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Tasty Tuesdays: Best BBQ in Central Texas

21 July 2009 3,600 views 21 Comments

I’m a bit obsessed with Texas barbecue, or BBQ, depending on your personal preference, and have written about it quite a bit. Over the almost six years that I’ve lived in Austin, I’ve visited many of the best BBQ pits in the state ranging from Salt Lick to Smitty’s to the back entrance of the Continental Club on South Congress.

Over the past year, I’ve eaten at and written about BBQ tours in Lockhart, fancy BBQ at Lamberts, filling up before wine tasting at Opie’s, Wyatt McSpadden’s Texas BBQ book, a lunch break at House Park BBQ, and a pilgrimage to the recently discovered mecca of Snow’s.

bbq blockOther spots enjoyed include Green Mesquite, Cooper’s and Luling City Market (amazing – go, just go).

With twenty minutes left of Tasty Tuesday, I ask you to vote for your favorite spot for barbecue and why — factors may include taste, atmosphere, history, service, sides, style, etc. I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts. I’ll add more on my faves after I hear from some of you.

If you wake up early and are near a radio or a computer at 8:30 a.m. CT tomorrow (Wed), listen in to KGSR 107.1 FMNubian Queen Lola will be joining us to share her delicious cajun food and stories.

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  • Optimista

    Honestly, I'm kind of non-traditional when it comes to barbecue. I love Lambert's for their execution (and their achiote-seared chickpea w/goat cheese appetizer!) and…I'm embarassed to admit it…Whole Foods for their amazing pulled pork.

  • Cristina

    As a native Austinite, (and I mean born in 69', not a transplant from the 90s…), I've eaten a lot of BBQ and I have to say that Green Mesquite's arrival to the Austin area in the late 80s was a godsend. It's the closest thing we have to The Salt Lick here in town.

  • Reid

    For some reason, no one ever knows about the absolute best bbq in central Texas!! My step-father has been going to Zimmerhansel's BBQ in Smithville since he was a child, and most of our family now swears by it. This place has their own slaughter house out back (they have huge fences so you don't have to see the cows before you eat…thankfully) – but talk about fresh!!

    Another thing to be aware of is that if you want some of their awesome smoked brisket or ribs, you'd better get there early! I've been around 12:30pm and after waiting in a line out the door, was turned away because they run pretty out fast.

  • Jodi

    Reid – I have heard of Zimmerhansel's in Smithville. Wyatt McSpadden recommends it highly and also told me they keep strange hours. I hope to try it on a trip to Houston one day in the near future. Thanks for reminding me!

    If you listened to KGSR this morning, you know that we are going to talk about Best BBQ in Austin next Thursday, July 30. Andy INSISTS that we are only talking about best BBQ within the Austin City Limits so this leaves out Salt Lick, Coopers, Kreutz, Snow's, and the like.

    For BBQ WITHIN Austin City Limits, my vote is for Green Mesquite or Lambert's, depending on your mood. House Park BBQ is also good if you are going for lunch and are looking for a down-home, historic experience.

  • MisoHungryNow

    In Austin, Sam's on the East side. Sooooooooo good and open late! In Texas, it's gotta be Hinze's in El Campo. No other location will do.

  • BBQ-Terry

    In Texas, I am a fan of Coopers. In Austin, I like the County Line the best of those I have tried.

  • World According to Lisa

    I rew up and live in NW Austin, near Lake Travis. On 2222 there is this little BBQ place–SMOKEY J's– that serves the best darn BBQ around. I have been going here since I was a young girl. It is more like a large booth that serves the food with just a few picnic tables to sit at. It's not about the ambiance, it's all about the best BBQ. You know its good when you wait in line praying that they have not sold out of "X", because when it's gone, it's gone. I highly recommend Smokey J's. Oh, by the way, did I say it was also inexpensive?

  • Dan

    I'm a big fan of Ruby's (not Rudy's, but that's good too) on 29th and Guad. Great food and a cool spot.

  • travelingbistro

    Louie Mueller in Taylor, hands down. That Beef Rib amazes. In town, Sam's.

  • Kay

    It's totally not Tues anymore but…I love the beef ribs at Ironworks, the brisket at Green Mesquite, the pork ribs at Salt Lick and anything & everything from Cooper's in Llano.

  • Jodi

    Thanks, everyone! I agree with Optimista about that achiote chickpea side at Lamberts – it's surprisingly wonderful.

    MisoHungryNow and World According to Lisa – I don't know that I've heard of Hinze's or Smokey J's respectively but I will have to check 'em out. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    For sausage, Kreutz's in Lockhart is AMAZING.
    For brisket, tie between Black's in Lockhart and Rudy's.

    And I'd like to go on record stating that I think The Salt Lick sucks :)

    - Jason

  • KP

    Technically, the Salt Lick is inside the Austin City Limits… at their ABIA location… it's a far far cry from the old pit in Driftwood or the new pit in Round Rock (which, surprisingly, is just as good as the original in flavor – just not ambience). So you have an excuse to keep them in the mix. I'm just sayin'!

    And, whatever you do, don't forget Artz Rib House in the Austin discussion! Their specialty is unique in town (country-style ribs), and their role in supporting the local music scene is unquestionable.

    Whenever an out-of-towner asks what the best BBQ is, I encourage them to explore and not try to find just one joint. I think people underestimate the complexity in evaluating fine BBQ, because we are all in the habit of mistakenly lumping into one big group all of the many splendid variations that have evolved from the basic Texas concept. Are you a brisket, sausage, beef ribs, pork ribs, or (fill in the meat blank) person? Do you like your sauce sweet, smoky, spicy or completely absent? There are the sides to consider, the tradition and back-story, and before you know it, you feel like you're back in Modern Art 101, etc, etc.

    I'm a moist smokey brisket with the occasional kiss of sweet sauce kinda' fella… I like long walks on the hike and bike trail and, oops, got carried away there!

  • elmundodemando

    Dood. Sam's BBQ in the Eastside on 12th. Close to the "you aight?" corner (12th & Chicon). Big plates, good q & Big Momma serves it nice and hot!

  • Jodi

    Kenny – I love your comment and the thought you put into it! You are right about the Salt Lick at the airport — I actually thought ABIA was in Del Valle at first. However, I don't care for Saltlick in the airport — just out at Driftwood. They just don't serve it with the same love I guess.

    Other votes (via FB and Twitter):

    Mark Hughes
    Worth investigating: Mann’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que <– top-ranked by Texas Monthly for Austin. Taylor's Louie Mueller Barbeque ranked tops in all of Texas. Funny, nearly 14 years in Austin, but have never been to either one yet…and I've gone by (around) Taylor many times!

    Sharon Green
    I really love Opie's in Spicewood. Get the Baby Back Ribs and the Spicy creamed corn

    bgaustin – Artz Rib House!

    christylbowen – I love Cooper's!!

    VisitAustinTX – We love County Line!

    Russell M. Lewis – Smitty's

  • Anonymous

    Rudy's is my favorite.

  • Jodi

    Thanks to the folks who called into the show today to add their thoughts to the Austin BBQ conversation. I definitely need to try Donn's BBQ and Railroad to my list of spots to try. Thanks!

  • kanyalsingh

    plz read this comment I love your comment and the thought you put into it! You are right about the Salt Lick at the airport — I actually thought ABIA was in Del………..

  • kanyalsingh

    plz read this comment I love your comment and the thought you put into it! You are right about the Salt Lick at the airport — I actually thought ABIA was in Del………..

  • kanyalsingh

    plz read this comment I love your comment and the thought you put into it! You are right about the Salt Lick at the airport — I actually thought ABIA was in Del………..

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