There is nothing secret about Austin barbecue anymore. We’ve covered it extensively here at The Austinot, while state and national media outlets have also taken notice over the last couple of years. Barbecue has deep roots in the Central Texas area, contributing to Austin’s reputation as a growing tourist destination. So where does that leave us locals when we want to get our brisket fix?
Standing in line.
Franklin’s is the most notorious culprit, with 3-4 hour lines on a weekday not uncommon. But even a few of the other highly regarded barbecue trailers around town have you queuing up for hours at a time. Sure, there are other great barbecue joints around town that are open all day within the safe confines of an air conditioned building. But sometimes you get a hankering for a piece of greatness that can only come from the pit of a James Beard awarded pitmaster.
And for that, you have to wait. But maybe not as long if I have anything to do with it. With a little planning ahead of time and this handy guide, you can have some of the city’s best barbecue with minimal wait times. Keep reading for the best times to score some of the best barbecue in Austin, the Smoked Brisket Capital of the World.
There is no avoiding the wait at Franklins, so let’s just get that out of the way. There are tall tales of a random Tuesday in December 2013 when you might have been able to walk up with no wait, but you’re chasing a unicorn here. The best way to score Franklin Barbecue without the wait is to order ahead. There are two ways:
- Preorder for the following month – At precisely 9 AM on the first Monday of each month, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for “hot and sliced orders over 5 pounds.” The orders will be for the FOLLOWING month, so you’ll be ordering 4-8 weeks in advance.
- Order a chilled and vacuum sealed whole brisket – These are 5-6 lb wholly cooked briskets that range from $120-140 each. They can be reheated using a sous vide method or in a traditional oven. Preorders are taken at email@example.com and brisket can be picked up anytime from 9 AM-1 PM with no wait in line.
These aren’t the ideal options for a spontaneous craving. But if you have a big office luncheon or a party to plan for, there’s no better way to get Franklin BBQ.
The barbecue trailer by pitmaster extraordinaire John Lewis boasts the second longest lines in town, but this ain’t no second rate brisket. Lines at La Barbecue during the weekend can easily stretch over two hours but La Barbecue tries to ease some of that pain with free Lonestar beer and live music.
According to Alison Clem, GM of La Barbecue, the slowest days with the shortest lines are Wednesday and Thursday. On those two days, La Barbecue typically has barbecue available until later in the day. Alison does a great job of updating followers on social media whenever they haven’t sold out, so keep tabs on their Facebook page for spontaneous barbecue goodness.
La Barbecue will also take preorders via email that you can pick up from Wednesday-Sunday. By emailing ahead, you can walk up and skip the line as your barbecue is cut hot and fresh.
Micklethwaits Craft Meat
For Tom Micklethwait, the finest purveyor of custom handmade sausages this side of the Mississippi, the lines tend to be easier to manage, especially during the week. You can typically find little to no wait Tuesday-Friday from 11-11:45 AM, which comes in handy when you’re craving one of their 2- or 3-meat lunch size portions.
Micklethwaits offers preorders via email as well (see a trend here?). Your order can be picked up between 10:30-11 AM or 3-4 PM with no wait in line, offering the only late lunch pick up hours on this list. Beef ribs are the only exception–they can only be ordered via the walk-up window.
Keep tabs on their Facebook page to see when they offer their “cabrito,” or smoked goat. It’s one of the best in town.
John Mueller Meat Company
The Dark Prince of Barbecue is still slinging some of the best beef ribs in town at his trailer on East 6th Street. The lines here can be a bit more accessible, but you can still expect a wait on weekends. When I asked John Mueller about the best times to score his ‘cue with minimal wait, he shared this:
@Crafty_Ed Tuesday and Wednesday
— John Mueller Meat (@JSM_meat) August 3, 2015
No word on pre-orders, but John does open up shop at 10:30 AM, a full 30 minutes before his competition.
Next time you’re waiting two hours in the hot Texas sun next to a group of yankees that read about Austin BBQ in the New York Times, just remember that there is another way. And that way, strangely enough, is as simple as emailing ahead the day before.
@Crafty_Ed wants to know:
What is your favorite place to score Austin barbecue with minimal wait?