“Brisket is King” is the motto of this local barbecue spot, and its loyal subjects can be found filling the cafeteria-style eatery seven days a week. Named one of Texas Monthly’s 50 Best BBQ Joints in Texas, Terry Black’s BBQ is hard to miss with its bold sign and large smokehouse, which throughout the day lures in pedestrians with the smell of smoked meat.
Located in downtown Austin and run by offspring of the family that created the legendary Black’s Barbecue of Lockhart (but not, in fact connected to it), Terry Black’s is reminiscent of a classic barbecue roadhouse. Troughs of bottled beer and soda line the serving area, with neon and aluminum signs brightening up the rustic wood and metal-panel walls. Bottles of homemade sauces and rubs are staged for purchase in the queuing line (which, during a typical lunch, extends out the door!). The vibe inside is relaxed and inviting. Charming southern decor of worn-in cowboy boots, cacti, and red-checkered tablecloths are ever-present and bring a feeling of “coming home” to anyone who enters.
Given the motto “Brisket is King,” it’s apparent what to order — by the sandwich or by the pound. Cheerful and knowledgeable servers cut meat as thick as you wish, lean or fatty. A half pound on-the-dot (about two slices) is perfect for a healthy appetite, paired with two or three sides.
Standing in line with a plastic cafeteria tray in hand, one can’t help but feel like a kid again. All of the side dishes pair well with pork ribs and brisket, but as an avid macaroni and cheese lover, my first choice was clear. Onion-clad green beans and creamy potato salad weren’t far behind. The mac is chewy and rich; the green beans are crisp and fresh; potato salad sports fresh dill flavor, chunks of soft potato, and a pop of green onion — a refreshing break from peppery, savory meats.
No good barbecue goes without good sauce, or in this case, three: sweet, spicy, and original. All three are rich in flavor but each is unique. The sweet one complements the charred and smokey flavor of the meat, while spicy adds just the right amount of kick without being overpowering. The original truly is original: balanced, and unlike any generic or store-bought sauce out there.
Kick back, grab plenty of paper towels, and let the meat speak for itself at this casual and historic barbecue staple.