The best barbecue is bus your own tray. That’s almost a universal across barbecue styles, and true for my favorite (Central Texas).
There’s one exception that I’ve found, though, and so it’s one for the repertoire. Lamberts in downtown Austin.
You can reserve it on Opentable. It’ s an actual sit-down restaurant with table service. It’s a full bar, they’ve got live music. In other words, it’s a real restaurant with local character where the food served just happens to be really top notch barbecue.
The meat isn’t up to par with Franklin or Black’s, but it’s a Texas Monthly top 100 spot, so this is regarded as real good barbecue. It’s also derided as ‘fancy’ barbecue because of the service that some would consider extraneous, and because of the prices (you’re paying sit down restaurant prices, and fancy cocktail prices).
I mentioned this place briefly back in September and I’ve been back.
The mac and cheese here is good enough that I had an idea I wanted two orders for my sides. That was a mistake, and I didn’t touch the second order, it’s just too rich. But it’s made with real, high quality cheese. A little less down home than other barbecue joints, but again it has its place — higher quality ingredients that are supported by the higher price point.
As I say, it has a real niche. They open for lunch and dinner and late in the evenings there’s other entertainment, people go here for reasons other than the barbecue and they have other things on the menu too. But this is a barbecue joint. I think their brisket is better than Kreuz or Smitty’s out in Lockhart. They keep the barbecue going so it works for dinner, and you don’t have to leave town or stand in line to get it.
And they even have tasty desserts (which I suppose help compensate for relatively modest portions of meat).
From a previous visit, here’s the fried pie which is out of this world good.