While 75% of Austin barbecue joints are fist-bumping each other and working on secret handshakes for the “nothing-but-salt-and-pepper” club, JNL is founding its own clubs—ones devoted to al pastor, cajun butter, and coffee rubs. While this convenience store barbecue operation does follow a Central Texas-style approach to cooking its meat, the seasonings and the weekly specials are where they decide to go off-track and have a little fun.
Start with a few slices of brisket—a legal requirement in Austin—then order pork ribs coated in al pastor seasoning or coffee-rubbed pork tenderloin. And while we’re usually meat purists at barbecue joints like this, the sandwiches at JNL are a high point. Like a BLT made with house-smoked bacon, or a pulled pork sandwich topped with a handful of freshly fried chicharrones, adding an audible crunch to each bite. Show up on the weekends and you may come across one of the specials, like smoked recreations of Whataburger’s entire specialty burger menu.
JNL is located inside a convenience store on East Cesar Chavez, so you can pick up cans of cold brew and sparkling water to go with your meal, or maybe test out the Froot Loops-and-brisket combination your inebriated brain came up with the night before. But since this is one of those cool convenience stores, there’s also a wall of beers on draft behind the counter. And there’s indoor and outdoor seating, so you don’t have to worry about eating your meal in a cereal aisle.
If you live in Austin, you’ve probably already tried the Central Texas barbecue classics—so head to JNL when you want something a little different. And if you’re just visiting, well, you can get a bit of both here without much wait, plus grab some shampoo for your Airbnb on the way out.
This is one of the few meats that JNL seasons pretty classically. The bark is nice and thick, with meat that breaks apart with a slight pull of the fingers, just like a good brisket should. It’s a tad underseasoned if you like your meat on its own, but it’s nothing a dab of barbecue sauce can’t fix.
Al Pastor Pork Ribs
There’s a thick rub of al pastor seasoning coating the ribs, adding a roasted chili flavor that goes great with the pork. The ribs themselves are cooked on the well-done end of the spectrum, and the meat practically falls off the bone. We prefer a little more bite, but these get the job done, and they’re pretty unique.
Cajun Butter Turkey Breast
The Cajun butter doesn’t really come through very strong, and we think you can get better smoked turkey breast at other barbecue spots in town. Save room for other meats.
Coffee-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
If you only get one thing here, make it the pork tenderloin. This might be the single best meat at JNL. It’s not something we’ve seen a lot of in Austin. And the blend of incredibly tender, slightly sweet meat, with a bitter bark of roasted coffee is a delight. A few drops of barbecue sauce add a nice sweetness that balances it all out.
Carolina-Style Pulled Pork
If you come here for just two things—or if the pork tenderloin is sold out as it often is—get the pulled pork. It’s cooked Carolina-style, with a bit of vinegar that adds a tangy bite to each piece of meat. And each handful of pork comes topped with a few sprinkles of freshly fried chicharrones for some crunch.
Pulled Pork Sandwich
This is everything we said about the pulled pork, but on a sandwich topped with coleslaw. The coleslaw adds some welcome brightness to it all, and a little extra texture. Get this if you want a few of JNL’s highlights in the form of a quick, hearty lunch.