Black’s Barbecue Opens Up in Austin, How Does it Rate in the Smoked Meat Mecca of the World?

My favorite barbecue – anywhere – is Black’s in Lockhart, Texas.

I believe barbecue is all about the meat, and that meat is brisket. Sauce shouldn’t be necessary, it just hides the taste of good barbecue.

I’ve had Franklin Barbecue in Austin and it is amazing. Technically perfect, even. But I find Black’s brisket more flavorful.

Austin-area barbecue has to be the most densely competitive enclave in the world, and that makes nearly all of it excellent. ‘Bad’ barbecue for the region is still ‘good’ in some objective sense, or at least relative to what you’ll find in most places.

I was excited to try the new Terry Black’s in Austin, only just opened.

This isn’t Black’s. This is Terry Black’s. And the subtle distinction underscores a huge family dispute. The two members of the family that opened up on Barton Springs in Austin worked in the business in Lockhart, but did this on their own. Their uncle Kent Black drew up a cease and desist order over their planned use of the Black’s name, and so they changed it to name the new location for their father Terry Black.

Kent Black is supposed to open his own Austin location on Guadalupe later this summer, and also offer a food truck. Their plan is to bring in the meat from Lockhart, while Terry Black’s cooks on-site.

I ordered brisket, pork spare ribs, and sausage (to share). They had disposable plates and most people were using those. They do have butcher paper, however.

There’s paper towels and sauce at the tables, get your own drinks once you order a cup and bring over plastic utensils such as to cut the ends off of a sausage.

The brisket was, on the whole, fairly dry. It was good, the bark was nearly perfect, but it wasn’t nearly as good as Black’s in Lockhart. Just not moist enough, unless you ate only the fattiest pieces.

The sausage just wasn’t juicy. I tried the jalapeno cheese sausage. It was extra large, but lacking in flavor.

The pork spare ribs, though, were sensational. Some of the best I’ve tried. They were sweet, falling off the bone, seasoned perfectly.

Unfortunately, Black’s in Lockhart is known for their beef rib (in addition to brisket of course), but while the beef rib was on the menu in Austin it wasn’t available when I was there.

Bottom-line is this was good barbecue, but it wasn’t great barbecue. I don’t think Franklin is worth the 3 hour wait, so this place fills a niche for bus-your-own-tray barbecue in Austin-proper (no need to drive out to Lockhart). But overall I would rate Lambert’s downtown as better. And the ‘real’ Black’s in Lockhart as better still.


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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Next time you’re in town, give me a shout and we’ll head over to Freedmen’s near the UT campus. Definitely on par with the Blacks and Stiles Switches of the world and a lovely wall o’ whiskey to wash it down.

  2. Tried it. It sucks compared to what you get at Lockhart, franklins or other BBQ around here.

  3. Lived in Austin for a while. If you really want to have your BBQ world rocked, drive out to Coopers Old Fashioned BBQ in LLano, Texas. Better than Blacks. Will blow your f-ing mind.

  4. Did you specifically ask for moist brisket? I’ve been a couple of times, and I’ve found that you’ll get the leaner cuts if you don’t. While I agree that it’s not as good as Franklin or LA Barbeque (or several other places in town), I think the brisket is a lot better than you described, perhaps because I’ve always specified moist.

  5. I disagree. I ate here with my friends and it was awesome! If you didn’t like your cut of meat you should have said so, they will gladly switch it out like they did with my friend. Also they have only been open a month so I also took that into consideration. Blacks in Lockhart(you should know this is you read into BBQ which I hope you would as you write these posts) uses cookers in Lockhart to cook their meat half the time. Meanwhile Terry Black’s does not. It’s a lot more work and a lot less room for error. I like this place. been there 3 times now on our way to Barton Springs and it was all great. and all my friends agree. We will be back.

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