This past April, I visited Austin, Texas for the first time. The moment I booked my flight, I was thinking about all the delicious smoked meats, BBQ, and brisket I wanted to try. If you don’t know, Austin is home to many quintessential central Texas BBQ restaurants. One of them is Terry Black’s Barbecue located on Barton Springs Rd.
Before opening Terry Black’s Barbecue, brothers Mike and Mark worked at their family BBQ restaurant in nearby Lockhart. The brothers took all the knowledge they learned from their father, Terry Black, and opened their own spot in Austin in 2014. Since opening, the restaurant has gained a following for its central Texas BBQ including smoked brisket and beef ribs. People come from all over, and wait in line, to try the BBQ for themselves, including myself.
Today, Terry Black’s Barbecue has locations in Austin and in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas.
Waiting in Line
When I arrived at the restaurant, I wasn’t surprised to find a line out front. Lines are a common sight at some of the better BBQ restaurants in Austin. At nearby Franklin Barbecue, it’s not uncommon for the wait to be 3 to 4 hours! Luckily, you won’t have to wait as long here. While the line can vary from day to day, when busy, the wait is often around 20 to 30 minutes.
About halfway through the wait, I arrived at a small window. From this window I could order drinks including beers. It seemed like most people, including myself, were ordering a cold drink while waiting in line. As for me, I ordered the Stash IPA from Independence Brewing Co. and the Axis IPA from Real Ale Brewing Co. Both were from local breweries.
After 15 minutes waiting in line, with a cold beer in hand, I made it through the door and into the restaurant. While the line continued on inside, I knew the wait would be worth it. But, the smell of smoke and meat made the wait seem longer than it was.
The interior of the restaurant screamed Texas and barbecue. I knew I was in the Lone Star state with all the Texas-themed trinkets adorning the walls. While open, bright, and busy, the dining room felt cozy and inviting with its wooden décor. The rustic charm of the dining room, which reminded me of a barn, added to the ambiance.
If the weather is nice, I recommend grabbing a seat at one of the tables outside on the patio. While it was raining on my visit, many of the tables were covered, so this was not an issue. The patio is also dog friendly if you want to bring your pooch along.
Terry Black’s Barbecue Menu
Meat, sides, and sandwiches. That’s what you’ll find on the Terry Black’s Barbecue menu. While simple, there were great options to choose from. But, they are best known for their brisket and beef ribs
For meats you had brisket, beef ribs, turkey, pork ribs, chopped beef, and sausage. Except for the beef ribs, meats were sold by the 1/3 LB, 1/2 LB, 3/4 LB, or 1 LB. Beef ribs were sold by the rib which varied from 1 LB to 2.5 LBS. The great thing about ordering by weight was that you could order a slice of whatever you wanted. You could try it all. You could make your own plate exactly how you wanted it, which I recommend you do.
Sides included mac & cheese, green beans, creamed corn, Mexican rice, pinto beans, coleslaw, and potato salad. Sides came in containers of single (5 oz), pint (16 oz), quart (32 oz), and gallon (128 oz). Desserts included peach cobbler and banana pudding. There were also a few extras to order including cornbread and chips. Complimentary pickles, onions, and bread were available at the sides station. Just be sure to ask.
Sandwiches included brisket, chopped beef, turkey, and sausage. You could upgrade to a combo with chips and a drink, or add sides, for an extra charge.
Do you remember back in school when you would visit the cafeteria for lunch? You would get in line, pick the food you want, then pay at the end of the line. Terry Black’s Barbecue used this same idea. I waited in line, grabbed a tray, picked my sides, picked my meats, and paid at the end of the line. I especially enjoyed watching the brisket and ribs sliced on the spot. This simple concept kept the line moving.
I wanted to try a little bit of everything, so I ordered all the meats except for the chopped beef. Depending on what you order, your plate might look different.
For meats I had brisket ($26.98/lb), beef ribs ($26.98/lb), pork ribs ($21.98/lb), turkey ($21.98/lb), and jalapeño cheddar sausage ($21.98/lb).
For sides, I had the cornbread ($1.00), coleslaw ($2.95), and mac & cheese ($6.50).
Since I haven’t been to Franklin Barbecue, I can’t say for sure that Terry Black’s Barbecue serves the best brisket in Austin. But, what I can say is the brisket at Terry Black’s Barbecue was the best I have ever had. Everything from the flavor, to the texture, to the color of the brisket was perfect.
Brisket can be a tough cut of meat to cook. It is easy to overcook, resulting in a dry piece of meat. I know this from personal experience. But, this was not the case here. The brisket was cooked to perfection.
When I picked up the brisket, I noticed a few things. First, the red smoke ring. While the smoke ring didn’t add any flavor, it is a sign of great low and slow BBQ. Second, I couldn’t believe how tender the brisket was. The meat wanted to fall apart but didn’t on its own. But, when I pulled ever so slightly, the meat pulled apart. At the same time, the brisket was so moist that its juices were oozing out.
When I took my first bite, I realized at that moment what true central Texas BBQ was. The thick cut of smoky brisket melted in my mouth. Sure it was salty and peppery, but I could taste all the wonderful flavors of the meat. The complementing flavors and textures between the charred crust, tender meat, and rich, fatty parts came together to form the perfect cut of smoked meat. This was the best brisket I have ever had.
They say you eat with your eyes first. And, this beef rib looked beautiful. The outside of the rib was shiny and crusty after cooking for hours in the smoker. This low and slow process resulted in the perfect smoke ring and distinct smoky flavor. Though smoked for hours, and seasoned with salt and pepper, the meaty, beefy flavors of the ribs were never lost.
The low and slow process also resulted in a tender, moist meat. The meat, which was rich, salty, and fatty, melted in my mouth with each bite. Its texture was unlike anything I have had before. When I pulled on the meat, it wanted to break apart but held together for the perfect bite.
If you plan on ordering the beef ribs, come hungry. These ribs weighed anywhere from 1 LB to 2.5 LBS. If you are looking to share, one beef rib might be enough as there was so much meat.
Up next were the pork ribs, which happen to be one of my favorite things to smoke in my backyard. These pork ribs were as delicious as the beef ribs, but in their own way.
I found these ribs to be less salty and less smoky than the beef ribs and brisket. While I could taste a hint of smoke, sweetness from brown sugar in the rub came through the most.
I found each beef rib to be meaty and tender with a perfect amount of melt-in-your-mouth fatty goodness. When I took a bite, the meat didn’t fall off the bone. While tender, the meat stuck to the bone yet pulled away when I took a bite. These competition-style ribs could not have been cooked any better.
When I saw the jalapeño cheese sausage on the menu, I knew I would be ordering it. This was especially true after trying the Jalapeño Cheddar Brat the day before at nearby Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden.
I couldn’t believe how smoky each slice of sausage was. All the flavors of the smokehouse infused into the meat. But, the smoke wasn’t so strong that it masked the flavors of the sausage.
The skin of each piece snapped the moment I took a bite. The crispy texture of the skin complemented the moist interior of the sausage. I would best describe this sausage as cooked to perfection. The cheddar cheese added more rich, salty flavors while the jalapeños added a kick of heat.
The final component of my BBQ plate was turkey. Unfortunately, out of all the items on the plate, this was my least favorite. While not dry, the smoked turkey wasn’t cooked as well as the ribs, sausage, or brisket. And, it was salty. While there was nothing wrong with the turkey, it bored me.
You can’t have Texas BBQ without some sides. In my case, coleslaw, mac & cheese, and cornbread.
The coleslaw was much needed, especially after eating so much rich, salty meat. In the mix you had green cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, and kale. I enjoyed how crunchy the coleslaw was, even when covered in a tangy, creamy dressing. While simple, this coleslaw was legit.
Though simple, the mac & cheese was rich, cheesy, and salty. It was also filling thanks to its large, al dente noodles. While thin, the creamy cheese sauce covered every noodle. I could taste cheese in each bite. If you get the pint size, plan on sharing like I did. You get a lot of mac & cheese in the container.
Finally, the cornbread. What I enjoyed about the cornbread was its texture. It was crunchy on the outside from the cornmeal while moist and fluffy on the inside. The cornmeal also added a sweetness to each bite that complemented all the smoky flavors of the meat.
Terry Black’s Barbecue had three types of sauces to add to their meats and sandwiches. While the food was great on its own, the sauces added an extra level of flavor. These sauces included original, spicy, and sweet.
Original: sweet, smoky, and tangy
Spicy: spicy and sweet with an umami tang
Sweet: sweet with a hint of smokiness
What I found most impressive with the service at Terry Black’s Barbecue was how the workers kept the line moving while still serving great food. And, the workers seemed like they were enjoying their jobs. While there was no table service, their system of serving customers worked well. The only down side of no table service was that some tables remained dirty after guests left their table. But, this was understandable with such a high turnover.
Few cities offer such a wide selection of barbecue restaurants as Austin, Texas. You can’t leave Austin without trying brisket, beef ribs, or something smoked over post oak. BBQ, from the traditional to the modern, is a way of life in this part of the country.
One of the best places in Austin to try central Texas BBQ is at Terry Black’s Barbecue. Though the family restaurant has only been around for a few years, their BBQ knowledge and love for smoking meats goes back generations.
While Franklin Barbecue may be the king of Austin BBQ, I enjoyed everything about my visit to Terry Black’s Barbecue. While I would return for the experience alone, I can’t stop thinking about the smoked meats and house made sides. Next time you are in Austin, be sure to add Terry Black’s Barbecue to your list of the best BBQ restaurants to try in Austin.
- The brisket
- The beef ribs
- The meats and sides
- Great customer service
- Not cheap (but worth it)
- Often a line (but worth it)
- With no table service, when busy, tables might not get cleaned as fast as usual
1003 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
GPS Coordinates: 30.25970,-97.75476