Friday, March 9, 2012

SXSW 2012 BBQ Guide

Each of the past two years, I've published an Austin-area BBQ guide (2010 and 2011), in honor of Austin's annual South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive/film/music gathering. Why stop now? Would you go to Rome and not do as the Romans do? Would you go to the Bermuda Triangle and not get lost? Would you go to Hawaii and not get leied? No. No, you wouldn't. So, don't come to Austin and pass on our fine Texas BBQ. That said, I've updated last year's guide to help you navigate the plethora of smoked-meat options. Austin BBQ joints listed first, alphabetically. Then, joints outside of town listed by distance from Austin.

Blue Ribbon Barbecue (Austin): 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 (Austin): Only been open for a tad more than a year and already has a cult following that lines up for brisket before the gates opens. Get there early, or you're out of luck. Our pick & our Readers' Choice pick for Best Brisket of 2010 and 2011 and Best Overall of 2011. Recommended orders: brisket - lots of it - & pulled pork
JMueller BBQ (Austin): Having opened just a few months ago, pitmaster John Mueller is making waves from his sleek BBQ trailer just South of downtown on S. 1st St. He's already landed himself on the cover of Texas Monthly, alongside his former employee Aaron Franklin, who now runs Austin's famous Franklin Barbecue. Recommended orders: brisket, beef rib, turkey, & baked squash
Lamberts Downtown Barbecue (Austin): 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
Rudy's "Country Store" & Bar-B-Q (Austin): 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)
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew (Austin): 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 orders: brisket, beef ribs, creamed corn, and lemon-juice slaw
PoK-e-Jo's (Austin): 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
Cele Store (Manor, 21 miles NE of Austin): A watering hole for farmers during the week, Cele Store serves family-style BBQ on Friday nights, with live music twice per month from their house band (March 11 & 25). Call ahead to reserve a table. You might recognize it 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 from Austin straight down I-35, Exit 213): 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 E 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 (Elgin, 25 miles East-ish of Austin): Famous for its sausage, Elgin is an easy drive from A-town. The Meyer family will treat you right. Ask nicely, and you might just get to see the vaccum tumbler. Recommended order: beef ribs & sausage
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
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 pick for Best Beef Ribs of 2010. Recommended orders: beef ribs, sausage, and turkey
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
Miscellaneous recommendations: Chicken-thigh sandwich at Buster's (Lakeway); pork chop and half chicken at Cooper's (New Braunfels, 48 miles South on I-35, Exit 189); chicken at Live Oak (Austin); BBQ trailers: Depending on what part of town you're in, you might find any number of BBQ trailers. Keep an eye out for Smokilicious (South Congress), Bar-B-Q Heaven (7th & Red River), Sugar Shack (UT campus), & Double Trouble (South Congress).

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