SXSW: 4 Barbecue Meccas to Visit in Austin

Franklin's Barbecue
Franklin's Barbecue
 Courtesy of Franklin Barbecue

Barbecue is everywhere in Austin. It greets you from a Salt Lick storefront (Chef Bobby Flay's a fan) in the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and, when the wind is just right, the seductive aroma of smoking meat tends to waft its way from the Iron Works Barbecue (Jay Leno's favorite) into the Convention Center next door. Film and music fans swarming downtown Austin during the South by Southwest Interactive, Film, and Music Conference through March 16 will only be a short distance from Austin's newly hallowed hood of artisan barbecue. Just east of downtown across Interstate Highway 35, four of Austin's top smoked meat operations are situated within a few miles of each other. When people talk about seeing these places on a segment of Jimmy Kimmel Live, now you, too, can have bragging rights.

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Standing in line for Franklin's Barbecue (900 E. 11th St.) -- which makes a cameo in Jon Favreau's Chef -- is the new right of passage for any serious Texas barbecue aficionado. Everyone from celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Nobu Matsuhisa to Jimmy Kimmel and his sidekick Guillermo have dropped by to check out the legendary brisket prepared by Austin's official rock star pit master, Aaron Franklin. Rent a seat from the chair concession guy or send the chauffer; the brisket is worth it.

From there, head east to Micklethwait Craft Meats (1309 Rosewood Ave.) and chow down on Tom Micklethwait's award-winning beef ribs, eclectic homemade sausages and killer sides. Everything here, including the bread, is made from scratch and worth the trip. Next, head southeast to the J. Mueller Meat Co. (2500 E. Sixth) in the backyard behind Kelly's Place, where the irascible, third generation barbecue cook serves up the brisket and beef ribs that have made his family Central Texas smoked meat royalty. Then, head west on Sixth until you see the abandoned Uptown Sports Bar with La Barbecue Cuisine Texicana (1200 E. Sixth) tucked in right behind. This is where pitmaster John Lewis turns out unctuous brisket, beef ribs and his own handmade sausages from a pit he designed himself.

Native Texan Virginia B. Wood has been writing about Texas food for 25 years, much of that time as food editor of the alt-weekly Austin Chronicle.

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