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Black's Barbecue

4.7 220 votes

3110 Guadalupe Street

(512) 524-0801

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Black's Barbecue # 15 Austin Restaurant
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Wesley Griffin Last updated on Nov 26, 2023 by

The Original Black’s Barbecue
Over the last decade, the barbecue scene in Austin has exploded and there’s good reason:  Just 35 miles southeast of the city is a small town called Lockhart, the formidable “Mecca of Texas Barbecue.”  Lockhart is home to the most legendary Texas pit masters, most of which are long-standing family businesses, and from their DNA we now see the thriving barbecue landscape that we are fortunate to have in Austin and surrounding areas.  But for what it’s worth, Austin is closest in proximity and with the economic and population boom it’s experienced over recent years, it only makes sense that the best in town have direct roots to the mothership. 

The Original Black’s opened in Lockhart in 1932, nearly a hundred years ago, just for some perspective and is now being operated by the family’s fourth generation of pitmasters.  Central Texas was largely settled by German and Czechs which makes sense given the region’s exports.  In those days, when the nation was deep in its depression, Black’s served the community as a butcher shop and grocery store. At the strong suggestion of his son, Edgar, they added the first few dining tables in the center of the small shop, effectively becoming the first Black’s Barbecue.  Over time, the grocery store business would subside, but the demand for the barbecue would thrive and ultimately become legendary. 

Location and Ambience
It’s been nearly 100 years and four family generations since the first Black’s opened in Lockhart, but today we are fortunate in Austin to have one of the outposts here in Austin.  Black’s Austin location at 3110 Guadalupe couldn’t be more strategic:  It’s the north end of the University of Texas campus and squarely between Hyde Park and Rosedale neighborhoods.  It’s a perfectly central and accessible spot with ample parking and street parking.  Once inside you’re immediately in line and greeted by the team - “Welcome!”  Our senses are overtaken by the delicious smells of the post-oak smoked meats and carving stations.  On our trip we were fortunate to meet and get a tour with Barrett Black, grandson of Edgar.  He is a local Austinite and is here to give us the tour and a tasting.  Of all of the details in the kitchen we stay focused on the cutting boards.  They are almost a hundred years old and Barrett explains the divots in them are slowly eroding dips in the wood from the years and years of chopping and serving.  They replace the legs from time to time to keep the height, but boards themselves carry out the legacy we are all there for.  Barrett is certainly proud and I felt like we could have sat there for hours just combing through the family history.  But we’re here for the brisket and the smoke and so we take a seat in the inside dining room. It is also worth noting that there is ample covered patio space and can accommodate any size take out or catering order - just call ahead. 

The Meats
The funny thing about legends is that sometimes there is no secret sauce.  Sometimes it’s just straightforward and simple and it was never broken and never attempted to be fixed.  Such is the case with the process at Black’s.  It’s tried and true and simple and for over 80 years not a single thing has changed.  There are only three real ingredients to smoking meat here:  salt, pepper and smoke.  That’s it.  Now this sounds like a simple recipe but I guess the secret comes down to the technique.  How much smoke?  What temperature and how long?  Talking with Barrett you get a sense that these metrics have become more intuition at this point and so we focus on the smoke.  True to Texas form, they only smoke with Post Oak wood.  It is a small tree that is prominent throughout Texas and especially in the hill country.  Even in this bustling central Austin outpost with traffic and UT students abuzz, from nearly three blocks away you can smell the post-oak smoke perfuming from Black’s and down The Drag, drawing you in.   

Blacks Barbecue Pit

Barrett brought out a magnificent sampling of their cuts:  both lean and moist brisket, smoked turkey breast, pork spare ribs and a massive beef rib which everyone calls the “flintstone rib”.  We are all smiles as we dig in.  I’m partial to moist brisket and Black’s does not disappoint.  It’s not overly greasy or sloppy and does not crumble all the way, just enough to be soaked up by a dash of sauce and stopped up with a slice of white bread.  The pork ribs were also stand out for me:  they did fall off the bone and yet managed to keep an interesting crisp on the top of the meat, hardened by the caramelization and the smoke.  In addition to the brisket and sliced meats Barrett has tossed in a couple of sausage rings and they were unsuspectingly delicious but we really liked the jalapeno cheddar.
Plated Portions

The Sides
The only problem with Texas barbecue in my experience is that the ‘cue itself can easily overshadow the side dishes and the desserts for that matter.  After all, it’s the slow-smoked meat that we’re here for, right?  You’d be selling yourself significantly short if you take this attitude into the Original Black’s.  The side dishes themselves stand on their own and are worthy of equal praise.  Barrett brought out a tray heaping portions of their best sides:  chunky potato salad, creamy coleslaw, Mexican street corn, Norma Jean’s beans, and the mac & cheese. The standouts for us were the mac & cheese, the street corn and the potato salad.  It’s interesting that mac & cheese doesn’t always appear as a staple side dish across all Texas BBQ establishments and I do find myself getting very excited when I discover that it’s on offer.  Black’s edition is just the way you’d like it paired with brisket:  the noodles themselves are sort of suspended in a thick and creamy cheese sauce that has a crispy baked cheese crust folded throughout from the top and side crispy ends.  It holds its own on the plate, and then some.

After such a fantastic meal that was completely bred from family recipes, meticulous discipline, and timeless classic traditions, we were completely taken by surprise when Barrett asked how we were feeling about dessert.  It turns out that he has been working on something new in the kitchen:  candied brisket ice cream.  In terms of being hit or miss, most fusion/creative creations in my book typically are a miss.  I honor and value the tradition of a family recipe.  I love the taste of a brisket that’s been 80+ years in the making.  So naturally I was skeptical of a brisket ice cream which just got added.  I’m happy to report that it works and not only does it work it’s delicious.  The candied brisket is basically burnt ends, naturally caramelized from the Post Oak smoke and he renders it down with a bit of brown sugar to get them even crispier and sweeter before folding them into a homemade vanilla ice cream which is also a southern staple.  It’s something you have to try and decide for yourself but we were happy we did.

Brisket Ice Cream

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