Seven Barbecue Joints in Three Days: How to Sample the Best BBQ in Austin in a Single Weekend
Just a decade ago, Austinites had to actually pack up the car and leave town to get any authentic Texas-style barbecue. Though storied barbecue joints peppered the Hill Country and beyond, there weren’t many options within the city limits. All that changed in the late 2000s, with the rise of Austin’s food-truck movement and the founding of nationally renowned spots like Franklin Barbecue. Today, the Lone Star State’s capital is the epicenter of a full-fledged barbecue renaissance.
But with so many options, it can be difficult to decide which ones to try—especially if you’re only in town for a weekend. Though it takes a bit of planning and a lot of intestinal fortitude, it is possible to at least sample all the best bbq in Austin in three days’ time. Here’s how:
Friday, Day 1:
La Barbecue | 902 E. Cesar Chavez
When to show up: Get in line at 10 a.m.—an hour before opening—to ensure you beat the lunchtime rush. Plus, the earlier you eat lunch, the sooner you can start thinking about dinner.
What you’re getting: When it comes to smoked meats, pitmaster John Lewis does them all justice. But if you have to pick (and you do), go for the melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork or the brisket, which gets a tangy punch with the addition of a pickle-juice-and-mustard marinade. Regardless of what entree you choose, make sure to pair it with a Frito pie.
Micklethwait Craft Meats | 1309 Rosewood Ave.
When to show up: Owner Tom Micklethwait’s barbecue star has been rising lately, thanks in part to rave reviews and a guest appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. That said, there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait in line, so give yourself plenty of time to get your order in before the place closes at 6 p.m.
What you’re getting: Though it exists in a barbecue landscape dominated by brisket and ribs, Micklethwait Craft Meats decided to take the road less traveled and focus on sausages. This no-frills trailer offers up an ever-rotating selection of housemade links, from traditional kielbasas and knockwursts to inventive blends of duck and cherry. And if you’re looking to end your first day of barbecue gluttony on a sweet note, you can’t do much better than the buttermilk pie.
Saturday, Day 2:
Franklin Barbecue | 900 E. 11th St.
When to show up: The shop opens at 11 a.m., but if you’re not in line by the time the last bat roosts under the Congress Avenue Bridge at dawn, you're already too late. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but get there early (8 a.m. is a safe bet). The queues here are notoriously long, with wait times approaching five hours on especially busy days. As if that wasn’t pressure enough, the restaurant also shuts down once it sells out. But it’s worth your time to sample what Bon Appétit magazine deemed “the best BBQ in the country.”
What you’re getting: Proprietor Aaron Franklin’s oak-smoked brisket is a must, featuring a texture so consistently moist that it’s become an addiction for many locals. Saturday visitors also get a rare opportunity to try Franklin’s beef ribs, which are the daily special.
John Mueller Meat Co. | 2500 E. 6th St.
When to show up: John Mueller Meat Co. closes shop at 6 p.m., so swing in for an early dinner.
What you’re getting: John Mueller is part of a local barbecue dynasty—his father and grandfather ran the pit at Louie Mueller Barbecue, a mecca for Texas–style ‘cue in Taylor, and his sister owns the aforementioned La Barbecue. Barbecue sauce practically runs through John’s veins, and it shows at this Eastside food truck. Tuck into a plate of brisket or beef ribs, each one cocooned in a crunchy, caramelized bark that offers textural contrast to its juicy interior. If there’s any room left in your stomach after today’s beef-a-palooza, snag a side of the cheesy baked squash.
Sunday, Day 3:
Kerlin BBQ | 1700 E. Cesar Chavez
When to show up: Kerlin’s is one of those rare barbecue unicorns that actually serves smoked meats for breakfast. So show up when it opens at 9 a.m. to avoid the lines.
What you’re getting: Not since the cronut has a food mashup caused as much fervor as Kerlin’s smoked brisket kolache. Pitmaster Bill Kerlin loads these sweet Eastern European pastries—a regional favorite—with tender cuts of prime Angus beef, which he smokes for hours over oak wood.
Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ | 7612 Brodie Ln.
When to show up: This walk-up food truck is situated a bit off the beaten path—which is a good thing since it lessens your chance of waiting in a lengthy line. As soon as lunchtime hunger pangs strike, head to this walk-up food truck for a quick bite.
What you’re getting: At this South Austin hotspot, pitmaster Miguel Vidal takes Tex and Mex to gourmet heights by loading (and we mean loading) up homemade corn tortillas with barbecued meats. The brisket taco is a favorite with regulars, showcasing tender slices of smoked beef topped with guacamole and tomato-serrano salsa.
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew | 6610 N. Lamar
When to show up: Compared to most Austin barbecue joints, Stiles is open relatively late. Show up anytime before it closes at 9 p.m. for one final meal before your barbecue-fueled weekend draws to a close.
What you’re getting: The massive beef ribs and fork-tender pork loin are the stars on the menu here. Load up your butcher-paper-lined tray with a bit of both, but make sure to save room for the sides. The corn casserole is so rich and buttery it’s practically a dessert—although that fact shouldn’t stop you from getting an actual dessert, like the banana pudding topped with a dusting of Oreo crumbs.