HOME > Chowhound > Austin >


Damn the luck - only time for one BBQ spot. Which one?!

My wife and I are travelling through the area and we're trying to figure out what BBQ spot is going to be lucky enough to get our hard-earned money. We're coming from one BBQ Mecca (Kansas City) and visiting yours ... so, we want to make sure we get your best shot.

Salt Lick?

Being from KC, I understand that BBQ is possibly the most subjective, divisive subject one can ask a group of people. We've got 5 or 6 places in KC that can make a legitimate claim on the #1 spot, and I know how had it would be to pick one (let alone recommend just one).

But time constraints are limiting us to one, so here's my question:

If you had to pick one spot that is the most consistent, most representative of Texas BBQ, which one would it be?

Thanks in advance for all your opinions on this!!!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. e) none of the above

    You need to hit Franklin, LA BBQ or John Mueller...

    1 Reply
    1. re: SlickTheCat

      Franklin, if you really have the time.

    2. Franklin is an uncomfortable crapshoot. If you have a lot of BBQ experience go to LA BBQ or Mueller Meat Co. If you aren't up for outdoor dinning and like good sides and beer go to Stiles Switch. Of the Lockhart three go to Smitty's. Only one worth. I'd also add to go early since most of these places don't have new product coming out throughout the day. You come late you are getting stuff cooked maybe 12 hours ago.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Rptrane

        How anyone could call Franklin, the most consistent quality BBQ I've ever experienced, a "crapshoot" is completely beyond me. Everything about the place is outrageously certain; here are six things that you're assured to experience if you go to Franklin in the next week or two:

        1. You will need to get there around 7 AM if you want to eat around 11:15 AM. This number keeps inching earlier and earlier.

        2. It will deliver insanely great brisket. Only a few places can do better, and then, only sometimes. Franklin's average is meaningfully higher than any other place I've ever been to.

        3. It will be a giant pain in the arse.

        4. Aaron will probably be there; in fact, he'll probably slice your brisket himself. I've been there more than a dozen times, and only once was he not there, and only 2-3 times did he not work behind the counter.

        5. It will be absurdly expensive, especially given the emotional costs already paid for having waited so long.

        6. It will nearly ruin you on many other barbecue spots that you've long visited. You'll begin to notice that their best efforts are as good as what you had at Franklin, but that your old faves are annoyingly erratic in the quality of their finished product. It'll start to eat at you... It used to be so easy to justify a trip to Lockhart, Luling, Llano; now, just get up early and get in line and your assured an experience as-good-or-better, and without the ding from the rising price of gas.

        1. re: tom in austin

          Gas prices are flat, so unless you want to stand in line for four hours in the heat, drive to Luling and Lockhart. I like City Market in Luling first, then Smitty's. I've only been to Bryant's in KC, and both of these places destroy it in my prejudiced opinion. The burnt ends at Bryant's seemed leftover, the fries good, but the brisket was barely average, and I can't get past that electric slicer. No fries down here, by the way. Having said all this, Franklin's is probably the best, and I've never been there. City Market is always consistent, Smitty's more hit and miss.

          1. re: James Cristinian

            James ... I'm so, so sorry your only taste of KC BBQ was Arthur Bryant's burnt ends. I could name 10 better places to get burnt ends with 15 miles of there. That's a shame.

          2. re: tom in austin

            Crapshoot was in reference to whether or not you are actually going to get food. Someone on a short timetable probably doesn't have 5 hours to wait in 107 degree weather for brisket. I don't find their brisket worth the trouble frankly. There's brisket about as good and I can walk in with my money and walk out with it. No BS lines.

            1. re: Rptrane

              I was there last week and I'm not going to hurry back. If you read Mike Sutter's blog Fed Man Walking, I'm not the only one who's spotted trouble at Franklin's. The meat last week was unflavorful, dry and grey; no smoke ring to speak of. I've been to Franklin's numerous times. I have no idea what's going on there, but the meat is nothing like it used to be. Not even close.

              I'd go to La Bbq.

          3. re: Rptrane

            As far as Lockhart places, Smitty's is currently the bottom of the heap. It's a great experience, but the food quality has really fallen off since they lost their pit master earlier this year. Do a google search and you can read about the whole thing, maybe starting with Texas Monthly's blog about why they dropped Smitty's from their top 50 list.
            I agree that their is no need to leave Austin, but of the big 3 in Lockhart, my pick would be Black's.

          4. I agree with all the suggestions for Franklins. I used to live in Lockhart and never ever found a wow BBQ dinner. Never. I also got pricing shock last time I went to Kreuz's about a year ago.

            Been to the Salt Lick for about 4 wedding rehearsal dinners and never knew why they were so great except for the venue itself. It was just okay Q and sides.

            For the time you would spend driving to Lockhart or Luling you could be having fun in the line at Franklins. Read the cool trip report here called Labor Day Report and see the nice things they had to say about Franklin's. Good luck and welcome to Austin.

            1. I too love Franklin but I usually lack some combination of the luxury and patience to wait in that well deserved 3-4 hr line. Aaron's brisket is supreme, and I side with Tom, damn consistent. I have been to Franklin's dozens of times from his early days running the trailer and evolution to brick and mortar. Hell, Aaron served me my first smoked Texas brisket when he was cutting his teeth on Manor under John's tutelage.

              So it is with all due respect that I find myself very pleased with the short lines at close seconds of in town BBQ experiences at La BBQ (the beef rib, brisket, sausage, turkey, free cold ass lone star from a keg as you wait / eat), John Mueller's (beef rib, brisket), with a close third to Stiles Switch's beef rib. Yes, Franklin's can measurably best these offerings according to most, but these three well compete with the old standards in Lockhart. That said, the ambiance of Black's and especially the massive brick smoker and fire going at Smitty's is part of the great experiences they can offer. If you go to Black's, their moist brisket "can" be amazing if you get there early. Smitty's can be good too, but I prefer their prime rib.

              1. Franklin is the most consistent. I've had better at black's but on average franklin is superior. I agree that blacks is the place to go in lockhart. I've only had La BBQ a few times but its been really good both times.

                1. I am not even a BBQ person and I know Salt Lick is pretty low on the list

                  I can not taste the difference between Franklins and John Mueller and Rudy's so dont take my advice.. except that Franklins is somesort of pilgramage approaching burningman status that may bring you somesort of narvina.

                  1. If you want to stay in Austin and have great BBQ, try Freedman's. Peppery crust with super moist brisket. Great pork ribs and sausage. We had 2 guests in from CA and took them there for lunch between dove hunts and they were blown away.

                    The bartender there was very chatty and kind. Beer is cold, bar is small but cool. The German potato salad is good and the smoked coleslaw is...different.

                    1. Thought I would give you all an update. My wife and I were actually staying in San Antonio and spent last Saturday at Schlitterbahn. After we left the park, we had time for one very short road trip for BBQ. We ended up picking Black's in Lockhart.

                      Being from Kansas City (and loving my burnt ends) I had them carve me off three slices from the fatty end which is where KC joints make the burnt ends from. My wife had two slices from the lean end flat.

                      Here's my objective review in as few as words as possible: Texans know how to cook brisket.

                      Now, you can get some top-notch brisket in KC, but most places carve it up thin, and one thing I enjoyed about Black's was how thick it was cut. We got served giant thick-cut slices that featured a deep smoke ring, a toe-curling bark that was super intense, and extremely moist and juicy brisket throughout. It needed no sauce (even though I really enjoyed the sauce that was provided). The sides were good as well - nothing to write home about - but tasty.

                      All in all, I was very impressed with the brisket that Black's served up. Every bit as good (dare I say better) than what we have here in KC. KC is good at many things as we have a great balance of awesome brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, and sauce. But I like that Texas BBQ has focused on one meat and quite simply perfected it.

                      I tip my hat to Black's and Texas BBQ!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mrjayhok

                        Our guests from CA asked what the cut of meat was, since I guess they couldn't remember that we had just ordered brisket. They were just as impressed as you were. Glad you had a good experience.

                        1. re: mrjayhok

                          You did it right. Black's when it's on (read before 11:30 a.m.) is among the top few best fatty ends in the state / country. Franklin's and others in town get deserved hype, but Black's has been kicking ass for decades. New can be great, but old isn't always deserved of the relative disdain it gets here. Go Black's Mrjayhok! That's as real deal as it gets. I love Black's.

                        2. There isn't much in the way of BBQ where I am from, but I will be in Austin in a few months and want to have some great BBQ.

                          I was looking at Lambert's, as the menu sounded good, but there seem to be any naysayers. Can anyone offer an alternative to there with great BBQ that would be easy to get to from downtown (no vehicle), no crazy lines, and that we would be very likely to get some food before it sold out? I would hate to come all the way to Texas only to go to a BBQ joint and miss out on the food.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: aasg

                            LA BBQ is your best bet; a bit of a hike (or a very, very short cab ride), but worth it. http://labarbecue.com/

                            1. re: aasg

                              I hold strong on Freedman's BBQ. It's in West Campus, not a far cab ride from downtown and worth your time. No line, no sell out, good atmosphere, price is right, BBQ is delicious.

                              1. re: aasg

                                I say go to John Mueller Meat Co., it's on the corner of 6th & Pedernales on the east side of 6th street (across the interstate). John's BBQ is phenomenal.

                                If you go on a Saturday or Sunday, there is a band, beer, & bloody marys. He opens at 10:30 and the line moves pretty fast.

                                Make sure you get the brisket, beef rib, & side of squash. Bring some beer with you or grab a can of sweet tea & enjoy the atmosphere.

                                Seriously, go, eat & have fun!

                                1. re: aasg

                                  any of these suggestions (and stiles switch) are better than lamberts. lamberts does a few things pretty well but bbq isn't one of them.