Austin is synonymous with World Class BBQ and the well-known establishments have lines no matter the month or day of the week. So one disadvantage of being in Austin during SXSW is that all of the BBQ hot spots are even busier than usual. Weeks in advance of arriving in Austin I made several reservations for places on my list knowing that I’d deal with the inevitable crowds that come with the influx of visitors in town for the festival. We arrived Friday morning and I knew that this would probably be our only day with more than an hour between sessions, so after dropping off luggage at our hotels we made a bee line for La Barbeque. We’d been warned that the weekend waits can be up to two hours, right up there with Franklin BBQ for the longest lines ever to get your meat fix. La Barbeque is pretty close to the convention center where a majority of the SXSW sessions were held, just past the highway underpass and offers free beer while you wait!
Upon arriving we weren’t sure if we were in the right place, La Barbeque is not your standard restaurant but more of a picnic area surrounded by trailers filled with massive smokers and a smallish shack where you order the food. Once we saw the long line and smelled the food we knew that we’d arrived at our destination.
Locals and SXSW attendees alike waited in a line that took a little over an hour to order, but with a local musician playing in the background and plenty of Texas sunshine the wait really wasn’t so bad. When we got to the front we were rewarded by samples of brisket that I can imagine turns any grumpy line-goer into a puddle of drool. In the end we decided on sharing a tray full of brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork and sides of potato salad and chipotle slaw.
*Please note that I’m writing this post more than a week after experiencing La Barbeque and recapping my experience has started the drooling process all over again.
The brisket was the most amazing piece of beef I’ve ever tasted; I can only describe it as the cotton candy of meats, it literally melted in your mouth. I could tell that so much time and care had been taken into smoking this cut low and slow to nurture it into the food that appeared on my tray.
The pork ribs had a robust layer of crusty bark that sat on top of a thin layer of fat that melted into the bulk of the beef causing it to fall off the bone as soon as it was touched by the fork. Up until this point I can honestly say I hadn’t found better ribs than my Dad grilled at home for my family, but these were better. Sorry Dad!
The pulled pork was also a heap of smoky goodness, perfect little meaty strands that when combined with the homemade BBQ sauce, pickled onions and soft white bread made one of the best pulled pork sandwiches you could ask for.
And last but not least, the two sides were far by the best potato salad and coleslaw I’ve ever had. And I’m not making those claims lightly, as I’ve had some pretty good slaw in my day. The potato salad was just mayonnaise(y) enough and had a little bit of a bitterness from some grainy mustard and parsley for some greenery. The chipotle slaw was creamy, tangy and the chipotle seasoning added the perfect kick to this crunchy side dish.
There’s something to be said about enjoying barbeque under an open sky and in the presence of BBQ smokers the size of locomotives. La Barbeque will certainly hold the number one barbeque place in my mind for years to come, and I’m sure that I’ll never be able to enjoy brisket the same way again.