5 Best BBQ Restaurants in Austin, TX: Your Ultimate Guide to Smoky Delights

by Ray Roman | Last updated on June 14, 2024

Austin, Texas, is a city that’s as famous for its vibrant music scene as it is for its mouth-watering barbecue. Austin is often touted as one of the best places in the world to indulge in tender, smoky meats that fall right off the bone.

The art of BBQ is taken seriously here, with pitmasters across the city conjuring up flavors that are bound to leave taste buds dancing.

A bustling street lined with colorful food trucks and outdoor seating, each adorned with the vibrant signage of the 5 best BBQ restaurants in Austin, TX

We know that in a city sprawling with BBQ joints, it can be challenging to figure out where to start your meaty adventure. That’s why we’ve taken the time to narrow down the list to the absolute must-try spots.

Whether you’re a fan of brisket that’s been smoked to perfection, sticky ribs with a secret glaze, or sausages packed with spices, you’re in for a treat.

So let’s get ready to discover some of the best BBQ Austin has to offer, and make sure you bring your appetite!

1) Terry Black’s Barbecue

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We first noticed the spacious setup of Terry Black’s Barbecue, which made us feel right at home with its casual vibe. The pit-smoked meats had an aroma that beckoned us from a block away.

Once inside, it was like being in a bustling hub of barbecue enthusiasts, all eager to get a taste of the famous recipes handed down through four generations of pitmasters.

Their selection of housemade sides complemented the main affair perfectly. We tried their mac and cheese and while it’s a classic everywhere, here it had a unique twist which had us asking for seconds.

The brisket was another highlight, remarkably tender and packed with flavor, a testament to the culinary legacy of the Black family.

The service added to the experience; everyone was hospitable and offered suggestions that did not disappoint.

It felt like each bite we took was steeped in Texan barbecue tradition. Finishing our meal with a slice of their pecan pie was the perfect ending to our meat-fueled journey—a sweet touch to the smoky, savory flavors that dominated our plates.

Rating: 4.7 (17843 reviews)
Location: 1003 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Contact: (512) 394-5899
Website: Visit Website

2) Black’s Barbecue Austin

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When we visited Black’s Barbecue in Austin, we were welcomed by the tantalizing aroma of smoked meats that this place is famous for. Nestled near the UT campus, it’s an easy favorite for students and locals alike, especially with its down-to-earth vibe and outdoor seating.

Starting out in 2014, they’ve quickly made a name for themselves with the crowd from The Drag, serving up Texas-style BBQ that’s hard to resist.

Their culinary secret? Meats are cooked fresh in the traditional pits of Lockhart and delivered hot to the Austin spot every day.

We bit into the tender brisket and fall-off-the-bone ribs and knew instantly why this spot commands respect among barbecue enthusiasts. And let’s not forget the sides – the perfect complement to any barbecue feast.

The setting is casual with a wood-decked space that invites you to relax. Craft beers are on tap, offering a local taste that goes hand-in-hand with the barbecue.

It’s the kind of place you drop by for a hearty meal, and end up staying just because you don’t want the experience to end.

Rating: 4.5 (3462 reviews)
Location: 3110 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705
Contact: (512) 524-0801
Website: Visit Website

3) la Barbecue

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When we step into la Barbecue, we’re greeted by the smoky aroma of Central Texas barbecue. This spot is more than a restaurant; it embodies a rich history of barbecue traditions.

Each bite of their succulent brisket and house-made spicy sausage pays homage to the legendary craft of Bobby Mueller, an icon in Texas barbecue.

The ambiance at la Barbecue is authentic and down-to-earth. It’s a space where the focus is squarely on the food.

The brisket falls apart with a gentle tug, and the ribs are so large they nearly dwarf the plate. The savory rubs on their meats are a standout, showcasing a stellar blend of spices that bring out the natural flavors.

While the meats are the main draw, la Barbecue also serves up sides that are equally memorable. Their coleslaw breaks from tradition by shunning the sweet and opting for a more savory taste, providing a perfect counterbalance to the rich, hearty main dishes.

Don’t forget to grab some pickles on the side – they add the ideal crunch to round out the meal.

Rating: 4.5 (2918 reviews)
Location: 2401 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702
Contact: N/A
Website: Visit Website

4) Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

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Walking into Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, we’re greeted with a waft of slow-smoked meats that tells us we’re in for a real Texan treat. The lively atmosphere of this classic BBQ joint sets the stage for a memorable meal.

The tables are bustling with locals and visitors alike, all here to enjoy some authentic Texas barbecue.

As we take a seat at one of the picnic tables, it’s hard not to admire the no-frills, rustic charm of the place. It’s got that old-school barbecue vibe down to a T, from the open-pit where brisket, ribs, and the famous “Big Chop” are pulled out smoking hot, to the friendly staff who seem to know their regulars by name.

Our table overflows with heaping plates of brisket that’s been cooked to perfection, ribs that fall off the bone, and that Big Chop, which is nothing short of legendary. Pairing these with a selection of classic sides like coleslaw and beans makes the meal hearty and deeply satisfying.

Whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth, the experience is always consistently delicious.

Rating: 4.5 (5665 reviews)
Location: Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
Contact: (512) 474-4227
Website: Visit Website

5) Stiles Switch BBQ

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We stumbled upon Stiles Switch BBQ nestled in the Violet Crown shopping center and were immediately charmed by its old-school vibe. From the moment we walked in, the rich aroma of smoked meats was tantalizing, creating an authentic Texas barbecue ambiance that felt both welcoming and rustic.

The menu offerings had us struggling to decide, as every option seemed more delicious than the last. We settled on a combination of brisket and ribs, which did not disappoint.

Each bite was succulent and perfectly smoked, evidence of their commitment to quality and tradition. Pairing the meats with a local draft beer made the meal even more enjoyable.

The staff at Stiles Switch BBQ were friendly and knowledgeable, adding a personal touch to the dining experience. They were more than happy to share recommendations and insights into their cooking process, which made us feel right at home.

It’s the kind of place you would return to, not just for the food, but for the atmosphere and camaraderie as well.

Rating: 4.6 (4927 reviews)
Location: 6610 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78752
Contact: (512) 380-9199
Website: Visit Website

Why Austin is a BBQ Lover’s Paradise

In Austin, we celebrate a long tradition of barbecue that infuses every tender cut with history, and we embrace a variety of styles that make every bite a new discovery.

Rich Cultural Heritage

Austin’s barbecue is steeped in a rich cultural heritage that goes back generations. We take pride in pitmasters who have honed their craft over decades, often passing down secrets and techniques from one family member to another.

For example, places like Micklethwait Craft Meats showcase the dedication to traditional methods that we cherish deeply. The stories behind these smoky flavors are as captivating as the meals, from the legendary briskets to the iconic slow-cooked ribs that define our feasts.

  • Smokehouses: Emblems of our history
  • Meats: A variety of cuts honoring our past

Diverse Barbecue Styles

We’re not just about traditional Texas barbecue; we’ve got a diverse assortment of styles.

Whether it’s the perfectly smoked brisket at La Barbecue or the innovative sides that modern joints have introduced, there’s always something to surprise your taste buds in Austin.

  • Textures: Crispy, tender, juicy—it’s all here
  • Flavors: From spicy to sweet, every palate is known to us

Understanding Different BBQ Styles

In Texas, we take pride in our BBQ, showcasing unique flavors and techniques in every bite. Our styles vary from the slow-cooked brisket, which is a Texas signature, to the flavorful smoked sausages and mouthwatering ribs that are staples at any BBQ joint.

Texan Brisket

The heart of Texan BBQ is the brisket – a cut from the chest that requires patience and skill to perfect.

We coat our brisket with a simple yet robust rub, typically a blend of salt and black pepper.

Then, we slow-smoke it over oak wood for hours. This process creates a tender, juicy meat with a rich, smoky bark that’s just irresistible.

  • Rub Ingredients:
    • Salt
    • Black pepper
  • Wood for Smoking:
    • Oak

Smoked Sausage

Our smoked sausages are a true testament to Texas’ diverse culinary influences.

A mix of beef and pork, the sausage is seasoned with spices like paprika and garlic, then stuffed into casings. It’s then hung in smokers where it takes on a distinctive smoky flavor, along with a snap from the casing when you take a bite.

  • Common Sausage Fillings:
    • Beef
    • Pork
  • Seasonings:
    • Paprika
    • Garlic

Ribs

Nothing brings us Texans together like a plate of succulent ribs. Whether it’s pork or beef, ribs in Texas are often dry-rubbed with a spice mix and then smoked low and slow.

The meat becomes so tender, almost falling off the bone. Some prefer them with a glaze of BBQ sauce for an extra flavor kick.

  • Types of Ribs:
    • Pork
    • Beef
  • Cooking Method:
    • Dry-rubbed
    • Smoked

Finding the Perfect BBQ Sauce

Customers sampling BBQ sauces at 5 top restaurants in Austin, TX. Bottles lined up on a table, with people chatting and tasting

When we talk about BBQ sauce, it’s all about striking a balance between flavors that’ll complement our smoked meats.

Spicy Vs. Sweet

Spicy BBQ Sauce:

  • Heat Level: We can tweak it from mildly warm to tear-inducing hot.
  • Key Ingredients: Cayenne, jalapeños, or chipotle peppers.
  • Best with: It’s ideal for beef or pork that can stand up to the heat.

Sweet BBQ Sauce:

  • Sweetness Source: Honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup can add that rich, sugary touch.
  • Mellowing Agents: A bit of vinegar or mustard can balance the sweetness.
  • Pairs Well With: Chicken or ribs, where the sweet glaze caramelizes beautifully.

Regional Variations

Texas-Style Sauce:

  • Bold and Thick: Known for its deep, robust flavor with a hint of spice and sweetness.
  • Commonly Found: It’s a staple at Texas BBQ joints like Micklethwait Craft Meats.

Carolina-Style Sauce:

  • Vinegar-Based: Tart with a spicy kick, perfect for pulled pork.
  • Geography Matters: Eastern Carolina sauce is thinner and spicier, while Western style is thicker and sweeter.

Tips for Enjoying BBQ in Austin

We’re here to help you dive into the Austin BBQ scene like a local. From choosing the right meats to pairing them perfectly with sides, we’ve got some friendly advice that’ll make your BBQ experience unforgettable.

What to Order

When you’re standing in line at one of Austin’s famous BBQ joints, you might be overwhelmed by the mouth-watering options.

We all have our favorites, but here’s what you should be reaching for:

  • Brisket: It’s a must-try. Go for a slice of both fatty and lean to taste the full range of flavors.
  • Pork Ribs: Look for a nice bark (outside crust) and meat that’s tender but not falling off the bone.
  • Sausage: A true Texas BBQ staple. Ask for a juicy beef sausage or a speciality flavor if they have one.
  • Turkey: For a lighter option, smoked turkey is surprisingly delicious and should not be overlooked.

Remember, popular items can sell out fast, so consider going early to grab these delicacies.

Pairing BBQ with Sides

Balance is key when you’re pairing BBQ with sides. Think about textures and flavors that complement the smokiness of the meat:

  • Coleslaw: The crunch and acidity will cut through the fat of the rich meats.
  • Beans: A classic side, often cooked with BBQ trimmings for extra flavor.
  • Potato Salad: Creamy and cool, it’s a great counterpoint to spicy meats.

Here’s a handy way to pair:

BBQ MeatIdeal Side
BrisketColeslaw
Pork RibsBeans
SausagePotato Salad
TurkeyBeans