Barbecue Throwdown: Black’s is the Absolute Best

On the subject of Austin barbecue, having written about the world-famous Franklin (“Is Austin’s Franklin Barbecue the Best in the World?“) and Lamberts (“The Best Barbecue Restaurant With Sit-down Service and Online Reservations“), it seems worth giving coverage to what I consider to be my favorite, most flavorful brisket… Black’s in Lockhart.

Black’s is probably the restaurant I’ve written about the most, more even than Elephant Jumps Thai in Merrifield, Virginia (if you find yourself anywhere near Northern Virginia… go!) or Lam Zhou Homemade Noodle in Manhattan’s Chinatown. (See here, here, and here.)

Now I should start by saying that Franklin is considered almost universally to be the best brisket around. And the best barbecue should be judged by the best brisket.

I would hazard a guess that if you asked the folks from Black’s, they would say that Franklin’s is at the top of the game.

But I would rather drive half an hour outside of Austin to Lockhart than stand in interminable lines at Franklin, because while the latter may have the most technically correct barbecue brisket around I do find Black’s to be better flavor.

Black’s gets busy at peak times but the lines aren’t usually long.

You get your sides first, and those are fine, I wouldn’t mind even skipping them because I’m really there for the meat. (And while many barbecue places have some great desserts, I would rather have the meat for dessert.)

This is what you go for.

The brisket is my favorite. I do think others have better sausage, but I’m a fan of the spicey ‘hatch chili sausage’ they do. And they are unique in offering a giant beef rib that’s both flavorful and tender.

Absolute perfection.

Somehow Franklin can do a moist brisket that’s still lean, while Black’s moist brisket does have plenty of fat. But fat is flavor. And each bit is heaven.

If you find yourself in Austin, and you haven’t been to Lockhart… go. And go straight to Black’s.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Conor

    I’ve been to Blacks in Lockhart and it is not even in the same ballpark as Oklahoma Joe’s. The burnt ends at Oklahoma Joe’s are hands down the best BBQ in the world. Black’s is way over priced as well. Oklahoma Joe’s Z-man is also amazing.

  2. But what about the ribs? And what about City Market in Luling? Barbecue should be judged on both brisket AND ribs.

    That said, I do love Black’s. Black’s and City Market are my personal favorites. City Market might rank a smidge higher, though. Franklin is good but I’m never waiting in that line again.

  3. @TS I’ve reviewed City Market in the past. Black’s has an amazing beef rib. The pork ribs are good but not the best out there.

  4. I live in Austin (but haven’t been to Franklin’s) and travel the state constantly by car to visit various customers . . . I’ve been to Lambert’s, Blacks, and Kreuz’s frequently, and while I won’t go out on a limb and say Black’s is BEST (there are times when Black’s is better or Kreuz’s when Kreuz’s is better), I would say Black’s is the most consistent.

    Also, and maybe some others from Austin would agree, but there is a place – Donn’s BBQ near the 290/71 West intersection – is pretty damn good, as well. They just opened a new place on I-35 South as you head out from downtown. Would be a quick trip from the airport from Riverside if you on your way or going to the AUS airport.

    And your correct about Black’s Hatch Chile Sausage – excellent, but only available seasonally – the Jalapeno/Cheddar sausage is great, too, but a little on the rich side.

    Frankly, the best beef ribs are at the Salt Lick in Driftwood . .

  5. @Erndog Kreuz has gone really down hill, I do not remember the last time I got decent brisket there. Love the rub, but the ‘moist’ brisket is always overcooked and dry. Still good by world standards, but not even close to Black’s.

  6. Gary, Kent Black’s nephews, who worked at the Lockhart place for years, have opened Terry Black’s Barbecue in Austin. Have been yet, but is getting good reviews.

    I live half way between Donn’s (different tribe than the one on 35) and Salt Lick, and I wouldn’t eat at either. Gary – you know the best in town – Franklin, John Mueller, La. Haven’t tried Micklethwait’s, but it is getting raves. If you order the moist, Rudy’s brisket is pretty good, but the only thing in the place worth eating.

    One thing Texas barbecue doesn’t lack is opinions!

  7. Of course everybody knows that a place can’t be the best barbecue in the US unless their specialties are pulled pork and ribs! 🙂

  8. @Autolycus if by “everybody knows” you mean “everybody is mistaken” then you would be 100% correct!

  9. Franklin, John Mueller, and La Barbecue have all put out amazing meat. The great thing is how good even barbecue that ISN’T the best in town is. I sure with there was anything even close to it in DC (Hill Country doesn’t count).

  10. @Gary, Having grown up in Alabama, lived in Georgia for 17 years now, and having traveled extensively through TN, MS, AL, GA, SC, and NC, I can unabashedly say that pork bbq is my favorite, and I enjoy almost every variation there is–except Low Country… not a fan of mustard.

    That said, I have had some good–although not top shelf brisket like what’s served in the TX Hill Country–and I enjoy it quite a bit as well. One thing I’m sure we can agree on though is that the northern version of “barbecue” which really amounts to burgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken is not actually worthy of that name.

  11. Oh, and I appreciate the reports you continue to give. One of these days I’m going to make it back to Austin and get out to some of these places. Only place I’ve made it to in Austin was Iron Works and that was as a teenager.

  12. Oh I think we can definitely agree on that whole ‘northern barbecue’ thing.. And I’m very much a northerner.

  13. Gary, You hit the nail on the head. Blacks has the best beef rib I have ever eaten. Their other meats are also good, but the beef rib… oh my goodness!

    I go to Austin for the F1 race every year, all two of them so far 🙂 and we always drive to Lockhart for BBQ. As busy as every restaurant in Austin is on race weekend (which has also overlapped with UT home games), Blacks has never had a long line either.

  14. Ok , we know best BBQ. What about WORST?
    When I was an auditor many years ago we went to a restauant in a small Texas town where the forks were nailed to the table by a string. You had to clean off the previous diner’s usage

  15. Pictures usually don’t do BBQ justice. I love good BBQ and I am sure it was great, but the pictures aren’aking me crave BBQ like your sushi and thai food pictures made me hungry.

  16. Went there today on your recommendation. Very happy with the brisket and agree the sausage wasn’t the best.

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