4 Family-Friendly Austin BBQ Restaurants
Before I moved to Texas from New Jersey, I thought BBQ amounted to a bunch of hamburgers and hot dogs thrown on the grill. That all changed pretty quickly after we moved to Austin and were introduced to the Texas tradition of BBQ — piles of smoked meat usually served with slices of white bread, pickles and onions.
Here is our family’s list of the top four BBQ restaurants in the Austin metro area (within 30 minutes of Austin). All of these spots are authentic, easy and kid-friendly, although I suspect if you choose to wait in line at Franklin’s that you will leave your kids at home or at the hotel!
Note: These are actual restaurants that my family enjoys on a somewhat regular basis. Other highly recommended Austin BBQ restaurants from friends who know their meat include La Barbeque and Stiles Switch.
1. Rudy’s BBQ
Yes, it is attached to a gas station. And yes, it is technically a chain. But for simple, quick dining with kids, Rudy’s BBQ is a treat. Meat is hand cut by the pound and traditional sides are available. My daughter’s favorite is the turkey breast. I love the lean brisket and my husband is partial to the traditional sausage. The banana pudding has a cult following. If the weather is nice, bring a soccer ball and let your kids play on the big green field in the back. Bottled beer is served, as are fun bottled sodas. Rudy’s has several locations in Austin, but our favorite is at 2451 South Capital of Texas Highway.
2. Pok-e-Jo’s BBQ
Another local “chain” with multiple outlets in Austin, Pok-e-Jo’s BBQ has great meats (including incredibly moist turkey breast) and a wide selection of side dishes that you won’t find anywhere else. My daughter’s first solid, restaurant food was the creamy macaroni and cheese. I am obsessed with the spicy jalapeño corn pudding. You can order a family-style meal, individual plates or sandwiches and even big salads topped with freshly cut meat.
The best part is that it is cafeteria style and your kids can pick and choose what they want to eat, which means minimal waiting. The restaurant offers a nice, family-friendly dining room. Bottled beer is available and the friendly folks at Pok-e-Jo’s recently added an unexpected wine list. Our favorite location is at 4109 South Capital of Texas Highway near the Toys R Us with its friendly staff and cozy booths.
3. The Salt Lick
The Salt Lick is a beloved Austin BBQ institution and certainly worth the 20-30 minute drive to Driftwood, Texas to experience the tasty sides and meat straight from the pit. Try going early and during the week because wait times can be long. It’s still BYOB and cash only; there is an ATM on site.
The all-you-can-eat family style meal at $24.95 per adult and $8.95 per accompanying kid 11 and under is eternally popular. But you can also order smaller meat plates and sandwiches. The meats are great, the bread is soft and yummy and the German potato salad is refreshingly light! If you don’t manage to squeeze in time for a trip to Driftwood, you can try The Salt Lick BBQ at the Austin airport, but it’s not quite the same!
4. Franklin’s BBQ
Franklin’s BBQ is a legend and yes, the brisket is unbelievable and the ribs are among the best. We have never waited in line, but have instead participated in the monthly ritual of ordering online, which is available on a very limited basis for minimum orders of five pounds of meat. If you are traveling to Austin, you can even try and arrange your order in advance of your trip because all orders are accepted a month in advance.
The dining space itself is small and modest, just a few blocks from downtown on the east side of I-35 and a stone’s throw from Hilton Austin. If you want to experience the party in the parking lot, arrive early enough so that you can be at the beginning of the line. Franklin’s is only open for lunch (doors open at 11 am, but lines can form before 7 am) and closed on Mondays.
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A self-proclaimed Jersey Girl (with a soft spot for Jon Bon Jovi), Amy currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and 11-year old daughter. She picked…