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Jul 5, 2011 05:52 AM

Live Oak Barbecue in East Austin

I can't find any discussion of Live Oak barbecue on the board so I thought I'd share my recent experience.

Straight to the food: we had brisket, sausage and pork ribs. The ribs were our favorite as they were tender and smokey and all around good--not sure I've had a better pork rib inside city limits. The brisket was tender and smokey but was lacking that transcendent quality that elevates Franklin and others into saintly grounds. I enjoyed the sausage more than others in our party. It was lightly packed with a solid spice mix. Note the links are bigger than the typical Elgin style. One is enough for 2-3 people.

They had sauce in a cup that reminded me of Cooper's thin, vinegar tang but overall we found it pretty lacking. They offer throwback Big Red and other real sugar based drinks, plus they have an assortment of beers. We sampled their beans and they were true borracho style as we could taste the yeasty flavor of beer in them.

Overall, I'd give it a B in my rating with the ribs getting to the A- range. Below Franklin but better than most other cue in the city.

As for intangibles, this is barbecue that you can go to and eat and leave in 30 minutes unlike Franklin. We arrived at noon on Saturday and there was no crowd. In fact, given their hours (open until midnight), I'm not positive this is a daytime barbecue place. Has anyone been at time when they are consistently crowded? I saw on twitter they day we went they had some specials (homemade Chorizo and short ribs) that weren't ready until 1pm. Perhaps their best cue comes off the pit at 7 or 8pm? That's worth further investigation.

If you've been, please sure your thoughts--I know heyzeus212 has been since we was part of our group...

Live Oak Barbecue
2713 E 2nd St, Austin, TX 78702

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  1. Hi again Carter. I was the guy sitting to your left when we ate at Live Oak.

    I'll just add a few thoughts since Carter already captured the important stuff:

    -The ambiance of the place is: dark, windowless, cement floored, random assortment of odds and ends furniture. The picnic tables out back looked inviting, but it was approximately 145 degrees at lunch time, so we had to dine inside. Someone had an mp3 player going that was playing lots of Cure, Smiths, and other classic alt-rock, which was great.

    -I found the brisket to be too dry and coarse in texture for my liking, but I'm an addict for fatty brisket.

    -The ribs really were spectacular - moist, heavily seasoned, and delicious. Several people remarked that they were a bit on the salty side, but that's no problem.

    -The white bread was stale. Que horror!

    -Live Oak is far more reasonably priced than Franklin and the Lockhart palaces. A party of five ate to our heart's content, and had a few sides and real-sugar bottled sodas, and I think the total came out to $55. That was refreshing after seeing the prices creep upwards at other places.

    1. I went there a couple of months ago on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It was rather empty inside, but there was a small group of people horsing around, shooting the dart gun at the cow image outside. I liked the secluded location and ample parking. We sat on the patio and were swarmed with flies. I don't think it was quite 145 degrees at the time, but close enough.

      We ordered brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. I also got some potato salad, coleslaw and bread.
      I've haven't had Franklin, yet, so I can't compare, but I can say that the brisket at Live Oak was not dry, had a good smoke ring, and was sliced nice and thick. It was probably 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. A lot of other places slice it so thin that it practically dries out on the way to the table. The pork rib was not good. I remember it being seasoned with cumin and red pepper. They said it didn't get much color, but in actuality it just needed more time. The meet clung to the bone too much for my taste and was a bit pale for BBQ. The sausage was sliced for us and was okay -course ground, but I don't recall if it was house made or any other characteristics. I suspect that sauce is made from the cooking process. It has the same flavors as the ribs with a layer of red grease floating on top. It helped the ribs go down, but I generally prefer a sauce with a bit more body to it. The potato salad was great, mayo based and lots of egg. I love eggs in my potato salad. The slaw was a bit bland, but fresh, simple, and most importantly - not soupy.

      What i found weird about the process is that they didn't put the food on a tray and I didn't see any that I could grab myself. I don't want to sound like a princess or anything, but everything was on individual sheets of butcher paper and paper trays. There were way too many things to carry/spill. The guy was nice and helped me out, but I felt bad taking him away from the serving/cashier station.

      They were out of pork shoulder, which I hear they slice instead of shred. I will get this next time.

      I think they are a great alternative for BBQ in the city. I will be back again, but in the cooler months and hopefully when they have trays.

      2 Replies
      1. re: topodrinko

        Thanks topodrinko, sounds like your experience was a bit different than ours. I definitely hope you get a pork rib next time and that it'll be as good as the ones we had.

        Also, for our party of 5 they put the meat on butcher paper and added it to a "tray" made from a cardboard box--which is nicer than the setup at Kreuz or Smitty's. However they didn't give us any extra butcher paper so we had to go back and ask.

        1. re: topodrinko

          I went to Live Oak a couple weeks ago. I also found the brisket to be very dry and over-smoked - I was tasting the smoke for the next 24 hours. I did enjoy the sausage, but was not a fan of the "sauce". We had the same experience with no tray - their whole ordering and serving process is extremely awkward to say the least.

          Additionally, one of the staff kept opening the smoker - the interior ventilation is extremely poor and my clothes and hair soaked in the smoke flavor that I couldn't shake the rest of the day.

        2. I ate there for lunch a couple of weeks ago:

          Ribs- flat out bad. Extremely dry and almost no meat on the bone.

          Brisket- a little dry and slightly tough but overall pretty good. would eat again.

          Sausage- excellent. It reminds me of Luling City Market sausage in its
          consistency, not quite as much flavor though. This was definitely the standout of the meats I tried.

          Potato Salad- very heavy on the boiled eggs and mayo, little bit of celery in there as well. It was kind of like eating egg salad with potato thrown in.

          The 2 guys working there could not have been less friendly. It seemed to pain them to get food for me, and you would have thought I insulted them when I asked for pickles, onions, and bread. I also found the lack of trays to be inconvenient. Also, I ordered tea and they had no ice available.

          Overall not the best experience but I'll give them another shot.

          City Market
          633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

          6 Replies
          1. re: Madcap

            Hey y'all, I've been twice. It's decent barbecue but have they addressed the glaring errors in the setup?

            1] No saltine crackers. Huge omission

            2] No pickles and onions. They do have a syrupy sweet cucumber/onion concoction but this is Texas. We want sour pickles and cold sliced 1015s with our barbecue.

            Have they righted the ship on these two fronts?

            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              They did have pickles and onions, no crackers though.

            2. re: Madcap

              Sounds like Live Oak has a consistency issue especially with the pork ribs. Ours were perfectly cooked, almost completely fall off the bone and well seasoned. If you go again, give them a shot. As for the sausage, I'm with you, I like it. ScrumptiousChef on his blog said it was commercial--if what I had was commercial I'd like to know the company and recommend them to other joints in town that aren't making their sausage.

              The trays issue seems to have been fixed though I'm not sure that it matters for small orders. Kreuz and Smitty's are trayless to no apparent dismay.

              1. re: Carter B.

                Went on Thursday for lunch, loved the pork steak. A friend got the brisket, seemed to enjoy it. Neither of us were over the top about the sauce. I thought this was good and we were in and out fairly quickly.

                1. re: Carter B.

                  Yo Carter B.: Texas Sausage Co.......2915 E 12th St . Franklin's uses them also. Retail and wholesale.

                  1. re: Carter B.

                    Gave them a 2nd shot on Wednesday with much better results. The brisket was tender and moist, slightly lacking on the smoke flavor. Sausage was as described previously. They were out of ribs so they gave me some pork steak on the house, which I loved. The coleslaw, however, was not to my liking. The service was much better than last time, they even offered pickles, onions, and bread.

                2. Doesn't look like I'm adding anything too new to the board, but the more opinions that are given, the easier it is to get an actual view of a place.

                  Went on Friday at noon and got brisket, sausage, and chicken with a side of slaw. The brisket was solid. Smokey flavor, a bit of fat at the top. Better than a fair amount of places in town, but, all things equal (#200hipsterswaitingin105degreeheat), I prefer the brisket I've had at Franklin's and Mann's -- I like my brisket real fatty. The "problem" could be that the cut was the back brisket as opposed to the front brisket, a/k/a the shoulder, which I understand tends to be fattier. The sausage was excellent - really some of the best I've had. It was not finely ground, not very greasy, and very tasty. The chicken was also very good. It was moist and the skin was well seasoned. No ribs or pork b/c the ppl I was with had them on a recent trip and said the pork was so-so and the ribs were plain bad. The slaw didn't have much flavor. It was essentially cabbage with some vinegar. The place has a good selection of beers and sodas. The setting is just right.

                  And the place is reasonably priced - $44 for 3 people's food with beers. I put this at the end and separate it out b/c I feel it is notable. I feel like the price of BBQ has gotten a little bit unreasonable at some places around. I've got no problem paying for quality, but it's nice to have some tasty BBQ at a centralish location that doesn't leave your wallet empty.

                  1. A friend and I went to Live Oak last week and had pork steak, fatty and lean brisket, pork ribs and sausage. We rated the cue as a "B" as well, with the Sausage and Meat rub as their A game, the pork steak a solid A-, the ribs a decent pretty tender and flavorful B, and the brisket as an average C. The wait is an easy A compared to Franklin's sort of ridiculous (if not endearing somehow) 60-90 minutes. The cue easily beats green mesquite and its cousins around town. I haven 't had Franklin's sausage since his early trailer days (the gizzardy stuff) and I hear it's changed, but this is good sausage. Glad to hear it's available commercially.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: slowcoooked

                      I've gone there several times and the food is pretty good. Their chicken was by far the best thing to me and was really awesomely delicious. Their pork steak is something you dont get very often around here, and was very tasty. Sausage is good. Brisket was kinda meh. I mean it is better than most of what in town Austin has to offer, but not quite what I was hoping for. I didn't really care for their sides, but that is ok, MOAR MEET. They do some weekend specials and they get pretty creative with them.

                      It is definitely worth trying