There is a moment. A moment when you’re utterly certain you’re trying what could possibly be the best version of your favorite food group. A moment you take in as you stare down at a heaping brontosaurus beef rib sitting on a tray.
You know you couldn’t possibly balance the tray with one hand, for fear you might spill your prize, as everyone who has been standing in line for over an hour looks on.
La Barbecue has been smoking meat in Austin for over two years in two different locations. They are ready to make the move once again, having been successfully courted by the GoodLife Food Park on Cesar Chavez at I-35.
As the old saying goes, you shouldn’t discuss politics or religion over the dinner table. Here in Texas, you can add football and barbecue to that mix.
Just about everybody has an opinion on what the best BBQ joints are. Our pitmasters have become local celebrities, as food writers from around the country have shone the spotlight on Central Texas. Does Franklin’s really have the best brisket? Who has the bigger beef rib, John Mueller Meat Co. or La Barbecue? Has John Mueller really been able to keep a place open for longer than a year? These are questions that are often overheard and feverishly debated as you stand in line waiting for your turn, salivating over smoking pits.
A Genuine Austin Experience
These days, you are just as apt to run across a tourist waiting in line for La Barbecue as you are a local. As Austin’s tourism numbers continue to go up, it’s safe to say our BBQ scene plays a central role in the typical Austin vacation.
Our BBQ joints have been featured in foodie publications and TV shows for more than a year now, but they’ve recently crossed over to mainstream media. This past March during Jimmy Kimmel’s SXSW residency at the Long Center, he regularly talked up our BBQ culture and even featured a segment with the 4 of the more popular BBQ trailers (Franklin’s, La Barbecue, Mueller, and Micklethwaits).
Waiting in line for some of Austin’s best BBQ has become commonplace now – part of the experience. Have an hour for your lunch break? Forget it. Even if you’re taking your food to go, there won’t be enough time to score some La Barbecue. Though by the time you do make it to the front of the line, you’re typically rewarded with a small cut of succulent brisket delivered by Pitmaster Extraordinaire John Lewis himself, as he waits to take your order.
Despite working inside a small trailer, crammed in with 4-5 other people in 95+ degree weather, John displays genuine Texas hospitality as he chats up each of his customers. He’s always gracious and patient, as he knows most of his customers have been waiting under the hot sun for 1-2 hours and have often traveled from other parts of the country for this very moment.
That brontosaurus beef rib you see pictured above? That’s not a bone you see there. Those are handles. Ordering the beef rib at La Barbecue shouldn’t be taken lightly. This is serious BBQ.
You have to know going in that a single beef short rib will run you at least $30+. Unless you have taken the rest of the afternoon off and are prepared for a food coma, your typical La Barbecue meal will extend into leftovers worth another 1-2 meals. You don’t wait in line this long for a quarter pound of brisket with a side.
So how does the brisket taste? It’s a close second in my book to what Aaron Franklin is dishing out. That easily puts it in the top 5 in the United States. But it should come as no surprise, as John Lewis once worked under Franklin and has adopted a similar style.
The lean brisket is melt-in-your-mouth good, with the perfect smoky exterior and just the right amount of red in the center. You know it’s a good brisket if it jiggles when you place it on the cutting board.
The world class beef isn’t the only reason to visit La Barbecue. They also serve up some of the best pork ribs and pulled pork in Austin, and the smoked turkey is always a good option if you want something a bit leaner.
Unlike Franklin’s, John Lewis makes his sausage in-house and adds a bit of spicy kick to each link. If you’re not too hungry, but still feel like trying a little bit of everything, go for the El Sancho sandwich and make it loco, which adds pulled pork, housemade sausage, and chopped brisket. Complement your meat with one of La Barbecue’s sides: cole slaw, pinto beans, or potato salad.
As La Barbecue only gets more popular, the lines will inevitably get longer. The move to GoodLife Food Park will give them the option to add a third pit, which we hope to see sooner rather than later.
We are amidst a BBQ renaissance, with some of the best pitmasters in the world competing right here in Austin, Texas. Who has the best BBQ in Austin? Who cares. We’re all winners in this competition.
La Barbecue can currently be devoured Wed-Sun from 11 AM until they are sold out, at their East 6th and Waller location until August 3rd. On August 6, 2014, they will be making the move to GoodLife Food Park on Cesar Chavez at I-35.
Have you tried La Barbecue yet? How does it compare to your other favorites in Austin?