You’re in Austin, and one of the primary food categories that folks want to try here is Texas BBQ. The barbecue scene in Austin is crazy overwhelming, because there are just so many good places to try! Aaron Franklin really put Austin on the BBQ map with his James Beard award and hours-long lines to try Franklin Barbecue. (And I’m sure you’ve heard of Franklin Barbecue, as well as some of the other heavy hitters in ATX, like La Barbecue, Stiles Switch, and LeRoy and Lewis.) In this blog post you’ll find the top 10 BBQ restaurants in Austin that you should try first. You know, cross these off your bucket list and then go on exploring the rest of the Austin smoked meat scene!
But really, what’s the best bbq in Austin, and where should you go if you’re only visiting for a weekend? I simplified things for you. Here are the 10 places where you should definitely start. Once you’ve worked through these hot spots, there are plenty more incredible pitmasters in our city who deserve your attention. But start here.
A few things to keep in mind about the best bbq in Austin:
– Brisket is everything in Texas! It’s the true test of a great bbq joint, because brisket is the hardest ot prepare correctly and the easiest to mess up. (Ever tried dry, overcooked brisket? Gross.)
– The lines used to be crazy long at some of these places, but ever since the Covid-19 pandemic, lots of them started offering online ordering. While it’s a bit sad to not be able to cross “stood in line at Franklin for 7 hours” off your Austin bucket list, it’s really nice to save the time and pick up your order.
– Unlike more conventional restaurants, BBQ joints stay open until they run out of meat. So if you go late in the day, they might have run out of their most popular items, like beef and sausage. Go early unless you want to get stuck with the turkey and chicken.
– It’s always fun to try more! My favorite way to enjoy Austin barbecue is to go with a group (like when I have out of town guests), order a few pounds of various meat and a bunch of sides, and try everything.
start with these 10 bbq restaurants in Austin
1. Franklin Barbecue
Yep, we’re starting with the king because everyone should experience Franklin Barbecue. Is it actually that good? You can be the judge of that after you’ve compared it against a few others. But if your first taste of Texas brisket is at Franklin, you’ll have a really good marker for future taste tests. After all, Aaron Franklin has won a James Beard award for Best Chef: Southwest, he’s written multiple cookbooks, and some of the biggest bbq critics call his brisket some of the best in the world. So even if you know nothing about BBQ, rest assured that this place is pretty well respected.
Want to wait in line at Franklin? Well, they’re currently just doing curbside pickups. That’s going to save you, oh, about 6 hours of time. (And if the line experience sounds fun to you, because it’s kind of fun to me, keep checking back in! Things change quickly these days.)
2. La Barbecue
Lots of folks will say that the brisket at La Barbecue is on par with Franklin. It’s no secret that this is one of the best barbecue restaurants in Austin…the crowd speaks for itself! But one area where La Barbecue shines where Franklin doesn’t is in the sides: their shells n cheese is a deep, orange color and made with smoky veggies, and their potato salad is perfectly tangy and creamy.
The line at La Barbecue used to be pretty crazy, but now that they have an online ordering system you can just show up and pick it up to-go.
3. LeRoy and Lewis
This is one of the few places on this list that’s doing something totally different, and it’s definitely worth a visit! Evan LeRoy and Sawyer Lewis decided that, since every bbq place in Austin had the same concept (meat by the pound + the same 3 or 4 sides), they would creat “New School Barbecue.” The result? Avocado stuffed with barbaco, the most scrumptious smoked beef cheeks, and a bbq burger that will truly blow your mind. This isn’t the place to go for traditional Texas bbq, but if you want to try one of the best barbecue restaurants in Austin, add LeRoy and Lewis to your list.
It’s a food truck parked outside Cosmic Coffee. On a pretty day in Austin, there’s nothing better than getting a plate of meat + sides (try their housemade kimchi and the cauliflower burnt ends, and definitely get the 44 Farms Beef Cheeks) and a cold beer and spending time with friends.
4. Stiles Switch BBQ
It’s not flashy from the outside, but Stiles Switch has been one of the best barbecue restaurants in Austin for a long time. It’s in a nondescript strip mall in north Austin (although, if you’ve seen the 1993 movie Dazed and Confused, you might recognize it!), and a lot of the biggest pitmasters in Austin first worked at Stiles Switch at one point or another.
What do they do here? Well, a little bit of everything! Get the brisket for sure (because #Texas), but their St. Louis Pork Ribs and the spicy sausage are also phenomenal. Oh, and they the most epic bbq sandwich in town: The Buford T’s Diablo is a spicy pile brisket, spicy sausage, an jalapenos. For sides, the corn casserole is so good it might make you weep, and this is one of those places where you have to leave room for dessert. The homemade banana pudding and tres leches are both perfect endings.
5. Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
In addition to LeRoy and Lewis, this is one of the most unique places on the list. They combined Tex Mex + BBQ (two of the most popular foods in Austin) and created one unforgettable menu. Valentina’s is experts at both of them: their brisket stands up against the best barbecue restaurants in Austin, and their homemade flour tortillas are one of the reasons this place is on my list of Best Tex Mex restaurants in Austin.
So when you combine the two? Rainbows and unicorns. I recommend trying one of two things:
The first option is to get a bunch of tacos, because you’ll want to try both the smoked meat and the tortillas/beans. The smoked brisket taco and smoked carnitas taco are amazing, as is their Real Deal Holyfield breakfast taco. The second option is to get a pound of brisket, an order or tortillas, and a few sides (charro beans, Mexican rice, some fresh salsa, and an order of brisket queso) and make your own tacos. Either way, Valentina’s will soon become one of your favorite Austin restaurants.
6. Micklethwait Craft Meats
If we’re calling this one of the best barbecue restaurants in Austin, let’s also stop to talk about how to pronounce Tom Micklethwait’s last name: the “th” is silent, is it’s “Mickle-wait.” And almost everyone will tell you that the meat here is some of the best in Austin…but you’d also better load up on the sides. The lemon poppy slaw is unlike any other slaw I’ve tried (a teeny bit sweet, and not loaded down with heavy dressing), and the jalapeno cheese grits are so good that I’ll sometimes fill up on those before I dive into the meat. But be sure to taste that incredible smoked brisket and the Tex-Czech sausage. There’s a reason why Micklethwait is widely regarded as one of the best bbq joints in Texas.
7. Terry Black’s Barbecue
This is where it gets a little confusing (because there are some family politics involved…who knew Texas barbecue could get so heated?) but Terry Black’s (7 on this list) and Black’s BBQ (8 on this list) are NOT the same place. They look similar, but they’re two different barbecue restaurants in Austin.
Terry Black’s Barbecue on Barton Springs is in one of the most central locations in Austin, right by Auditorium Shores, Zilker Park, and Barton Springs. That fact, plus their phenomenal smoked meat and sides, makes the weekend lines crazy long here. But if you’re up it, this brisket is some of the best in Austin.
8. Black’s Barbecue Austin
Originally founded in 1932 in Lockhart, Black’s BBQ now has an Austin location so you can enjoy some of their food without going too far. This is where you’ll want to go with a few hungry friends so you can try EVERYTHING on the menu: sliced brisket, pork ribs, smoked turkey breast, barbecue chicken, pulled pork, chopped beef, multiple types of sausage, and those giant 1-lb beef ribs….and that’s all before you even get to the sides and desserts.
They have a pecan cobbler that’s sticky and caramely, and a super sweet banana pudding, which makes the perfect dessert after a salty meal.
9. Kerlin BBQ
Kerlin BBQ is a lowkey food trailer in east Austin that has earned a reputation as one of Austin’s best bbq restaurants because of their consistently good brisket, fun sides, and those amazing Sunday-only kolache. Of course, since this is Texas, you should start with the Prime Angus brisket, but their Pork Belly burnt ends are phenomenal and the soft, salty pork shoulder is especially memorable.
10. True Texas BBQ
You might think that a drive-thru bbq spot connected to a major Texas grocery store brand is an odd place to end this list, but HEB’s True Texas BBQ really stands up against some of the best barbecue restaurants in Austin! And if you’re hanging out with family at home and you need a quick and easy place to pick up BBQ for a group or a party, True Texas is the most convenient.
Their prices and quality stack up against some of the biggest bbq names in Austin. The smoked brisket is soft and buttery and falls apart with your fork, and the pork ribs are good enough that you could definitely get an entire rack for a big bbq dinner party.
A few upscale BBQ restaurants in Austin
The 10 restaurants in this guide are a great starting point for best BBQ in Austin. But once you try those, there are lots and lots of other places to try! If you’re hoping to turn your bbq outing into a nice dinner date night, here are a few upscale barbecue restaurants in Austin worth noting:
KEMURI TATSU-YA // WEBSITE
From the Ramen Tatsu-ya team, Kemuri is an izakaya and bar, which means they fuse Texan and Japaense culture together. The result? A menu that’s kind of familiar, but…different. Smoked brisket with a serrano limón miso, ribs with garlic furikake and sour crema, and a banana pudding icebox cake with miso caramel and matcha.
EASTSIDE TAVERN // WEBSITE
This is a great place to hang out for barbecue + cocktails! While the meat isn’t quite as strong as some of the bbq hot spots in Austin, they do smoke it on site and the entire ambiance is lively and bright.
LORO ASIAN SMOKEHOUSE // WEBSITE
Loro is a Japanese/Texas smokehouse concept from Aaron Franklin (Franklin Barbecue) and Tyson Cole (Uchi) that offers unique smoked Texas meats with a Japanese twist + cocktails/beer/wine, all served on a gorgeous outdoor patio. It’s a fun place to take Austin guests, go out for date night, or just sit at the bar for a solo meal indulgence.