The Best Barbecue Spots In Austin

Where to get the finest smoked meats, from classic joints to notable newcomers.
The Best Barbecue Spots In Austin image

photo credit: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Math can be hard, but when it comes to barbecue, the “best” is often determined by a complicated mathematical formula that involves meat quality, consistency, wait time, general availability, how far it is for everyone to drive there, the parking situation, how traditional it is, and how creative it is without going too weird. Bonus points for a solid dessert beyond a simple banana pudding (although we like a good banana pudding, too). Lucky for us, Austin is bursting with incredible places to get barbecue, from old-school traditional takes to more creative interpretations. Here is our definitive guide to the best barbecue in Austin.


photo credit: Richard Casteel


East Austin

$$$$Perfect For:Impressing Out of TownersLunch
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

You’ve heard about Franklin Barbecue. Your neighbor has heard about Franklin Barbecue. Your aunt’s cousin’s best friend who lives in Wisconsin has heard about Franklin Barbecue. Aaron Franklin has built a name for himself by making some of the best brisket in Texas (and possibly the world), which in turn has created something called “the Franklin Barbecue experience”—a term that refers to tailgating the 4+ hour line with beers, breakfast tacos, and camp chairs. Is it worth the wait? You can get brisket that’s almost as good at a few other places in town, but what sets Franklin apart is how consistent they are—there’s never an off day. It’s the best of the best, with perfectly smoked meats that you’ll continue talking about for days to come. So that really comes down to your patience threshold. 

While everyone in town is competing for the coveted Brisket Belt™, at Leroy and Lewis they’re doing things a little differently. That means smoked beef cheeks, barbacoa, and pork sausage with citra hops, and sides like kimchi and pork hash. And while barbecue trailers are generally not the most vegan-friendly spots out there, here you can get cauliflower burnt ends—a tasty play on their popular brisket counterpart. OK, and if you really just want some brisket, you can get it on the weekends here (and it’s excellent). 

Valentina’s is the ultimate in Tex-Mex, combining expertly smoked barbecue with housemade tortillas, salsas, guac, and queso. It’s a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure situation here—you can get meats by the pound, or order from the “Tex” or the “Mex” sides of the menu, for sandwiches and tacos, respectively. The smoked meats are great on their own here, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice to leave without trying a smoked brisket or carnitas taco. And if you find yourself braving the line in the morning, the breakfast tacos with brisket are some of the best in town. 

When people are visiting from out of town and it’s the middle of the summer and it’s just too hot to eat outside, we go to Stiles Switch, because they offer a few things: beer on tap, an indoor air conditioned space (there’s also a patio), and most importantly, their always consistently solid traditional Central Texas barbecue. Expect fantastic brisket, gigantic peppery beef ribs, chunky pulled pork, and sausages with a good snap. We’re also big fans of their smoked chicken wings and their rich but airy corn casserole.

Interstellar BBQ is a Central Texas-style barbecue joint that decided getting an A in “the classics” wasn’t enough and made up its own extra credit assignments. Brisket, pork ribs, and turkey here hold their own with all the big names in the Austin barbecue scene, but it’s the daily specials that keep us coming back. It’s where you’ll find things like Frito Pie sausages, smoked duck breasts, and gamey pulled lamb shoulder served in a warm and fluffy flour tortilla. 

KG BBQ adds an Egyptian twist to classic Central Texas-style barbecue. That means dishes like sticky pomegranate glazed pork ribs, smoked chicken kabob shawarmas with sumac-pickled onions, and tender, savory lamb chops with za’atar. The brisket, on the other hand, is about as classic as it gets—seasoned with salt and pepper, and slow-smoked over oak—but it gets a distinctive KG BBQ treatment after it takes a plunge into tangy pomegranate barbecue sauce. The trailer is parked at Oddwood Brewing, so you can get some excellent beers to pair with it all. 

The barbecue (and sides) at Distant Relatives aims to highlight the flavors and textures of the African diaspora in America. That means strong spice profiles, classic preservation methods, and a nose-to-tail approach that puts everything from spare ribs to hog jowl side-by-side on the menu. It’s creative and so consistently great that you’ll probably forget you just ordered from a trailer. Some of the sides and toppings change seasonally, but you can generally expect to see some menu staples like pulled pork sandwiches and brisket in some form or another. They also make a smoked chicken leg quarter with chili vinegar dip that just might be some of the best chicken we’ve ever had. 

Hiding in the literal shadow of Franklin Barbecue (it’s right down the street), Micklethwait is where we usually take out-of-town guests that want a best-in-class barbecue experience without a multi-hour line. The meats and seasonings here generally lean classic, but the sides are where things really get fun. Coleslaw gets an upgrade in the form of lemon poppy slaw, and the citrus beet salad tastes like something we’d get at a restaurant with real chairs and tablecloths. They even bake their own bread. There are a lot of standouts here, but the brisket and sausage are not to be missed. 

The brisket at Moreno BBQ holds its own with the best in town—seasoned minimally with just salt and pepper—and the jalapeño cheddar sausage is some of the snappiest we’ve had. But the real reason you should be here is for the extensive menu of combinations, from barbacoa and pork belly tacos to brisket gouda mac and cheese and pulled pork nachos. Show up with a group and leave all the picky eaters happy. They also make a great smoked cheeseburger.

You can (and should) show up to Rollin Smoke and get the classic staples—like brisket, ribs, and sausage. But it’s when they start to experiment a little and introduce some low-and-slow smoke flavor into otherwise familiar dishes that we’ll consider making a detour, especially for the smoked carne guisada burritos and al pastor tacos. Rollin Smoke is located in the Arbor Food Park in East Austin right next to Cuantas Hamburguesas and Cuantos Tacos, making this one of the strongest 20-yard lineups in the food trailer scene. And the best part is that while most barbecue joints in Austin close up long before dinner, Rollin Smoke is open late, in case you want to soak up some drinks with a pile of brisket or just find yourself with a craving after dark. 

Satisfying both the needs of Pflugerville residents and Austinites on their way to Ikea is Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue, a strip mall barbecue joint that’s way bigger than its unassuming exterior would lead you to believe. It’s a bit minimalist inside, without a lot of the almost-kitschy character of old school barbecue joints, which just means they’re focused on good meat. The brisket and sausage here are worth a short detour (wherever you’re headed), but the sandwiches are worth a trip of their own. Grab the reuben that’s made with house-smoked pastrami, the Texas bánh mì to try Brotherton’s smoky (and brisket-filled) take on a classic, or get the loaded grilled cheese and see just how well smoked meats and cheese pair together. 

If you find yourself in Austin with a large group or just generally wanting barbecue in the later afternoon or evening, Terry Black’s is your answer. It has all the charm of older, more rustic places out in the country, but it’s conveniently located on Barton Springs Road, right in the middle of town. Brisket and beef ribs are the standouts here, but you won’t be disappointed with a fully loaded tray with all the classics, plus a few extra sides of mac and cheese. It’s always packed, with a line that usually spills out into the all-too-small parking lot, but we’ve never waited more than 20 minutes. 

What used to require a 45-minute drive out to Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart is now just a short drive to the UT area. Hungover college students will never understand just how good they have it. As a result of their location, the lines here don’t tend to be too bad. The barbecue is still smoked at their location in Lockhart, but driven in daily. If you’re worried about the freshness factor, keep in mind that most of what you’re typically eating was cooked overnight—smoked meats travel and hold up surprisingly well. We’d recommend getting some brisket, and if you come with friends, make sure to get a massive beef rib to share. 

It’s almost impossible to mention barbecue in Austin without La Barbecue’s name coming into the mix. That’s because they’ve been at it since 2011 (with a family history that goes back way, way longer), amassing a large, dedicated following in that time. The seasoning here leans heavy on the pepper—a make-or-break for some people—in both the barbecue and some of the sides. But once you make it through the inevitable line, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful piece of brisket. 

B. Cooper does the basics well—brisket, ribs, and sausage—but you have to get the lamb breast for the full experience. It’s not a cut we see often, and even rarer that we see it done this well. It will leave your fingers smelling like lamb for hours to follow, with rich, gamey flavor that will linger in your mind for even longer. And if you’ve ever gotten into a debate about vinegar vs cream-based coleslaws, you’ll be happy to know that they offer both here. 

You can get all the classics at JNL, but then you’d be missing out on the real reason to visit this East Riverside trailer—al pastor ribs and coffee-rubbed pork tenderloin. It’s a small departure from the salt-and-pepper minimalism that anchors the rest of the menu, but it’s one we’ll gladly welcome with brisket-filled arms. Grab both, but save room for a pulled pork sandwich. It comes topped with crushed chicharrones for an excellent balance of textures. 

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

The Best Tacos In Austin image

The Best Tacos In Austin

Austin is a taco town. Consider this your checklist of the city's best.

The Best Tex-Mex Restaurants In Austin image

Tex-Mex isn’t just a type of food. It’s a way of life. Here is your guide to the best Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin.

The Best Burgers In Austin image

The greatest burgers in Austin, according to us.

Infatuation Logo


2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The views and opinions expressed on The Infatuation’s site and other platforms are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of (or endorsement by) JPMorgan Chase. The Infatuation and its affiliates assume no responsibility or liability for the content of this site, or any errors or omissions. The Information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.


Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store