Austin Eats: BBQ Lover’s Guide

Mention Texas, and visions of smoky barbecue dance in my head.

I once heard that the very first barbecue that passes your lips forever defines what you consider the best ‘cue.

If that’s true, tender Texas brisket, smoked low and slow, charred on the outside with a visible pink smoke ring on the inside, is my idea of the perfect ‘cue. I grew up on the stuff.

For the second year in a row, I got my fill of Texas ‘cue at the BBQ Crash Course, a SXSW-sanctioned function held at Emo’s in Austin.

What’s special about the crash course is not a what, it’s a who, as in who bellies up to the bar — in this case, it’s a who’s who among Texas Hill Country smoke houses.

Normally, it would take at least two full days to get to all six of these barbecue beacons, and here they were, all gathered in one gritty, downtown Austin bar.

Smittys BBQ

Rated number #1 by Texas Monthly, Snow’s BBQ from Lexington (only open on Saturday mornings) was there, with their special cut of brisket and coarse beef sausage.

Lockheart’s Smitty’s Market was there, too. And Louie Mueller from Taylor. And R.O.’s Outpost from Spicewood (with possibly the best apple-jalapeno pie ever).

Snow-Louie Mueller-County Line

Two Austin-based ‘cue giants were carving up meat as well: The County Line, with Flintstones-sized beef ribs and smoked turkey and Franklin, with their divine brisket and famous espresso bbq sauce, and a juicy, pulled pork and creamy slaw.

RO Outpost-Franklin BBQ

If that wasn’t enough ‘cue (clearly it wasn’t — can you really ever get enough?) we had the pleasure of tooling around with Austinite Gloria Corral, who just authored a new book called Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin.

Gloria took us to an old-school BBQ haunt, Sam’s BBQ, in central East Austin, and introduced us to Willie Mays, Sam’s son, who runs the joint.

Painted on the front is an appropriate slogan, “You don’t need no teeth to eat my beef!”

Sams BBQ

Hundreds of photographs, some yellowed and curling are tacked to the wall. The smell of smoke hangs heavy in the air.

Sams BBQ Wall of Honor

Granted, the combo plate ain’t purdy to look at, but the fatty brisket (we asked for fatty specifically, instead of a lean cut) was sublime. I wasn’t crazy about the too-soft sausage, but I could eat a mound of the creamy mustard potato salad and the chile-flavored beans. And I can’t even begin to describe how glorious the charred brisket was.

That, partner, is serious Texas ‘cue.

Sams BBQ Combo

The thing is, there is great barbecue all over Texas, but especially so in Austin and the surrounding Texas Hill Country.

In fact, Gloria profiled more than 70 barbecue joints in a 30-mile radius in her new book. Handily, it’s organized by location with maps included.

BBQ Lovers Guide To Austin

If you’re saddling up in Austin anytime soon, don’t forget to pack your boots… leave your belt at home… and grab a copy of the new Barbecue Lovers Guide to Austin.

Yee haw, y’all.


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