The “Texas Barbecue Trail” loops from just northeast and southeast of Austin, where German and Czech settlers brought unique meat-smoking techniques to the area in the 19th century. Over time, Central Texas evolved its own style of BBQ, and Austin purveyors have taken the concepts to specialized—and undeniably delicious—places.
It all begins with a short drive from Austin into Texas Hill Country.
The Salt Lick
The Salt Lick’s recipes date back to 1867, and if you ask around, you’ll find that their reputation for outstanding barbecue seems almost as entrenched. Owner Scott Roberts builds on the traditions of his great grandparents, who perfected their BBQ along their journey to Texas. Simply stated, this is a Hill Country institution. The way to order here is the family-style, all-you-can-eat menu, which includes tender beef brisket, succulent sausage, smoky pork ribs, potato salad, cole slaw and beans. The sides are tasty—particularly the mayo-free slaw—but we recommend focusing on the main courses.
There are a few rules at Kreuz Market, an unabashed traditionalist establishment: no barbecue sauce, no forks, and no salads. This is an eat-with-your-hands kind of place, and the smoked meats are so good that you’ll be happy to oblige. The restaurant originated as a meat market in 1900 by Charles Kreuz. Today, the big red barn maintains his grilling techniques, most popular side items, and no-sauce rule. We recommend trying the ribs and the smoked jalapeno-cheddar sausage.
The downside? You probably need to get in line at 10:30 a.m. to guarantee you’ll get to order before the line runs out the door. The good side: it’s worth it; Bon Appetit declared this just may be the best barbecue restaurant in the United States. In fact, most major newspapers and cooking shows have made a point to get in line in the last few years. Franklin Barbecue is only open for lunch until they sell out of brisket—which has happened every day of their existence.
Purists may disagree, due to the popularity of Stubb’s as a tourist/music venue, but if you want to begin a night of great music with some tasty BBQ, you’re in luck. And really, why not combine two of Austin’s most popular draws—live music and ‘cue—at one convenient location? Artists such as Willie Nelson, Wilco, The Black Crowes, and hot new bands during South by Southwest play at the excellent outdoor venue. As for food, the smoked chicken and sausage plates are excellent.