The past 5 years, I've published an Austin-area BBQ guide (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, & 2015) in honor of Austin's annual South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive/film/music gathering. To help you navigate your way through the insane number 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.
Black's Barbecue: The Lockhart institution recently opened a spot near UT's campus, on Guadalupe Street. And they have an outdoor patio.
Brown's Bar-B-Que: A popular trailer on South Lamar, convenient to all of the SXSW action in and around downtown. Recommended orders: brisket, pork ribs, & chicken thighs
Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que: The longtime Llano favorite recently set up shop in the heart of downtown Austin. Open 7 days a week until 10, with a bar open even later. Valet parking available after 5PM.
Franklin Barbecue: Arguably the most well-known BBQ joint in the country these days. Get there early, or you might be out of luck. 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
Iron Works BBQ: The longtime downtown spot recently saw a change in management and a revamping of the menu. A prime location for SXSW'ers, with an outdoor patio, to boot. Recommended orders: brisket, beef rib, and macaroni & cheese
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 on E. Cesar Chavez. 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
Micklethwait Craft Meats: One of the BBQ options east of I-35. 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.
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. Recommended orders: brisket, turkey, pork ribs, and broccoli-cheese-rice 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 E Cesar Chavez. Recommended orders: brisket and pork ribs
SLAB BBQ: Located in North Central Austin, SLAB BBQ now has a brick-&-mortar spot to go with it mobile truck. Very popular for huge sandwiches and sliders. An array of sauces, so you can mix and match. They even have a dish called Country Hash: a bowl of rice topped with the BBQ & sauce of your choice, along with peppers, onions, etc.
Smokey Denmark BBQ Truck: You can find this truck slinging smoked meats on E. 5th and at various craft breweries on the weekend. Recommended order: beef ribs and the Double Oinker: a sandwich with pulled pork, sausage, & slaw.
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew: Located in North Central Austin, 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: alentina'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, queso, and homemade tortillas
*UT-Austin is home to Hog Wild, a trailer, as well as brick-and-mortar 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
Cele Store (Manor, 21 miles NE of Austin): A watering hole for farmers during the week, Cele Store serves family-style BBQ Thu-Sat. 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
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
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," is a Texas BBQ rite of passage. 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 out beautiful Hwy. 71. Offering an array of smoked meats, sides, and desserts, all homemade. 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): Very popular family-run joint. All the smoked meats, including house-made sausages. Huge smokers, a bar, a stage, and games out back around the patio. 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. Recommended orders: brisket, beef ribs, turkey, & potato salad
Hwy 29 BBQ (Bertram, 43 miles NNW of Austin): The little town of Bertram has a newish BBQ joint that is attracting more and more people. Great old building, with a pit out back. Recommended order: brisket, pork ribs, & sausage
Snow's BBQ (Lexington, 52 miles ENE of Austin) & City Meat Market (Giddings, 55 miles east of Austin): Snow's is open only on Saturday from 8 AM until they run out. 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 sleepy town of Giddings for a no-frills meal at City Meat Market, which started as a butcher shop. Recommended order: pork shoulder & sausage