1. Austin, TX
Yes, of course everyone knows Franklin. Franklin, Franklin, Franklin. It’s like the Marcia meme of the Austin BBQ world. And yes, of course, it’s amazing, but herein lies one of the best and most compelling arguments about the quality of Austin’s BBQ scene: most of the places in the city with no line are still better than any other cities’ bests.
As of now, la Barbecue usually has at least a 45-minute wait, but tasting that brisket alongside an El Sancho Loco has people whispering about it making a run at the throne. John Mueller is still the dark prince of the scene, and the sausage at the Micklethwait trailer change daily, but if you get the jalapeño cheddar, well, order eleventy more. The Lockhart scene is edging its way into Austin as well, with two different Black’s-related outposts. But Austin pitmasters aren’t afraid to experiment either, especially on the sides, as evidenced by Mueller’s cheesy baked squash or the blue cheese coleslaw at Kerlin. And we haven’t even said anything about Texas Monthly’s BBQ Fest. Point being, line or no line, there’s not a city in the country doing more in both creative and classic styles than Austin, and that’s why we picked it as number one. Plan accordingly.
Major players: Franklin Barbecue, la Barbecue, John Mueller Meat Co., Micklethwait Craft Meat, Freedmen’s
Kevin Alexander is the executive Food/Drink editor and wants to denote that, despite being born in Texas, he was totally objective. Follow him to geographical defensiveness @KAlexander03.
Liz Childers is the associate Food/Drink editor, is Alabama-bred, and could out-eat Kevin in BBQ any day, as he primarily grew up in Boston. Follow her to more pulled pork @lizchilders1.