Best Barbecue to Try in Austin During SXSW - IMBOLDN
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In town for SXSW? You’ve probably heard about the barbecue hype in Austin. To many people’s dismay, we googled “long wait” and Austin restaurants came up on the first page of search results. We know your time is precious, especially during a week-long stay, so we visited some of the most famous barbecue places in Austin to find out where you can get the best smoked meat experience.

Franklin Barbecue

OK, you’ve all heard about the long wait and the hype. Franklin opens at 11AM but the line starts before 8AM, and the meat sells out around 3PM. Every. Day. Is it that good? Yes, every cut of meat is top notch, and the brisket melts in your mouth — it’s almost a religious experience. But the people waiting in line even when the preorder option is available (they say it’s “part of the experience”) indicates that a big part of the fun is the hype. All in all, I do feel that there is a strong basis for this hype, and I believe Franklin is the only one that stands the “Microwave Test” — everything tasted just as good when reheated in a microwave the next day.

Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Location: 900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702
Hours: Tues-Sun, 11AM-3PM

la Barbecue

If you’re put off by the idea of waiting in line for hours for a lunch, there are other equally great BBQ spots nearby, namely la Barbecue. The wait is absolutely manageable compared to its neighbor Franklin, even on a weekend afternoon. Almost as famous as Franklin, and possibly better depending on who you ask, la Barbecue is without a doubt the best choice if you just want to visit once and be done with it. The meat is moist without being too soft and fatty, and the chipotle themed slaw and sausage have a spicy tang that is downright addictive. It was a shame that the ginormous beef ribs (which seem to be the most popular) were sold out right in front of me, but I can at least personally vouch for the brisket.

Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Location: 2027 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78704
Hours: Wed-Sun, 11AM-6PM


The classiest classic barbecue if there ever was one. Freedmen’s is also a cocktail bar, and they take reservations. The accessibility and the consistent quality of the meats make Freedmen’s one of my all-time favorite barbecue places in Austin. If you don’t know what to get, order the Holy Trinity Plate, which includes a little bit of brisket, pork ribs, and sausage, served with house-made pickles and focaccia bread.

Verdict: 4 / 5
Location: 2402 San Gabriel St, Austin, TX 78705
Hours: Tues-Sun, 11AM-10PM (11AM-12AM on Thurs, Fri, Sat)

Terry Black’s BBQ

Good if you prefer some added flavors to your meats. For us, there was an even split on Terry Black’s, as some of us didn’t prefer the saucy meats and the heavy seasoning. The brisket and pork ribs, while definitely solid, didn’t take me by surprise like those at Franklin and la Barbecue did. There are other good things about Terry Black’s, like the fact that there is no wait, the side choices are plentiful, seating is abundant both inside and outside, the outdoor view of the Austin downtown skyline is excellent, and they’re open on Mondays when all other barbecue places are closed — so if you’re craving some barbecue on a Monday, you know where to go.

Verdict: 3 / 5
Location: 1003 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Hours: Mon-Sun, 11AM-9PM

Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew

Finally, a barbecue joint in Austin where you don’t have you worry about the downtown traffic. Located in north Austin, Stiles Switch offers daily specials that change every week. Excellent brisket and beef ribs, but I would still rate them a notch below Franklin and la Barbecue. But hey, no waiting in traffic and no waiting in line? Count me in. Make sure to try the beef ribs, which is the “Cadillac of the menu.”

Verdict: 3.5 / 5
Location: 6610 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78757
Hours: Tues-Sun, 11AM-9PM (11AM-10PM on Fri, Sat)