Last Updated on September 29, 2020 by Katrina

Micklethwait Craft Meats has the Food & Wine seal of approval.

Looking for the best BBQ in Austin? While it’s true that barbecue in the Texas capital is comprised of basics—briskets, ribs, sausage and lots of sides — debating the finer points of this delectable food genre inspires great passion among Austin locals and visiting carnivores alike. In the past decade or so, the reigning style of barbecue joints around Austin has come to mirror the cafeteria-style barbecue found in the little town of Lockhart, about an hour away, which has long been known as a barbecue lover’s mothership. Such places offers meats by the weight, often served on simple metal trays with a stack of white bread and pickles alongside your beans, mac ‘n’ cheese, green beans and more.  Just be ready to stand in a few lines when you visit any of these five lauded barbecue places in Austin.

Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th St., 512-653-1187) East Austin

This East Austin gem opened in 2009 and quickly became the standard-bearer for Austin’s wave of Central-Texas-style barbecue joints. Pit master Aaron Franklin even won a James Beard Award in 2015. Waiting in line (sometimes for three or four hours, starting as early as 8 a.m.) is part of the experience, though you can order online three days ahead. “The line in front of you consists of dazed almost-drunk-with-meat patrons laughing hysterically as they anticipate their turn to point and drool at what they want,” says one Yelp reviewer,  who gushes over the brisket, ribs, pork  and “turkey with a pink ring so moist and juicy that it melts before you can get it to your mouth.” As one TripAdvisor reviewer says, “Oh yeah, it lives up to the hype, for sure.”

Micklethwait Craft Meats (1309 Rosewood Ave.; 512-791-5961) East Austin

This East Austin barbecue trailer with picnic tables may look humble, but Food & Wine has declared its three-meat plate one of the 20 Best Dishes in Texas. The menu is a little more out-of-the-box than some other traditional joints: The daily meat selection includes brisket, ribs or sausage, but also pulled lamb and Mexican-style barbacoa. Sides get a little exotic too, from the jalapeño cheese grits to the lemon poppy slaw or beet salad.  “Highly rec the pork ribs, cheese grits, and campfire beans,” says one Yelper. “The BBQ sauce on the tables is sooooo good.” Micklethwait’s also gets raves from Texas Monthly, which advises “leaving room for buttermilk pie.” 

Terry Black’s BBQ (1003 Barton Springs Rd.; 512-394-5899) Bouldin Creek

This cafeteria-style restaurant not far from the city’s beloved Zilker Park was launched by members the Black family,  who are associated with one the most iconic restaurants out in Lockhart. Choose from classic by-the-pound meats, including chopped beef, or get it in sandwiches or even a salad bowl. Sides include baked potato salad and mac ’n’ cheese, while desserts can mean a mini pecan pie or banana pudding. “The brisket was AMAZING. It truly melts in your mouth,” says one Yelp reviewer, who agrees with several users who thought the beef ribs were actually too big: “We opted for the pork ones because they came in lesser amounts.” Texas Monthly, though, loves the “lusciously fatty beef rib. This may well be the most underrated barbecue joint in Austin.”

Stile’s Switch BBQ and Brew (6610 N Lamar Blvd., 512-380-9199) Highland

As a sign of its beyond-the-barbecue hipness, this eatery in a Central Austin shopping center gets its name from an old railroad stop, and also played the part of a pool hall in beloved Austin movie Dazed and Confused. The menu includes the staples plus a half chicken, sweet or spicy sausage, and a corn casserole. Reviewers love the meat and all the trimmings, but also the friendly staffers. “This was hands down the best brisket ever,” says one TripAdvisor user. “Customer service was top notch too. They let us sample items that we weren’t sure about.” Conde Nast Traveler recommends trying the daily special (like a smoked prime rib) and says that the “trio of sausages—spicy, mild, and jalapeño-cheddar—is to die for.”

La Barbecue (902 E Cesar Chavez St.; 512-605-9696) East Austin

This food trailer has serious street cred because it’s owned by the Muellers, one of Austin’s longtime barbecue families. Alongside the brisket, ribs, turkey and house-made sausage, sandwiches include La Frita Loco, with pulled pork, chopped beef, slaw, beans and, yes, Fritos. Yelp reviewers were not crazy about the long waits but as one points out, it’s usually worth it: “I tried the brisket. It’s kind of life altering. … And don’t forget some smoked shells (aka jalapeño Mac n cheese) and sauce.” Texas Monthly offers the line-avoiding pro tip of ordering online at least five days ahead of time and recommends “the chipotle sausage if you see it on the menu.”