We like our barbecue here in Austin. Outsiders might think that barbecue in Texas means beef brisket - and while that is a major component, there's also ribs, sausage, pork tenderloin, and even mutton and goat (cabrito) to discuss.
Legends of Texas
Maybe it's the free Salt Lick bbq I had for lunch today (sometimes my job is AWESOME), but I think I'm finally ready to tackle the issue of barbecue on this blog. I've been holding out because it's such a subjective, enormous task that just cannot be taken lightly by any self-respecting Texan. There are so many things to compare: type of meat, sauce or no sauce, proximity and/or ambiance, sides... I can feel the weight on my shoulders, let me tell you.
First off, if you're going to move to Austin and want to speak about barbecue with any authority, you MUST read the book "Legends of Texas Barbecue" by Robb Walsh. I wouldn't call it a just a cookbook, although it certainly has great recipes in it. It's more of a history of barbecue and discussion of the different types (it's not just brisket in Texas!) and regions (East Texas bbq is different from South Texas bbq) with the all-star favorite joints across the state. It's a fascinating book.
I don't think there's one perfect joint in Austin. Luckily that means you'll need to try them all. Anyway, here's my list of the best barbecue in Austin:
Still to come: best road-trips for barbecue. Luling, Lockhart, Elgin, oh my!
- The Salt Lick - technically not in Austin but nearby Driftwood, TX (though they have outposts in Austin City Limits - I've never been). This is where all Food Network & travel programs go, because it's so picture perfect and the food is really good. It's in a dry precinct (I know, say what?!) so you have to bring a cooler of your own beer. It's usually long wait on the weekends, but they have a huge outdoor holding section under the oak trees, often with a live band playing. Great place to bring out of town guests to. As for the food: I love their ribs. I'm a big fan of their sauce, which is slightly sweeter and has some soy sauce in it (the owner's wife is from Hawaii and influenced the recipe). Don't be fooled into buying the sauce in the bottle because it is god-awful. Their brisket is really good too, but I'm not into their sausage. Make sure you get the peach cobbler.
- Iron Works - My choice for good atmosphere within the city limits. It's near downtown and they have an outdoor porch overlooking a creek. It's a classic setup - and the food is pretty good.
- Ruby's BBQ - Great central location, and the food is great. My main reason for loving this place is the choice of sides. A lot of places only offer beans, potato salad and cole slaw. As I can't stand the latter two items, I'm usually stuck with beans. Ruby's has so much more - greens, mashed potatoes, awesome home fries, red beans and rice, mac & cheese... I dig the variety.
- Artz Ribhouse - A South Austin joint, crazily known for its ribs. I'm not a fan of beef ribs in general, and on yelp everyone seems to agree that the babyback pork ribs rule here.
- House Park BBQ - Near downtown, this is a small joint that's down and dirty: small menu, great smoky smell when you walk in. I like their chopped beef sandwich. Good for a quick lunch.
- Sam's BBQ - in East Austin. This is more like what you'd find in East Texas, which has more of a Southern influence. Read the above book for more details on the difference - I don't think I can explain it. The atmosphere is kinda grimy - maybe not the best place to take out of town in-laws (as I found out). They're open late.