The Best Barbecue Restaurant With Sit Down Service and Online Reservations

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.

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. If you have the time on your next Austin visit (or San Antonio) drive further into the Hill Country to try Buzzies BBQ in Kerrville. This place won State Champion on TV’s BBQ Pitmasters and is considered one of the state’s best spots. It’s about a 90 minute drive from Austin through beautiful scenery and unique towns such as Johnson City and Fredricksburg.

  2. Glad you liked Lambert’s. Think you have its place in the firmament about right, by the real standard of Texas barbecue, brisket. Ahead of the Lockhart trio, behind Franklin, John Mueller, and La. We love to go there for happy hour at the bar before a concert at the ACL Live theater across the street. Meal sized portions, with reduced prices for food and drinks.

  3. I love most all texas brisket – except for dry lean portions – that’s barely edible even with a lot if sauce. I know this is a travel blog – but I love hearing about texas bbq – keep up the good work Gary!

  4. We actually looked at putting Lamberts on the Austin Mega Do itinerary because the food is pretty good and the space they have upstairs is great for a large group, but it was extremely cost prohibitive. Definitely a solid alternative in the 2nd Street District, though.

  5. Lambert’s happy hour is a great value and the happy hour drinks are a good deal, as well. Doesn’t seem you tried the boar ribs – those are really, really good – mini spare ribs type things, on the regular menu and the happy hour menu as well.

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