Only The Best: Top Eleven Central Texas Barbecue Restaurants For SXSW Visitors: Mueller’s, Taylor Cafe, Black’s, Chisholm Trail, Kreuz, Smitty’s, Waelder Grocery, City Market, Cooper’s and Laird’s

Austin Texas is famed across the globe for having the best barbecue in the state of Texas.

Unfortunately, this fame has been achieved by our lassoing the smoked meat glory of nearby local communities like Taylor, Lockhart, Waelder, Luling and Llano.

In these cities dwell the true giants of Texas barbecue: Taylor has Taylor Cafe, Vencil Mare’s joint that’s dealt bohunk sausage from under the overpass and down by the railroad tracks for better than a half century. Of even more renown is Louie Mueller’s converted high school gymnasium cum barbecue shrine where people fly in from all over the globe to eat brisket crusted with black pepper and wash it down with Lone Star beer.

Down in Lockhart the competition is even fiercer with four smokehouses vying for diner’s meat money: Black’s is not likely to be threatened for supremacy any time soon as they still put out the finest brisket I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant but Smitty’s, Chisholm Trail and even down-on-their-luck Kreuz market have their acolytes with Kreuz’ following being the most mystifying.

Waelder only has one option but it’s a good one. Waelder Grocery and Barbecue was Eureste’s til a couple years ago. Eureste’s was one of the iconic, underground barbecue joints that smoked at the level of the legends without the acclaim. Waelder Grocery is carrying on in that fine tradition and an afternoon spent in their tiny dining cave with the sun breaking in the western windows and cocks crowing off in a distant yard is a fine Texas barbecue experience. {ed note: Waelder Grocery has closed and been replaced with a new bbq joint called Baldera’s {}

City Market down in Luling is world class, especially when it comes to ribs. They paint them with a gloss dripping with umami and also put out some sausage that literally bursts with fat and flavor. I love walking in their smoke room where the butchers all wear hard hats and lab coat jackets.

Llano is a two trick pony with Coopers doing the old cowboy-style barbecue cooked directly over hot coals. Their one/two pound pork chops put them on the map and with good reason. They’re the star of the show. If you’re lucky and get there early you can get some quail and cabrito sourced from nearby McCullough county.

Kenneth Laird is a former employee of Coopers who struck out on his own to open Laird’s and show Llano that his time spent as an understudy was a practice run as he shows real mastery, particularly of brisket.

I could list another good twenty or so joints well worth the hour or so it would take to get to them but the list has to be cut somewhere. The one I really hate to leave off is Zimmerhanzel’s down in Smithville, now that I’ve said my piece I’ll leave it at that.

Welcome to Austin y’all.

Thankfully the red hot branding irons and poisonous frogs that typically pour from the sky this time of year only take a break during SXSW so bear that in mind if you’re thinking of moving here.

Taylor Cafe
101 North Main Street
Taylor, Texas

Louie Mueller Barbecue
206 W. Second Street

Black’s Barbecue
215 North Main Street
Lockhart, Texas

Smitty’s Market
208 South Commerce Street
Lockhart, Texas

Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que
1323 South Colorado Street
Lockhart, Texas

Kreuz Market Inc.
619 North Colorado Street
Lockhart, Texas

Waelder Grocery and BBQ
419 W US Highway 90
Waelder, Texas

City Market
633 East Davis Street
Luling, Texas

Cooper’s Bar-B-Que
604 West Young Street
Llano, Texas

Laird’s Barbeque
1600 Ford Street
Llano, Texas

Zimmerhanzel’s Bar-B-Que
307 Royston St
Smithville, Texas

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
This entry was posted in Rural Texas, Texas Barbecue. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Only The Best: Top Eleven Central Texas Barbecue Restaurants For SXSW Visitors: Mueller’s, Taylor Cafe, Black’s, Chisholm Trail, Kreuz, Smitty’s, Waelder Grocery, City Market, Cooper’s and Laird’s

  1. RL Reeves Jr says:


    Looks like Sietsema’s at it again. Don’t agree with a lot of his choices but he’s trying.

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