I went to the University of Texas at Austin so I am very familiar with the West Campus area. I lived in West Campus all but one year of college. There was an old looking building behind Bongo BBQ. I had no idea what was inside the building and never ventured in. The owner of Bongo passed away about five years ago, and Cuatro's took its place. Then the owner of Cuatro's wanted to transform that old looking building which led to the birth of Freedmen's Bar. I met the pitmaster, Evan LeRoy, the night before at the Austin Barbecue Society dinner. He got the job off an ad on Craigslist. Interesting, huh? I felt slightly bad when I met him because I had never been to Freedmen's. I changed that the very next day.
Getting there from my work by the airport was not the easiest. I had to take into account of the lunch time traffic and took the long way there. I picked up +Rob Eberhardt on the way. West Campus has definitely changed a lot since my undergrad days. There are condominiums everywhere. When we got to Freedman's Bar, the outside of the restaurant looked vaguely the same. The building is an Austin historic landmark and was almost 150 years old. I did not expect to find what was behind the front door. I felt like I had traveled back in time to an upscale speakeasy. It was simply beautiful inside. This is where a picture is worth a thousand words.
We sat outside on the covered patio, and I ordered the Holy Trinity Plate which came with moist brisket, pork spare ribs, and house-made sausage all for $17. It was served with some house pickles and bread but no sides. One bite into the brisket and I was hooked. The meat was so tender, and the crust was perfect. It had a great peppery smoke flavor. Sometimes I wish good brisket like this is available to me 24/7. I would just clap my hands and a plate would appear in front of me. The ribs were what you expect to get at a good barbecue joint, but there was nothing special to write about. I wish there was more of a rub or a glaze. It was borderline boring in taste. The sausage was good but light. It had a nice with a good snap. It was made up of brisket and pork belly. Speaking of pork belly. Rob got the smoked pork belly for his plate and let me have a bite of it. Wow. It was succulent, rich, and mouthwatering. The rub and smoke worked well together. I want to see smoked pork belly be offered more. If I did not have to go back to work, I would have loved to try one of their drink concoctions to go with my meal.
I would throw Freedmen's Bar into the fancy barbecue category. It is also situated in a peculiar part of town however. I am not sure being surrounded by college students is the best idea, but then again I do not own a restaurant. I remember not having a lot of disposable income back in the day. Maybe the bar will help bring in the traffic? The barbecue is definitely worth a visit if you have the money or time to get there. This week is also Freedmen's one year anniversary. Check out the festivities. Grade: B+
Until next time, happy smoking...
Address: 2402 San Gabriel St, Austin, TX 78705
Phone: (512) 220-0953