Seven years ago, Evan LeRoy and Sawyer Lewis opened the LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue truck in Austin with the hope of opening a brick-and-mortar location as soon as possible. “The food truck was meant as a tool to get us to where we are today,” Lewis said. They didn’t expect it to take this long to open their restaurant, which began serving on February 28. Leasing an affordable space in the competitive Austin market and finding the right location were challenges, but their patience has paid off.

So many of the food truck hindrances are gone with the new space. (The food truck remains open in its usual spot, next to Cosmic Coffee.) Cocktails, beer, and wine are available at the bar, there is ample parking, and the larger pit area and kitchen allow for more-expansive menu options to show off the team’s creativity. The partners also cook a lot more barbecue—about four times as much—and serve it until 9 p.m. “We have not run out of barbecue yet,” Lewis said of the first three weeks.

The spacious indoor dining will be a welcome contrast to the rows of picnic tables by the food truck as summer approaches. The lofty ceilings make the space look even larger, and there’s plenty of room for people to line up in the air-conditioning. “This restaurant is built to handle a lot of people,” LeRoy said, and not all of them need to stand in line. A portion of the menu labeled “Anytime Eats” can be ordered at the bar. That includes a hearty Frito pie, glorious onion rings, a newly added smash burger made from ground pork, and the famous L&L smoked cheeseburger. The sleeper hit might be the olives and nuts. It sounds like a simple bar snack, but the olives are smoked, and the spiced peanuts are fried in beef tallow along with the slivers of garlic mixed in. They’re addictive.

So many new items have been added to the barbecue menu, I couldn’t get to them all, but if you’re a longtime fan, you may be familiar with specials like the smoked Italian beef sandwich, the pulled lamb, and the sliced shoulder clod. Those are now on the menu every day. What is not are the beef cheeks that had become a staple of LeRoy and Lewis. LeRoy said the cut’s growing popularity across the country has increased its price, and prepping the raw cheeks for smoking is quite laborious. They’re now reserved for Fridays. Saturdays are for brisket, but the smoked flatiron and the chuck steak are available daily. The massive “bacon ribs” can also be had on Saturdays, while the smoked pork chops are Sundays-only.

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The barbecue counter at LeRoy and Lewis, with Evan LeRoy third from left. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn
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Onion rings and the olives-and-nuts bar snack. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn
Left: The barbecue counter at LeRoy and Lewis, with Evan LeRoy third from left. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn
Top: Onion rings and the olives-and-nuts bar snack. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

That sort of variety is why the smoked beef is divided into “sliced beef” and “chopped beef” on the menu. The terms are a throwback to the old meat markets that sold mixed-beef barbecue by the pound. When dealing with a whole cow or an entire forequarter, they couldn’t limit themselves to just smoking brisket. City Market in Luling opened in 1958, and longtime pitmaster Joe Capello once described to me how in the early days, they would take cuts from the forequarter—the chuck, shoulder clod, and brisket—and smoke them together. All of it was sold as beef barbecue. LeRoy and Lewis is getting to that point. Soon it’ll be getting deliveries of whole beef quarters from Lorene Farms, near Schulenburg.

I tried the chuck steak, which is cut from right next to the ribeye. It’s sliced thin and has more chew to it, with plenty of smoke and seasoning. Flatiron is a cut from the shoulder clod that’s often used for steaks. It’s made up of two long, thin muscles, with a thick membrane running between them. For steaks, the membrane is removed, and the cut is best if grilled hot and fast until medium rare. At LeRoy and Lewis, the cooks keep the muscles together and slowly smoke the cut for twelve to fifteen hours. The membrane gets soft enough to melt like fat, and the beef is quite tender. Flatiron also has a deep beefy flavor, and it’s marbled well enough to stay juicy through the long cooking process.

Sourcing meat locally was routine for the historic meat markets that formed the foundation for Central Texas barbecue. LeRoy and Lewis has made that part of its mission. Until it can get those beef quarters, the beef comes from HeartBrand, Dean & Peeler, and 44 Farms, all Texas producers. Dutchman’s Market in Fredericksburg supplies the lamb, and the truck has been using whole pigs from Peaceful Pork, near Mathis, for many years. Lewis said the joint’s commitment to local products is part of the mantra “Celebrating the past, but thinking forward.” 

The new menu has plenty of new-school touches as well. The smoked cauliflower has been a vegetarian favorite at LeRoy and Lewis, and the new carrot dish—the best I’ve ever eaten—will surely gain fans as well. The carrots are poached in a court bouillon, smoked, and then coated with a miso glaze and grilled over an oak fire. They’re tender and sweet, with some good char and umami from the miso. “If you ask nicely for carrots to be one of your sides, we can accommodate that request,” LeRoy said, but they’re listed alongside the meats with a per-pound price of $30. Sliced beef is $38 per pound. You’re certainly free to order by the pound, but LeRoy said the two-meat plate with two sides, at $23 ($2 upcharge for beef), is the most popular order at the barbecue counter.

Another standout is the direct-heat half chicken. Rather than obsess over crisp skin, the team has chosen to produce juicy, well-seasoned birds that hold well in warmers and come out pull-apart tender. A couple new desserts include banana pudding tiramisu, which is as simple as it sounds—a layer of banana pudding on top of a layer of tiramisu, and the rich and decadent German chocolate cobbler, paired with tangy buttermilk ice cream.

Lewis’s husband, Nathan Lewis, runs the bar program. He’s a master brewer who studied in Germany. The group had envisioned a brewery-and-restaurant concept when first looking for a permanent location, but the stars never aligned. Nathan offered to “set aside his dreams for the good of the group,” Lewis explained. Nathan selected the local craft beer options, along with a few big-market light beers, and carefully curated a wine list that includes several Texas options as well. While the bar does serve cocktails, it isn’t fully stocked with liquor, but the team’s wizardry has created some unique combinations. The Blame It All On My Root is a boozy dead ringer for root beer, and the frozen Big Red Sangria is the blend of sweet soda and red wine you didn’t know you needed.

Following LeRoy’s career arc as a pitmaster has been full of surprises. “We really want to push the envelope,” he said, and they have once again. I wouldn’t call LeRoy and Lewis fearless. There has always been a purpose to the dishes they produce, in both highlighting new and local ingredients and getting the most out of them. The joint doesn’t waste food or an opportunity to make customers think about barbecue a little differently. Now the staff members get to do it in a space where they can provide more hospitality for more hours. The new restaurant is a well-deserved achievement, but not a culmination. As LeRoy explained, “Even though we have been in operation for seven years, it does feel like we’re just now getting started.”