It’s 11 a.m. in Austin, Texas and you can almost hear the collective sound of BBQ pits across the city creaking open. This is BBQ Rush Hour.
Most BBQ aficionados are still waiting in line, tempted by the aroma of smoked brisket and brontosaurus beef ribs. But if you’re at Micklethwait Craft Meats, there’s a good chance you walked right up to give your order.
Opened in 2012, Micklethwait Craft Meats is a BBQ trailer on E 11th Street about half a mile from the current BBQ gold standard, Franklin’s. I always get a kick out of watching people wait in line for hours as I make my way to Micklethwait.
If there isn’t usually much of a line, you may wonder whether Micklethwait deserves attention. It does. Micklethwait has some of the best pork ribs in town, but it doesn’t have the hype associated with some of the other BBQ joints in town that have received national press coverage.
Instead, you get a consistent, methodical approach from Tom Micklethwait (an actual original Austinite) who quit his day job as a pastry chef at Vespaio and bought a 1960’s era Comet trailer to take on his new project.
So what is it that sets Micklethwait Craft Meats apart from the other BBQ joints in town? For starters, Tom decided to make virtually everything he serves in-house and fresh daily, even the bread. You also get the option of ordering a proper BBQ plate: up to 3 different meats and 2 sides, just like your local church fundraiser.
Did I mention they actually offer dinner service as well? Most days they are open until 8 PM, or until they sell out.
One of my favorite things about BBQ in Texas is the tradition associated with it. Everyone has a specific way of eating it and you better believe they won’t be afraid to share their opinion.
Case in point: do you bother with sides when you order BBQ at the top trailers around town? Some say its a waste of space, others tell me you need something to balance out the smoked meat. Well, if you go to Micklethwait, I hope you are part of the second camp because these are the best gourmet sides in the game. The mainstays are potato salad, cole slaw, beans and jalapeno cheese grits.
Showing a deep commitment to his craft, Tom even opts to make his beans from scratch by the sack and not from a can. But the standout for me has always been the jalapeno cheese grits, the perfect complement to smoked brisket.
The term “hipster barbecue” has been coined in Austin to refer to BBQ joints on the east side that serve out of a trailer (just don’t say it in front of John Mueller). If you run your place out of a trailer that’s more than 50 years old and have “Craft Meats” as part of your business name, you better believe the term applies.
But no matter what you call it, Tom Micklethwait knows how to smoke meat. The brisket is lean and juicy, with perfect smoke rings around the outside. I’d rank Tom’s brisket as third best in the city, right behind Franklin’s and La Barbecue.
If you were to ask Tom though, the real star is the sausage. This is where he gets to be creative because there isn’t a straightforward recipe he follows with each of his sausages.
Even better, he offers much more than your typical kielbasa or jalapeno cheddar varieties. On any given day, you are just as likely to see lamb or duck sausage. Personally, I’m waiting for the day I see the pork belly andouille back on the menu.
Suggested First Plate
If you’re going to try Micklethwait Craft Meats for the first time, this is my recommendation:
3 Meat Plate
Sausage of the Day
Jalapeno Cheese Grits
The bottom line here is that Micklethwait is one of the most affordable and accessible BBQ trailers in Austin. Tom Micklethwait’s thoughtful and considerate approach to everything he serves from his trailer is noticeable in the quality of his meats and the variety of his sausage.
The food trailer also offers one of the best BBQ catering menus in town, with Smoked Turkey just in time for Thanksgiving.
@Crafty_Ed wants to know:
What is your favorite BBQ trailer in Austin?