No Texas city has Austin beat for the sheer volume of worthy barbecue destinations. Sure, the Houston area’s widespread suburbs might be richer in excellent barbecue, and the Fort Worth scene is hot and new, but the volume of world-changing barbecue within our Capital City’s limits is staggering. We recently published a list of the top fifty barbecue joints in Texas and fifty more honorable mentions*, but our recommendations don’t stop there. You can get a great meal of smoked meats at any one of these barbecue joints in Austin (and in one of its suburbs).
In the city of Austin
This food truck opened last year with an unusual specialty of barbecue served on homemade biscuits. Co-owners Christopher McGhee and Will Spence have steadily added to the menu, which now includes pork ribs, smoked chicken, and homemade sausage during dinner hours, alongside the fantastic smoked brisket they started off with.
The sweet smell of oak smoke has been steady outside Corner Bar in South Austin since this food truck moved there close to a decade ago. The joint’s smoky beef back ribs, juicy chicken thighs, and smoked cabbage make it unique. It does the basics well, too—try the mustardy barbecue sauce.
Cade Mercer wants to make barbecue fun at his food truck. The baby backs are deep-fried and sauced like wings; smoked turkey is breaded, fried, and coated in buffalo sauce; and there’s smoked brisket in the patty melt, the cheesesteak, and the famous crunchwrap. Order from any table at Bouldin Acres.
Distant Relatives (Top 50)
Chef Damien Brockway describes his barbecue as modern African American, and it’s the most exciting take on barbecue Austin has seen in some time. Try the flawless smoked chicken quarters, luscious pulled pork, smoky brisket, and array of inventive sides. Take home a container of smoked peanuts to let the experience linger a little while longer.
Franklin Barbecue (Top 10)
Aaron and Stacy Franklin started the modern barbecue movement in Austin, and have inspired a generation of pitmasters across the world to smoke Texas-style brisket. Not bad for a joint that only opened in 2009. Its brisket is still the standard, but don’t miss the tender pork ribs and house-made sausages.
InterStellar BBQ (Top 10)
One of the best barbecue dishes we tried during our Top 50 search was the peach tea–glazed pork belly burnt ends from chef John Bates. Put them alongside the jalapeño popper sausage, a stellar brisket taco, and the smoked scalloped potatoes, and you’ve got the number two barbecue joint in the state.
Ben and Sarah Lambert parked their food truck and thousand-gallon smoker at the Buzz Mill Riverside location in 2020, just after the start of the pandemic. They’ve made it through thanks to their simple menu of carefully smoked barbecue and well-made sides. Stop in on a Sunday for the BLT special, which uses their house-made bacon.
This combination Japanese izakaya and Texas smokehouse revamped its menu in 2021. A bento box with smoked brisket (or burnt ends) is a welcome new take on the traditional barbecue tray, and the serrano limón miso barbecue sauce will make you want to dunk your brisket in it. Finish with a banana pudding icebox cake.
Bill and Amelis Kerlin opened this food truck in 2013, and it has remained a fixture in East Austin ever since. The pork ribs and brisket are dependable, and the blue cheese coleslaw provides some unexpected zing. You’ll have to wait until Sunday for the famous brisket-and-cheddar kolaches.
La Barbecue (Top 50)
We don’t judge barbecue joints on their artwork, but owners LeAnn Mueller and Ali Clem might have the best collection in Texas. Their array of smoked meats is just as impressive, with house-made smoked sausages, sweet-glazed spareribs, and impeccable sliced brisket. Try the latter with cucumber kimchi, or go for the homey shells and cheese.
LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue (Top 10)
There aren’t many barbecue joints that could pull off serving smoked beef other than brisket every day, but one bite of the beef cheeks at this South Austin food truck will make you understand. The weekends-only brisket is also worth the wait. And while this might be beef country, the pulled whole-hog sandwich is a work of art.
Pitmaster Aaron Franklin and chef Tyson Cole teamed up on this Asian smokehouse, which now has a second location in Dallas. The well-smoked meats run the spectrum from brisket to salmon, and all are served with unique sauce-and-herb combinations. Baby back ribs are available Sundays and Mondays only, but the excellent smoked bavette steak is always on the menu.
Micklethwait Craft Meats (Top 50)
Tom Micklethwait believes in simplicity when it comes to preparing barbecue. His salt-and-pepper spareribs are the epitome of the Central Texas style of barbecue, and the house-made sausages are always stellar. Sides like lemon poppy coleslaw and jalapeño cheese grits are some of the best in the state.
Moreno Barbecue (Honorable Mention)
This newcomer moved from a food truck into a brick-and-mortar in 2021. Go for the superb smoked brisket, massive spareribs, and juicy slices of smoked pork belly. Save room for the shortbread chocolate chip cookies.
In his long-running food truck, Kyle Stallings brings together the barbecue styles of East and Central Texas. The best example is the sweet-glazed spareribs. The truck is just as well known for its sandwich selection, including the Playboy, which features brisket, pulled pork, and sausage. Look for the smoked carnitas quesitacos on Thursdays.
Stiles Switch BBQ (Honorable Mention)
This joint, now with two locations (the newest in Cedar Park), is popular for both its standard barbecue menu and daily specials like the smoked prime rib and the barbecue Cuban sandwich. The sweet and spicy pork ribs will have you coming back, as will the excellent, fatty brisket and the trio of juicy sausages.
Terry Black’s Barbecue (Top 50)
It’s hard enough to serve consistently great barbecue a few times a week. The fact that Terry Black’s does it in two locations (the other is in Dallas) for lunch and dinner seven days a week is remarkable. The beef rib is king here, but a smaller portion of beef in the form of sliced brisket won’t leave you disappointed. The house-made sausages and smoked turkey are also standouts.
It’s the sister location to Stiles Switch, but the Switch is no copy of the original. The menu combines barbecue and Tex-Mex with burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and chalupas. Barbecue by the pound is as good as it’s always been, and don’t miss the Saturday and Sunday brunch.
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ (Top 50)
Austin won’t have this joint for long, as Valentina’s is preparing its new brick-and-mortar in Buda, but for now, the original Tex-Mex barbecue spot remains on the south side. Start the day with a Holyfield breakfast taco with bacon, brisket, eggs, and more. Smoked and grilled fajitas are a favorite for lunch, as is the mammoth beef rib available on weekends only.
Whitfield’s (Honorable Mention)
Tender brisket and peppery ribs make this food truck a South Austin destination for great barbecue. But don’t skip the sides: baked and fried potatoes bring the flavor of salt-and-vinegar chips, and if you think barbecue accompaniments stop at pickles and onions, then try the pickled strawberries and spicy pineapple.
Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue in Pflugerville (Top 50)
John Brotherton and crew made this joint famous with smoked meat sandwiches. They’re still on the menu, but so is some of the best smoked brisket you’ll find in the Austin area and an impressive array of sausages, including the house specialty brisket boudin.
With so many joints closed on Mondays, getting the week started with barbecue can be a challenge, but there are a few great options in Austin. From the Top 50, you’ll find only Terry Black’s Barbecue. As for our other favorites, you can visit CM Smokehouse at Bouldin Acres, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, and Loro.
Barbecue is associated more with lunch than dinner, mainly because so many joints sell what meat they can smoke as quickly as possible. That means many of the best spots will be sold out by early or mid-afternoon, but a few are open late (or at least late for barbecue). CM Smokehouse is open until 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and until 11 p.m. every other night. Kemuri Tatsu-Ya is only open for dinner, starting at 5:30 p.m. daily, but it doesn’t close until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 10 p.m. on other nights. Loro is open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and until 10 p.m. every other night. Rollin Smoke barbecue truck doesn’t close the window until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, 10 p.m. on Fridays, and 11 p.m. on Saturdays. The Switch is open until 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
From brisket bento boxes to smoked mushrooms, Austin is the best city in Texas to find unconventional takes on barbecue. The former can be found at Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, where you should also try the smoked Italian eggplant with shishito dengaku it calls “hippie bone marrow.” At Loro, there’s brisket in the candied kettle corn appetizer and a brisket sandwich with papaya salad and peanuts. We’ve mentioned the brisket crunchwrap at CM Smokehouse, but there’s also a version with smoked cauliflower, as well as cauliflower wings. Cauliflower burnt ends are on the daily menu at LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue, which sometimes offers smoked beets as a special. The Saturdays-only “bacon rib”—a single pork sparerib with the belly still attached, dipped in a sweet glaze—is a study in complementary flavors and textures. The Briscuits trailer offers smoked mushrooms on the dinner menu, and at Rollin Smoke you should definitely try the smoked mushroom sandwich. A sandwich you don’t normally find at a barbecue joint is a BLT, but JNL Barbecue cures and smokes its own bacon (Sundays only). La Barbecue operates a deli counter inside the restaurant stocked with cheeses, smoked and sliced tri-tip, pork loin, and turkey breast, along with beef sticks and several summer sausage varieties.
Smoked burgers have become the new sausage. They’re a way to use all the trim from a brisket without the need for stuffing the meat into casings. The best we’ve tried is at LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue, where smoked burgers are now available all day instead of just during dinner hours. Friday nights are for smoked burgers at Moreno Barbecue. Thursday is smoked burger day at Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ, where the flavors change every week. CM Smokehouse doesn’t smoke its burgers, but it does offer smoked brisket jam and pulled pork as toppings. Loro also loads its burger with brisket jam, but get there before 5 p.m. to try it.
Side businesses seemed to be the trend for many barbecue joints in the Austin area over the past year. The folks at CM Smokehouse opened another trailer featuring Tex-Mex barbecue options called Gringo Loco. La Barbecue serves up hot dogs from the Red Rocket Wiener Wagon. LeRoy and Lewis sends its smoked beef cheeks, whole hog, and chili over to the Mama Fried trailer for all forms of loaded fried potatoes alongside foot-long corn dogs. Next door to the Micklethwait trailer is a new beer garden, Saddle Up Austin, which also houses Tom Micklethwait’s Taco Bronco concept. The smoked burgers were so popular at Valentina’s that the joint launched Cash Cow Burger Company, serving a variety of smoked burgers in Buda. And while it’s not new, it is worth reminding fans of Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue that John Brotherton is also at the helm of Liberty Barbecue in downtown Round Rock.
*J Leonardi’s Barbeque, one of our 2021 honorable mentions, has permanently closed.