samples to try.

Watch a video about Black's Barbecue:

Smitty’s Market
208 South Commerce, Lockhart TX 78644
(512) 398-9344
map website

Also located within a block of the town square, Smitty’s has great barbecue and a very historic Texas ambiance.

The ceiling and walls of the entrance hallway are covered with black soot from five decades of smoking meat indoors. Photographs of the original owners and remnants of the original barbecue pits and equipment make this as much a museum as a restaurant.

Not nearly as many sides as Black’s – just the standard cole slaw, beans, and potato salad. The staff is efficient but won’t go out of their way to help you like at Black’s. The brisket, ribs, and sausage, however, are top-notch: tender and flavorful, with just the right amount of smokiness.

Kreuz Market
619 N Colorado St, Lockhart TX 78644
(512) 398-2361
map website

The owners of Smitty’s and Kreuz are actually related, and Smitty’s is located where Kreuz Market originally stood. They are similar in some ways, but also different.

What strikes you with Kreuz is the immense size of the place: 24 pits, with a huge wood pile on the side of the building. The weekend line can be long; the best time to avoid the lines is weekday midafternoon, when the place is pretty quiet.

But many people swear Kreuz has the best bbq in central Texas, if not the world. Some people prefer the ribs, others the brisket or the jalapeno cheese sausage. The sides are relatively plain and you have fewer choices than at the other Lockhart places.

Need more choices?

View the maps below for other barbecue restaurant choices in and around Austin.

Click here for a list and map of Austin barbeque places (opens in a new tab).

For more Austin BBQ ideas, check out Texas Monthly Online's Austin BBQ Guide.

Austin Barbecue News

USA Today features Austin barbecue

USA Today's "Best of Food and Wine" section recently profiled Austin's barbecue scene. Like the rest of the city, Austin's barbecue is diverse and appeals to various tastes. According to USA Today, Austin barbecue ranges from traditional Texas barbecue to trendy to "musical barbecue".

Cooper's opens Austin location

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, a longtime standout in Texas's barbecue scene with locations in Fort Worth and central Texas, opens a downtown Austin location, on 217 Congress St., in Fall 2014.

Lambert's profiled in USA Today

USA Today recently profiled downtown barbecue restaurant Lambert's for its upscale atmosphere, with waiter service and tablecloths, and its cuisine, which includes unusual offerings like wild boar ribs and quail, as well as brisket, pork ribs, and pulled pork.

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