The past 4 years, I've published an Austin-area BBQ guide (2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013) in honor of Austin's annual South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive/film/music gathering. Time for 2014's guide. Would you go to Las Vegas and skip The Strip? Would you go to a Greek feast and not yell "Opa!"? Would you go to Pisa and not take a picture "holding up" the leaning tower with your finger? No! So, don't come to Austin without eating some Central Texas BBQ. To help you navigate your way through the ever-growing lineup of BBQ joints, I've updated last year's guide. The list not comprehensive. I'm not recommending one over another. The list is not a recommendation list at all, actually. I just want to give you an idea of what Austin offers. Austin BBQ joints listed first, alphabetically. Then, joints outside of town listed by distance from Austin.
Blue Ox Barbecue: Where can you get BBQ & pancakes? Right here. Recommended orders: brisket, pulled pork, & German potato salad
Blue Ribbon Barbecue: Located on the ground floor of downtown's Frost Bank building, BRB is the most central BBQ joint in Austin. If you're downtown, you're within striking distance. They start the day with breakfast tacos and then move on to BBQ for lunch. Save room for banana pudding. Recommended orders: pork ribs & turkey
Franklin Barbecue: Arguably the most well-known BBQ joint in the country these days. Get there early, or you're out of luck. Our pick & our Readers' Choice pick for Best Brisket of 2010, 2011, & 2012 and Best Overall of 2011 and 2012. Recommended orders: brisket, pork ribs, & pulled pork
Freedmen's Bar: Located just west of the UT campus, Freedmen's smoker serves up an array of meats and hearty sides like German potatoes & pit chili. Beer garden. Iconic indoor bar. Recommended orders: brisket, pork ribs, pork belly
John Mueller Meat Co.: Pitmaster John Mueller serves from his trailer on E. 6th St. Like a few other East Austin joints on this list, JMMCO is frequented by some of the celebs who come to town. Recommended orders: brisket, beef rib, turkey, & baked squash
Kerlin BBQ: New trailer on E. Cesar Chavez gaining a big following fast. Recommended order: brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, beef ribs, & house-made pickles
la Barbecue: la Barbecue is a popular BBQ trailer that recently moved South 1st St. to East 6th. Pitmaster John Lewis and the joint have developed a huge following. Always crowded, but the line moves well. Recommended order: brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, & chopped-beef sandwich
Lamberts Downtown Barbecue: An order-off-the-menu spot right by Austin City Hall, Lamberts has an awesome Happy Hour, a killer Sunday brunch, and the best Frito pit around. Live music upstairs. Recommended orders: Frito pie, brisket, pulled pork
Mann's Smokehouse: A longtime Austin BBQ joint on the North side of town. You can get all the regular meats, plus Frito pie and a long list of comfort side items. Recommended orders: pork ribs, pulled pork, and you-pick-em sides.
Micklethwait Craft Meats: One of the newer BBQ options east of I-35. Winner of this year's Austin Chronicle beef-rib contest. Folks line up daily and watch the chalkboard menu to see what's sold out and what's being added after coming out of the smoker. Recommended order: brisket, beef ribs, potato salad, jalapeno-cheese grits.
Nutter Buster BBQ & Comfort: A trailer way down in South Austin (Manchaca). You can get comfort foods from brisket to pulled pork to grilled cheeses to sweet waffles. Recommended orders: Grilled cheese with brisket & pulled-pork sandwich
PoK-e-Jo's: With 5 locations in the Austin area, you're not far from the joint whose BBQ is the BBQ you'll find at UT football games. Hit up the Brodie Oaks location for their new "straight-cut" brisket. Hopefully, the location you visit will have their broccoli-rice-cheese casserole. Recommended orders: brisket, turkey, pork ribs, and BCR casserole
Rudy's "Country Store" & Bar-B-Q: With a diverse menu, a staff that takes it time serving samples to "rookies' to help them with their orders, and the option of ordering as much or as little of any meat you want, Rudy's is a great way to ease into Texas BBQ. Recommended order: extra-moist brisket, turkey, & creamed corn (unless you don't like creamed corn that is so rich & sweet that it's suitable for dessert)
Scotty's BBQ: A BBQ trailer on popular Rainey Street, a street just off downtown full of bars and food trailers. Recommended orders: brisket and pork ribs
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew: The newest Austin BBQ joint, Stiles Switch is a market-style joint whose owner and pitmaster hail from nearby Taylor, TX. Great for a big group, it's a welcome addition to North Lamar. Recommended order: brisket, beef ribs, creamed corn, and lemon-juice slaw
Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ: Located in the heart of bar-filled West 6th St., Valentina's is a late-night favorite (but open during day, too). Owned/run by a San Antonio native, the trailer serves BBQ with Mexican flare, including salsas and homemade tortillas
*The campus of UT-Austin is home to a few BBQ trailers: FullHouse, Hog Wild, & SLAB. There is also a location of Bert's BBQ in West Campus.
Schmidt Family Barbecue (Bee Cave, 17 miles west of Austin): With roots in Lockhart, SFB is a very-recent addition to the greater-Austin BBQ scene. Recommended orders: brisket, sausage, & ham
Curly's Carolina, TX (Round Rock, 20 miles north of Austin): If you're craving Texas-syle brisket and Carolina-style pulled pork, this is your spot. Carolina-man Jay used to run Curly's Perfect Pig, a Carolina-style BBQ trailer. Jay teamed up with Jay Brotherton, who used to run Hall of Flame BBQ, a Texas-style BBQ trailer. Recommended order: brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, cucumber salad, & pan-fried cornbread
Cele Store (Manor, 21 miles NE of Austin): A watering hole for farmers during the week, Cele Store serves family-style BBQ Thu-Sat. Live music on Friday, March 8. Call ahead to reserve a table. You might recognize the place from scenes in Secondhand Lions, A Perfect World and Texas Chainsaw Massacre I, II and III. Recommended order: Just go family style, & be sure to make a chopped-beef sandwich with your white bread, cheese, onions, pickles, & sauce
Milt's Pit BBQ (Kyle, 21 miles south of Austin): Milt, born in Fort Worth but California resident by age 3, knows how to cook brisket. If you're wanna start your meal with a bang, get the Haystack: sausage, brisket, jalapenos, onions, beans, and cheese, all atop a bed of Fritos. Recommended order: brisket
The Salt Lick (Driftwood, 24 miles SW of Austin): With a rustic ambiance and a picture-perfect pit behind the cash register, TSL is a great spot to enjoy smoked meat away from the sounds of the city. BYOB. Cash only (but ATM on site). Recommended order: all-you-can-eat family style
Hyatt Lost Pines Resort & Spa (25 miles east of Austin, straight out Hwy. 71): Believe it or not, the lush HLPR&S deep in the pine trees serves pecan-smoked BBQ. St. Louis-style ribs. Pork-belly and pulled-pork sliders on homemade brioche buns. Sliced brisket on Texas toast. Grilled sausage and homemade sauerkraut on a pretzel roll. And the unique sides are paired so well with the entrees. Recommended order: Any of the above
Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse & Southside Market (Elgin, 25 miles east-ish of Austin): Famous for its sausage, Elgin is an easy drive from A-town. These two joints are a stone's throw from each other, so stop into both. Recommended orders: brisket, sausage, & beef ribs (Meyer's)
Smitty's Market/Kreuz Market/Black's Barbecue (Lockhart, 29 miles south of Austin): Lockhart, dubbed by the Texas Legislature as "The Barbecue Capital of Texas," attracts Central Texas tourists like Lebron draws Cleveland vitriol, but it's a worthwhile Texas BBQ rite of passage. They were our Best Pork Ribs, Best Sausage, & Best Service of 2010, respectively. Recommended orders: pork ribs and sausage (Smitty's), pork ribs and ham (Kreuz), beef ribs and turkey (Black's)
Opie's Barbecue (Spicewood, 34 miles west of Austin): An easy drive West out Hwy. 71. Their sides and desserts are the best we've had (taking our top honors in each for 2010 - they won Best Pork of 2010, too). Recommended orders: sweet-and-spicy ribs, pulled pork (weekends), spicy corn, tater-tot casserole, and banana pudding
Hays Co. Bar-B-Que (San Marcos, 34 miles south of Austin): Family-run joint. Father & son team up to tend the big smokers. Recommended orders: brisket, jalapeno-cheese sausage, and half chicken
Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, 39 miles NE of Austin): Get ready for the unmistakable smell of BBQ-pit smoke as you walk in - and check out what the smoke has done to the walls of this school-gymnasium-turned-restaurant. Our Readers' Choice Pick for Best Overall of 2013. Recommended orders: brisket, beef ribs, turkey, & potato salad
Snow's BBQ (Lexington, 52 miles ENE of Austin) & City Meat Market (Giddings, 55 miles east of Austin): Only open on Saturday from 8 AM until they run out there's no better bet for BBQ for breakfast than Snow's. Be sure to eat outside by the pits. Recommended order: pork shoulder, brisket, & chicken. When you're done, head 17 miles down Highway 77 to the sleep town of Giddings for a no-frills meal at City Meat Market, our Readers' Choice pick for Best Overall of 2010. Recommended order: pork shoulder