When Dallas gets to be just a little too Dallas-y, Dallasites jump in their cars and go. Whether it's for one night, a long weekend or a decade, a stay in Austin is soul-replenishing. It's just the place to get the heart started again when we have socially or emotionally flatlined.
On your next field trip down south, you'll undoubtedly get hungry, so consider the following: (1) No, Austin did not ban barbecue, and (2) Franklin Barbecue, which rightfully dominates Austin's (and Texas' for that matter) barbecue conversations, is not the only game in town, so (3) you should try La Barbecue.
La Barbecue's street/truck-served craft barbecue is becoming the rule, not the exception, when debating the best barbecue in Texas. Franklin himself started off serving from a trailer and fashioned his brick and mortar location in the likeness of the sky blue clunker (and, lo, he saw that it was good). Always a popular pick for state barbecue runner-up (and Dallas' finest barbecue), Pecan Lodge and its resident meat-genius Justin Fourton were slingin' hot meats from the friendly confines of the Farmers Market before they settled down in Deep Ellum. Heim Craft Barbecue is trying to travel along the same curve over in Fort Worth, too.
Pitmaster John Lewis was actually picked off from Franklin's staff early on in the operation, so go into the gated yard that houses La Barbecue — along with a Mexican food trailer and one serving dulces (Mexican desserts) — with gusto, knowing your barbecue pants are about to be knocked off.
Sometimes the best know they're the best before they have enough capital to go brick and mortar, but lack of funds can't stop barbecue or the good word from reaching the smoke-crazed masses in Texas' larger metro areas. La Barbecue is no exception.
What you get at La Barbecue is at once beautifully simple and envelope-pushing. The salt-and-pepper rub on the brisket ($20/lb) and pork ribs ($17.98/lb) leaves the headline-making to the post oak smoked protein. The moist brisket features a thick char and a solid rose-colored smoke ring, while the ribs throw down more than enough flavor for the 180-mile drive home.
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No one would blame you for sticking to the staples; they're great. But you expect something more when eating at a place that labels its food "Cuisine Texicana," and La Barbecue delivers on that front as well. When we visited, the la Bomb sandwich ($10.25), which comes with a choice of chopped brisket or juicy pulled pork, kimchi and hoisin sauce, was in rotation. The salty combination of kimchi and hoisin paired well with the tender pulled pork, making for a unique barbecue sandwich experience. How often can you honestly say you had a unique barbecue sandwich experience?
One of the easiest ways to determine whether a given barbecue restaurant (or trailer) is "one of the good ones" is to find out if they make their own sausage. You can check that off La Barbecue's checklist, too. The most attention-grabbing sausage on the menu was the Chicago Style Texas Hot Gut ($8.50), which is made with yellow mustard, peppers, onions, tomatoes and celery salt. Calling anything "Chicago-style Texas" is a bit of an oxymoron, but the "Hot Gut" part isn't. It explodes in your mouth with a kick that has staying power. This is not simply ground-up pig parts; it's an all-out zest-fest. Grab one or both of the barbecue oddities while they're still on the menu.
So if and when your hometown has got you down, try someone else's. Sometimes the meat is smokier on the other side of the state.
902 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin
11 a.m. - Sold Out, Wednesday-Saturday