Austin’s BBQ scene is maybe the best in the country. But that greatness comes at a cost, and we’re not talking about Lipitor. No, we’re talking about the huge, snaking lines of people that regularly form in front of the city’s better ‘cue slingers. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to those wait times -- how to avoid them, when best to go, and how long you can expect to wait.
Average wait time: Four to six hours
Peak hours: Until sold out
Easier hours: Arrive around 5am
Much like a football tailgate, the line at Franklin is part of the experience. You get a lawn chair, some beers, and the ability to tell everyone else you’ve done it (although you probably won’t again). When I arrived at 7am on a recent Sunday morning, there were around 50 people already waiting. So, as you may imagine, there is no “easy” time for Franklin’s line, but if you don’t get in line before 8am, your chances of walking away with anything more than a story are slim. If you want to roll the dice, arriving around 1-2pm on a weekday can have no line, but little meat left other than sausage and chopped beef.
East Cesar Chavez
Average wait time: One to two hours (weekends); 30 minutes to an hour (weekdays)
Peak hours: Weekend mornings/afternoons
Easier hours: Weekday mornings
La Barbecue is the second-most famous BBQ joint in Austin, and with good reason. The meat is arguably better, and hasn’t yet reached the top spot as far as media hype (read: the president hasn’t eaten here... yet). The truck recently moved to a new location farther east on Cesar Chavez and weekday afternoons starting around 3pm may be your best time to find no line, if you’re willing to accept a limited menu (usually it still has brisket). According to the staff “Wednesdays are easiest.” If you want the full menu on weekends, arrive around 9am to be served around 11am.
Average wait time: 15-30 minutes
Peak hours: Weekend mornings
Easier hours: Weekday afternoons
“If you want the full menu, you need to be here before 1,” they told us. Typically people start lining up around 10:30am (opens at 11am) and Micklethwait starts to sell out of items around 1pm. After 1pm is your best shot at a short wait, but your options may be somewhat limited.
Average wait time: 15-30 minutes
Peak hours: Weekend afternoons
Easier hours: Late afternoons on Thursdays or Fridays
John Mueller makes some of the best BBQ in Austin. That is a known fact. A less-known fact is when exactly his food truck on East 6th St will be open. Inconsistent hours aside, the best time to swoop into JMMC is late afternoons on Thursday or Friday. You’ll miss the weekend rush and be able to enjoy what many feel is the best brisket in town.
Average wait time: Zero to 15 minutes
Peak hours: Lunchtime
Easier hours: Early morning (around 11am)
Scotty’s is located farthest east of all the locations on this list, in a brand-new food truck courtyard. For that reason, it is a bit of a hidden gem at the moment. Outside the midday lunch orders (it also accepts online), you usually won't have more than one to two people in front of you in line.
Average wait time: Five to 15 minutes
Peak hours: Saturdays, 3-8pm
Easier hours: Weekday, mid-afternoon (2-5pm)
Located right next to the convention center, Iron Works is one of the most convenient BBQ places for people Downtown. The BBQ won’t match many of the famous east side joints (Franklin, La Barbecue), but if Iron Works was located in any other state in the country, it would likely be the best in town. Short wait times and low risk of sell-out make this a good staple for those looking to get a quick BBQ fix.
Average wait time: 15-30 minutes
Peak hours: Weekend afternoons (2-6pm)
Easier hours: Weekday mid-afternoons (1-4pm)
The Salt Lick has three locations, but the best (and original) is located in Driftwood, about a 30-minute drive from Downtown Austin. This Salt Lick is located on a beautiful farm, with picnic tables surrounding the main building made of rock walls. Inside, you’ll get the most Instagrammable BBQ pit in all of Austin; open flames with a variety of meats atop, filling the place with smells as good as the BBQ that is to come.
Average wait time: 15 minutes
Peak hours: Saturday mornings
Easier hours: Weekdays after 3pm
According to the man himself, “Saturdays, you should be here right at 11am” if you want to ensure you’ll get served. As with most places, weekends see this food truck slammed with patrons after its brisket and cabbage. On weekdays, anytime after 3pm you’re likely to find no line.
Average wait time: 30 minutes to an hour
Peak hours: Weekends, until 5pm
Easier hours: Tuesday, all day; weekends after 6pm
Although Black’s now has a location in North Austin, the meat is still all cooked in Lockhart. Out there they’ve been serving up some of the state’s best BBQ since 1932. As you wait in line you’ll see all the famous Texans who have stopped by over the years. The trip will take you just over 30 minutes each way, but you’ll still be able to eat before some of Austin’s most popular (Franklin, La Barbecue).
1. Franklin Barbecue900 E 11th St, Austin
2. La Barbecue: Cuisine Texicana902 E Cesar Chavez in the Good Life Food Park, Austin
3. Micklethwait Craft Meats1309 Rosewood Ave, Austin
4. John Mueller Meat Co2500 E 6th St, Austin
5. Scotty's BBQ2700 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin
6. Iron Works BBQ100 Red River St, Austin
7. The Salt Lick18300 FM 1826, Driftwood
8. Brown's Bar-B-que1901 S Lamar Blvd, Austin
9. Black's BBQ3110 Guadalupe St, Austin
This lunch-only spot often sees long lines of customers waiting to order pulled pork, brisket and other smoked meats. Chef Aaron Franklin brought quality barbecue to Austin that was excellent enough to earn him the 2015 James Beard Award for "Best Chef: Southwest." His BBQ is so lauded that meat lovers from around the world regulalry make a pit stop at this shack-like locale in East Austin.
This is a no frills barbecue joint is known for their hand made sausage and mean slabs of meat. Behind La Barbecue's fire is veteran pitt boss (which is basically like the General of the BBQ world), John Lewis, who can also churn out whole briskets and racks of ribs to go if you're in a hurry. And did we mention the live music? Yes, every Saturday and Sunday, as it should be in the live music capital.
Smoking and barbecuing craft meats, Micklethwait has authentic, Texas country-style BBQ, including specialty homemade sausages that vary daily. This ramshackle, neighborhood spot serves up some of the best meat in the ATX (beef rib, brisket, pulled pork, chops 'n sausage, to name a few offerings), all of which you can enjoy at camp-style outdoor picnic tables with a cold beverage in hand.
Located behind Eastside dive Kellee's, long time fire-starter John Mueller serves some of the best barbecue in Texas at this trailer eatery. Grab some BBQ pork ribs or fatty brisket, and feast in blissed-out peace at the picnic tables under blue-and-white tent. While Mueller's meats get top marks, his menu's side dishes are not to be missed-- get munching on cheesy squash, sriracha coleslaw, and more.
This roadside shack in the East ATX offers finger licking good traditional smoked meats and ribs at an even better price. Stop in for traditional Texan barbecue platters (complete with white bread and pickles on the side, because duh, Texas), dope sides, and late night eats. Scotty's special Dr. Pepper sauce is rad way to take your BBQ experience to the next level with its smokey, sweet, and tangy flavor.
Operated out of a brick red, old style farmhouse, Iron Works serves traditional Texas BBQ with all the fixings-- plates include potato salad, beans, pickles, onions, bread and t a barbecue and hot sauce of your choice.
The Salt Lick has some policies that you're going to enjoy. First, you're going to throw down less than $20 for an all-you-can-eat meat fest of brisket, sausage, and ribs, plus classic sides like potato salad, beans, and slaw. Second, they're BYOB, so you can bring your favorite brews along with you, AND they even have you covered with a winery where you can stock up if you forgot to bring anything.
A1 since day one: Daniel Brown of Brown's Bar-B-Que learned how to smoke brisket following treasured family recipes passed down over the years, and he's brought them to this South Lamar establishment for your eating pleasure.
This OG, family style spot near the University of Texas campus offers traditional beef brisket, ribs, sausage, and all the works in a friendly, wood-paneled space. The space, which features its own outdoor patio and picnic table area, is a great spot to stop by for super savory smoked meats, brews, and tasty side plates. Also of note: Black's hosts a weekly Waffle Wednesday event where you can sample some of the best chicken and waffles in town.