Once back in Austin, you’re probably in desperate need of a nap. Perhaps a sodium moratorium. Fair enough, but how often are you in Austin? It’s vacation, right? Diets and rules are on hiatus. So, splash some cold water on your face, give yourself a pep talk in the bathroom mirror, and grab the proverbial bull by the horns. Translation: Get back out there for more smoky, salty meats.
Believe it or not, Austin has barbecue treasures of its own. It’s not just 360 degrees of chicken-fried steak, chips and queso, and funky food trucks. Particularly with the arrival of several excellent joints during the past couple of years, Austin is increasingly becoming a barbecue destination rather than simply a city of departure for Texas barbecue in surrounding towns. With dozens of barbecue places in town, it’s hard to pick among them; but I have a few in central Austin you’ll want to check out.
Since opening in late 2009 as a tiny trailer on an interstate frontage road, Franklin Barbecue has become arguably the most-in-demand barbecue in the entire state. With dozens-deep lines forming an hour before the door opens (earlier on weekends), Franklin is now a brick-and-mortar spot in downtown Austin. Its Meyer all-natural Angus brisket receives more fanfare than any other barbecue menu item in Texas. And with a new cookbook coming out in April and a new TV show coming soon to PBS, owner Aaron Franklin shows no signs of slowing down, much to the delight of Austinites and tourists far and wide.
If standing in long lines outside and smelling like smoke aren’t your cups of tea, I’ve got just the fix: Lamberts Downtown Barbecue (LDB). Located next to Austin City Hall, LDB is an upscale barbecue creation of famed Texas chef Lou Lambert. With a lineup of fantastic barbecue sauces to complement its smoky brisket and succulent pulled pork, and one of the best happy hour scenes in town, Lamberts is a surefire bet before you leave our fair city.
When the day is done, mosey down South Congress Avenue for some music at the Continental Club, grab an ice cream next door at Austin-favorite Amy’s Ice Creams, and then hang your hat for the night across the street at Hotel San Jose, the boutique hotel of Liz Lambert. (Yes, that Lambert. Sister of Lou’s.) After opening its doors in 1939, it meandered its way—became a brothel (allegedly), a Bible school (man, I love the juxtapositioning of that), and then a haven for “drug users, pimps and prostitutes”—to reopening as a boutique hotel in the late ’90s. Austin. Keep it weird.
By Drew Thornley/ Photography by Kimberly Finkel Davis