Heading to SXSW from NYC? Like any good New Yorker, you’re probably wondering (with perhaps an above-average sense of urgency) where to eat—specifically, where to find the best Austin BBQ.
Luckily, one food-obsessed New Yorker has the answers you seek.
Jonny Adler, a creator of culinary itineraries, former food editor, and our restaurant curator here at STADIUM, doesn’t just know food. He knows food EVERYWHERE. From Manhattan to Madrid, he’s done a deep dive on restaurants in just about every major city on the planet.
Including Austin. He traveled there with the sole purpose of checking out the BBQ scene—in a way that only Jonny can. He ate at 15 BBQ restaurants in 5 days and took notes (in a spreadsheet, no less) on everything from the fattiness of the brisket to the wait times.
Now Jonny’s opening up his personal spreadsheet just for his fellow SXSW-bound New Yorkers, to save you from the rabbit hole that is online restaurant research.
So pack your bags, put on your stretch pants, and let Jonny be your Austin BBQ (and more) guide.
Best BBQ in Austin: Franklin Barbecue
900 E. 11th St., Austin
Go here. Get there early. You’ll be so happy you did.
You’ve probably heard of Franklin’s before, maybe you’ve even heard some lies that it’s overrated. But it’s truly not. You’ll wait in line for hours, but when those doors open, it’s like they’re opening the gates to the kingdom of heaven.
The brisket is what’s up here. It’s shimmering, glistening. There’s no weird thing to it: Salt, pepper, smoke. That’s it. The pork ribs are some of the best you’ll ever have in your entire life. You’re also gonna want to get the sausage, but don’t sleep on the turkey. The turkey is perfectly smoked, juicy, just outrageously good. So if you’re only gonna go to one Austin BBQ restaurant, go here. It’s so worth it.
- They open at 11 a.m. So you might be thinking to yourself, oh, cool, I’ll go at 11 then. Well, they pretty much sell out around 7 a.m. And during South by Southwest, maybe even earlier. Get there between 6 and 7 a.m.
- What do you do while waiting? Imagine it like a tailgate, but without food. Bring some drinks, some games, and get to know people.
- If they ask if you want fatty or lean brisket, go fatty all the way.
Best BBQ in Austin (Runner-Up): La Barbecue
2027 E. Cesar Chavez St., Austin
There are two camps for my favorite BBQ joint in Austin. Some people are Franklin people. The others are La Barbecue people. They’re both incredible.
This is another restaurant that has a pretty insane wait, and they’re only open Wednesday through Sunday. So plan accordingly. On Saturdays and Sundays, they have live music as well as free Lonestar beer to keep you hydrated while you wait.
Best BBQ Food Truck in Austin: Micklethwait Craft Meats
1309 Rosewood Ave., Austin
If you want to try something really different, head to Micklethwait Craft Meats. It’s a mobile trailer with a few picnic tables in front. They’re open Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. till 6 p.m.
except for Sunday, when they close at 3 p.m. The owner is super nice.
The sausage is incredible. The sides are awesome—the beans, mac and cheese, cream corn. But the real star is their beef: it’s a brontosaurus beef rib, Fred Flintstone style. Order one up and see if you can tackle it.
Most Fun BBQ Joint in Austin: Stiles Switch
6610 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin
While the BBQ here is delicious, it’s the other elements that make it worth the visit. The side dishes are out of control, from the “hawg rub” fries to the spicy cajun slaw. The old-school interior is really fun and the staff are that Texas kind of friendly. The craft beer is cold. What more could you ask for?
Best BBQ Road Trip: Kreuz Market
619 N. Colorado St., Lockhart, TX
Have a car and some time to kill? Head to Kreuz Market in Lockhart, about 35-40 minutes from downtown Austin. This is old-school BBQ (and more affordable, too). Is it the best BBQ you’ll have in your life? Well, it depends. It’s better than any you’ll have in New York. The tradition is just so strong in the region. Plus the town is a great throwback too, so it’s worth the short drive if you can swing it.
Best Non-BBQ Restaurants in Austin
If you’ve gotten your brisket fix and are ready to move on, I’ve got you covered on all fronts. Austin’s food scene has exploded in recent years and some places even live up to the discerning standards of New Yorkers.
Best Tacos in Austin: Torchy’s Tacos
Austin is a Tex-Mex capital, so you can’t leave SXSW without eating a few tacos. The best part is, you can get them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner here. For a top-notch taco, go to any one of the Torchy’s Tacos 10+ locations. Just because they’re all around doesn’t mean they’re a crappy chain or something. No, it’s incredible, really fresh food, made with responsibly sourced ingredients.
Best Sushi in Austin: Uchi
801 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin
Uchi is one of my favorite sushi restaurants in the country. Definitely make reservations for this one in advance, and sit at the sushi bar if you can. I’d suggest getting the tasting menu. Order the foie gras nigiri…it’s life-changing. If you’re into sea urchin, I’ve even asked them to put the urchin on top of the foie gras because there’s no such thing as too much decadence. This place is just outrageously good.
Best Pizza in Austin: The Backspace
507 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin
The Backspace serves up all Italian wine, seasonal selections of Italian antipasti, and Neapolitan-style pizza. It’s known for its light, homemade crust and fresh ingredients. They also have half-price deals during happy hour, so that’s a great time to stop by and chase your beverages with some fresh pizza.
Best Dessert in Austin: Amy’s Ice Cream
801 S. Lamar Blvd.
Ready for dessert? Amy’s Ice Cream is an Austin institution you won’t want to miss. They’ve been around since 1984. And it’s funny because when you go in there, you’ll say, “this looks a lot like Cold Stone.” Don’t actually say that though, they get so upset (allegedly Cold Stone copied them). They mix all the ingredients together on a refrigerated brick. The quality of the ingredients is really good and the staff is super friendly, like imagine a Phish concert in Vermont. Very nice.
There you have it—my hand-picked BBQ + more list for SXSW-bound New Yorkers. Catch some music, stay cool, and enjoy every bite, my friends.
For more of Jonny’s restaurant recommendations on your return to NYC, order your next group lunch from STADIUM or follow @yourglobalfoodie on Instagram.