SXSW. It is one of my favorite events of the year. SXSW is a film, interactive, and music festival/conference that spans two weekends. People from all over the country and world come and spend time in Austin. One thing I hope is that they do not miss out on the great barbecue located here. I am going to try to make it easy for you if you were one of them. Here is this year's guide with my fourteen picks in no particular order. Click on the name for a full review.
Freedmen's Bar (2402 San Gabriel St, Austin, TX 78705) - Located in West Campus, this is a great stop to get out of the busy downtown area. Barbecue can be fine food. The brisket here is luscious. The crust with the tender smoky meat will make you think that you have sinned. Yes it is that good. You will think you are cheating on bacon if you get the pork belly here. It is rich, meaty, and succulent. Even after day drinking all day, explore their cocktail menu. You will enjoy the finer things in life. They are open into the night. There is also a church close by.
Valentina's Tex-Mex BBQ (600 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701) - Smoked meats in a tortilla? It is a smart idea. You can walk and eat at the same time. You might want to sit-down here though because the pure awesomeness might make you knees buckle. The brisket is great in a taco with guacamole, sandwich or by itself. They have pork ribs every day now. Pray that they will have their beef ribs on special. I would hate my life if I missed out on those. The in-house made tortillas are not meant to be thrown at a football game. These are meant for good eating. The trailer has late hours and is tucked behind a bar. What more could you ask for?
La Barbecue (900 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, Texas 78702) - Phenomenal brisket? Check. Great pork ribs? Check. Superb sausage? Check. You cannot go wrong here. Will there be a line? Of course there will be because you are talking about an outstanding BBQ joint. Do not forget to get a beef rib. You will also find a great BBQ sandwich here. El Sancho. Get it loco style. You are looking at a three meat plate between two buns. Brisket, pulled pork, hot guts. A sandwich bordering on being magical and crazy. You will not regret it.
Micklethwait Craft Meats (1309 Rosewood Ave, Austin, TX 78702) - I had trouble pronouncing the name at first. That is probably the only thing wrong with this BBQ joint. The 'th" is silent in case you were wondering. I am a fan of all their smoked meats. Put on your running shoes and run here so you can beat the line. Tom has turned sausage making into an art/craft. The types of sausage smoked vary day to day. Lamb chorizo, kielbasa, and pork belly andouille to name a few. His beef rib was also crowned the best in Austin by the Austin Chronicle. The smoked barbacoa is fantastic. The homemade bread is also fabulous. I do not like grits, but their cheesy grits have converted me.
Kerlin BBQ (1700 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702) - This has to be the most underrated joint in town. Bill and his wife are out to take your money and in return will satisfy your hunger. If it is Friday, order everything off the menu and you will thank me. The pecan smoke works well with the meat. The pork ribs are so tender and smoky. The sausage is one of my favorite. Great grit and fat content with a snappy casing. BBQ sandwiches and kolaches are served the rest of the time. Get the brisket and cheese kolache. They are to die for.
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew (6610 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78757) - We are talking about a no fuss barbecue joint. The BBQ is solid all the way around. They are open for dinner and serve local draft beers. The beef ribs and sausage are the highlights here. Not a bad place to wind down for the evening. You never know, you might run into Matthew McConaughey here.
Terry Black's Barbecue (1003 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704) - Conveniently located downtown, this makes for a good rest stop during the day. Do not get intimidated by the line. There are a lot of meat cutters available so the line moves fairly fast and efficiently. Everything I have tried has been cooked well. You can even find their BBQ sauce at HEB now. Did I mention there is also free air conditioning? Take a tour of pits while you are here.
John Mueller Meat Co (2500 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702) - Can you say pepper? Pepper and smoke can make beautiful music together. The power of the peppery bark on the brisket and beef rib will make you sing. The pepper meddles with the meat and forms this crispy bond that produces a lot of flavor. Beef ribs when smoked right are downright amazing. Get the sausage while you are at it. Do not lollygag too long by taking pictures because John might get onto you.
Blue Ox BBQ (1505 Town Creek Dr, Austin, TX 78741) - A perfect pit stop to get a second wind. They share space with a coffee shop so load up on some caffeine and quality 'cue. The coffee rubbed pork tenderloin is fantastic. The pork ribs are on par as well. On Sundays, they have all you can eat pancakes. Pancakes and brisket? Sign me up! Another place that stays open later.
Smokey Denmark's Smoked Meats Co. (3505 E 5th St, Austin, TX 78702) - A sausage making facility should have good links on their menu. Well they do not disappoint you here. There are tacos and sandwiches specials that make it easier to eat if you are on the go. Boudin, boudin, boudin, boudin rocking everywhere. Yeah. Do not forget the boudin. Get a bunch of it. The casing could barely hold in this smoky Cajun goodness.
Brown's Bar-B-Que (1901 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704) - This is the only place on the list that is "south" of downtown. You will find them next to Corner Bar. Get the brisket. Get the chicken. Get the cabbage. Yes. It might be the only vegetable you eat during SX. Get the smoked peach cobbler. Simple? Now go.
Lambert's Downtown Barbecue (401 W 2nd St, Austin, Texas 78701) - Fancy barbecue? Sure it is, but does it matter? Their brisket is excellent. Slap your mother good (I do not condone violence). Their menu comprises more than just barbecue. Their baked mac and cheese is stellar. Try their appetizers. They also have happy hour specials. Order a few drinks. Do not miss out on their brunch. I would recommend making a reservation just in case.
Black's Barbecue (Austin) (3110 Guadalupe Street, Austin, TX 78705) - Do not have time to go to Lockhart? That is a bummer. Lucky for you, you can now get a taste of Lockhart without driving there. The full menu is not available at this location but that is fine. Get the brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, and sausage. Heck just order it all. Grab a beer and relax outside away from the hustle and bustle on the patio.
Franklin Barbecue (900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702) - Yes there will be a line. A very long line. It is worth the wait to get some of the best barbecue in the United States. I have no words and explanation for the brisket. Aaron uses salt, pepper, and post oak smoke. There has to be more. Cows from Mars? Trees from Mordor? It is just so damn good. It might one of the best things that you will ever put in your mouth. The pork ribs are delicious and are almost falling off the bone. Franklin also now serves beef ribs which sadly I have yet to try. Get the Tipsy Texan while you are it. It is sandwich that has chopped beef and sausage with some coleslaw. A great combination that is messy but tasty.
Until next time, happy smoking...