Editor’s Note: Freedmen’s is closing Aug. 31, 2018, at its West Campus location.
These winter months provide an ideal opportunity to savor mouth-watering BBQ and enjoy a warming cocktail or two. Freedmen’s Bar over in West Campus allows you to do just that in a cozy atmosphere that has aged like a fine wine or a hard cheese – well. The bar sits in a historic landmark that was built by former slave George Franklin nearly 150 years ago. Over the years, the building has housed everything from a church to a grocery store.
When Cuatro’s owner Cuatro Kowalski saw the space, he envisioned a place where you could drink fine whiskey and eat smoked meat with both your friends and your ancestors. He renovated the building with some modern touches and imported an antique bar from Brownsville, all while maintaining the classic elegance and charm that a century and a half naturally provides.
DO NOT skip the brisket. They offer some of the best in town, incredibly moist and tender. The hickory practically dances around inside your mouth while you chew. I’d seriously recommend their Holy Trinity Plate. It’s seventeen bucks, but it’s possible to split between two people and it provides a decent helping of the three main food groups: brisket, pork ribs, and sausage.
You don’t want to skimp on the sides while you’re here, either. Their Smoked Beets are incredible, with herbed cheese and a balsamic glaze. The Grilled Cabbage Slaw with honey will flat out make you want to sing. For dessert, they offer a smoked banana pudding and a salted and smoked chocolate mousse. Yes.
Be sure to check out their Whiskey Wall while you’re there. One of the things they pride themselves on is their unique selection. They offer a variety of craft cocktails, which seem to be catching on throughout the city these days. I simply ordered an old fashioned and it was solid – standard, by the book, the way I like it and the way it should be.
Happy Hour is a big hit at Freedmen’s. From 4-7 PM Tuesday-Friday, they offer $2 Lone Star, $3 Whiskey of the Month, $3 Tacos and Tamales and $2 off wine and wells. During my visit, the Whiskey of the Month was Tullamore Dew, which you could also get for $3 any time of day during All-Day Whiskey Wednesdays.
If it happens to be nice outside, check out Freedmen’s beer garden out back and join the community seating for one of the most delicious picnics you’ve ever been to. Knowing their Austin clientele, they wisely made the beer garden and patio dog-friendly.
Last thing I’ll mention is brunch. I haven’t been, but I hear it’s wonderful. With dishes like the Barbecue Benedict and the Barbeque Breakfast Sandwich, why wouldn’t it be? I’m sure I’ll be making the trip soon to find out about it myself.
Have you been to Freedmen’s? Tell me about your experience in a comment below.