Your family is visiting Austin for the first time, and guess what? They want to go to Franklin Barbecue. Sure, you can get in line at 8am with some chairs and a cooler, and write off the five-hour wait as requisite “family bonding time.” Or you can skip the huge line, eat some great barbecue elsewhere, and avoid your dad insisting that this was somehow your idea every 15 minutes. Here are the 10 best spots to get your barbecue fix that aren’t Franklin.
Deciding where to get barbecue is a question of meat quality divided by wait time, and Micklethwait Craft Meats delivers the best ratio. This food truck off East 11th attracts a crowd, some of which is runoff from nearby Franklin, but the wait’s still rarely more than 30 minutes. And everything on the menu here, from the bread to the pickles, is made from scratch, which sets this place apart from other barbecue spots. Order a two or three meat plate to try a few things (don’t miss sides like the jalapeño cheese grits and lemon poppy slaw), and if you come with friends, make sure to get a beef rib to share.
Much like Franklin, La Barbecue serves some of the best brisket you’ll ever eat. Also like Franklin, La Barbecue has a wait that will likely take up the better part of your morning. However, you can skip the line by pre-ordering three or more days in advance - sandwiches, meat, and sides only - and then picking your meal up the day of. If you do have to wait, though, their new home inside the Quickie Pickie on Cesar Chavez means you can at least avoid the sun for part of it (and have a beer in the meantime).
When you go out for Tex-Mex, you don’t really expect good barbecue - and vice versa. But Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ has both. Their meat stands up to what you’ll find anywhere else in the city, but the big difference here is that you can get barbecue both in taco form and for breakfast. Their egg, bacon, and brisket taco is reason enough to make the short trip down south on Manchaca, especially since they open at 7:30am.
LeRoy and Lewis is one of the new trucks on the block, and it serves a few things you wouldn’t typically find at a barbecue trailer, like BBQ fried rice and brioche instead of Wonder Bread. The meat portion of the menu changes day-to-day, and might include anything from brisket to mac and cheese stuffed quail. Since LeRoy and Lewis parks down south at Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden, the lines tend to be short. Even if there is a wait, you can grab a coffee or beer to hold yourself over.
Too much family time often leads to rash decisions, like splurging on 10 weeks of acupuncture or ordering a drink before noon. When the latter sounds like a good idea, go to Freedmen’s in West Campus to add cocktails to your barbecue equation. They smoke everything on the menu, including beets and mushrooms, and also serve a Bloody Mary topped with a half pound of meat, in case you want to knock out lunch and a drink in one blow. Come here to sit on the patio, have a drink with your barbecue, and know that soon you can go back to your normal routine, which may now include acupuncture.
Kerlin BBQ is hidden next to Veracruz All Natural on Cesar Chavez, and while the barbecue is really good, there’s never much of a line - probably because Franklin, La Barbecue, and Micklethwait are all within walking distance. They serve all of the greatest hits, but their barbecue kolaches are the reason to come here. Since they sell out fast, this is one time when it’s worth being in line when it opens at 9am.
Stiles Switch serves the best barbecue in North Austin. Beef and pork ribs are what they do best, but their brisket is still better than anything else you can get without heading south or east of downtown. There’s a bit of a wait during weekend lunch and prime dinner hours, but the line moves fast, so you won’t have to worry about a trip here turning into a multi-hour event.
If your partners on this BBQ adventure aren’t really into eating at food trucks or off wax paper, take them to Lambert’s downtown. It’s run by the same people as Perla’s and Elizabeth Street Cafe, and just like those places, it’s a little upscale, but still casual enough to stop in without a reservation. The brisket is good, but Lambert’s is an ideal place to try out less common options, like fried green tomatoes to start, and the short rib or pork chop to finish. If you come for dinner, grab a drink and check out a show at the music venue upstairs afterwards.
There’s a time and place to wait in line at a food truck for award winning brisket. However, there’s also a time and place to drive to a gas station and have a tray of freshly sliced barbecue in front of you in less than five minutes. When you’re after the latter, go to Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q. It’s the only fast food option on this list, and it’s perfect for when you want to avoid all the BS that often comes with getting barbecue in Austin.
Terry Black’s BBQ is run by the same family as Black’s BBQ in Lockhart, and is another good backup for when you’re with that friend or sibling who’s averse to lines. You’ll want to order the usual brisket and sausage, but a beef rib is a guaranteed way to impress first-timers (and your dog, when you bring home the bone). In case you need to walk off your meal afterward, this place is right by the hike and bike trail, but do yourself a favor and take a nap at Auditorium Shores instead.