When ordering barbecue at one of Austin's many legendary restaurants and food trucks, you'll likely be tempted by the platters of juicy sliced brisket, pulled pork, and smoked sausages that can be ordered by the pound, along with containers of potato salad, slaw, beans, and other tasty side dishes. But if you're making a solo trip to a BBQ joint-or you'd just prefer to enjoy your barbecue in an easy, handheld package-a sandwich might be a less daunting option. And, fortunately, several of Austin's best BBQ eateries offer sandwiches that both showcase their signature meats and vegetables while also bringing intriguing ingredients and condiments to the party. The next time you're craving a barbecue sandwich in the Lone Star capital, consider one of these eight top-notch examples.
Franklin Barbecue has a worldwide reputation for exceptional smoked meats, so much so that prospective patrons start lining up in the early morning hours to get their brisket fix. Franklin's menu includes both meat platters and loaded sandwiches, and the star of the latter category is the Tipsy Texan, a bun piled high with Franklin's celebrated brisket and sliced sausage. Purple-cabbage coleslaw brings a hint of creaminess and a welcome undercurrent of funk, and dill pickles provide a tangy contrast to the fat, smoke, and spice provided by the meat.
At his relatively-new and highly-renowned BBQ truck at Meanwhile Brewing in southeast Austin, James Beard Award semifinalist Damien Brockway explores African-American culinary traditions through a contemporary lens, with brilliantly flavorful results. In addition to meat platters and robust side dishes, Distant Relatives offers both pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, which-in this writer's personal opinion-are the best ways to enjoy these richly-seasoned meats. The brisket sandwich is especially noteworthy; Brockway's peppery and juicy brisket gets stacked onto a buttery brioche bun, where it's complemented by pickled cucumbers, sharp red onion, and spicy hot mustard. This large and hearty sandwich is a remarkable value at $12, and it makes a fantastic pairing for one of Meanwhile's housemade beers.
Slab BBQ and Beer in North Austin would never dream of relegating BBQ sandwiches to a secondary menu category- here, they're the main attraction. Slab serves brisket sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches, rib sandwiches, and sausage sandwiches, but their particularly-impressive pulled pork features prominently in some of their best offerings. The Notorious P.I.G., a pulled pork sandwich with mustard-marinated slaw and housemade red barbecue sauce, is a Slab staple, but if you've worked up a serious appetite, consider the Donk, a one-pound sandwich that includes all of the smoked meats that Slab has on-hand on any given day, topped off with Fritos, slaw, onions, pickles, jalapenos, housemade queso, and a drizzle of all four of Slab's proprietary BBQ sauces.
Loro, a hugely successful collaboration between Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue and beloved Austin restaurateur Tyson Cole of Uchi, devotes its menu to an innovative blend between Texas BBQ and Asian cooking techniques, ingredients, and flavors. Franklin's influence is clear in Loro's beloved brisket sandwich, as the Loro team also carefully smokes its brisket with post oak wood, which imparts a delicate but undeniable flavor. The brisket is then layered with Asian-influenced ingredients like papaya salad, Thai basil, peanuts, and cilantro, with a zesty chili aioli used as the sandwich's main condiment.
Located in far-south Austin, the Valentina's truck sets itself apart from most other Austin barbecue joints by eschewing post oak smoking in favor of the stronger taste of mesquite smoke (a popular element of West Texas-style BBQ). As a result, the sandwiches at Valentina's have a bold smokiness, regardless of which protein you prefer. Although their brisket sandwich and pork sandwich are very worthy orders, the must-get sandwich at Valentina's is the pulled chicken version, which includes marvelously-juicy smoked chicken, a zingy cabbage slaw, creamy and citrusy homemade guacamole, and West Texas-style BBQ sauce with a distinct base flavor of mesquite smoke.
The wildly-popular Interstellar BBQ in North Austin is locally famous for its impeccable brisket and its long lines (but they do offer free beer to queuing barbecue fans!). This celebrated joint focuses more on platter-style BBQ spreads, but they frequently include sandwiches among their daily specials. If you happen to stop by on a day when Interstellar is offering their BBQ Torta, be sure to get your hands on one. The sandwich consists of tender brisket and snappy kielbasa on a pillowy bun, garnished with Oaxaca cheese, smoky salsa morita, avocado, and fresh onion.
North Austin's Smokin' Beauty calls itself "Vietnamese-inspired Texas BBQ", and those who love both cuisines will be thrilled to learn that they can indeed acquire a brisket banh mi here. In true banh mi fashion, Smokin' Beauty uses French-style baguettes for these sandwiches, which also feature hearty cuts of brisket, pickled carrots, fresh cucumber and cilantro, soy sauce, and a creamy dressing infused with cilantro.
The LeRoy & Lewis truck in South Austin is rightly famous for its "new school" takes on Texas BBQ staples, and its sandwiches are a carnivore's dream. Their tangy and funky kimchi offers an invigorating brightness to substantial servings of brisket, pulled pork, beef cheeks, housemade sausage, or barbacoa, and their famous beet BBQ sauce lends both earthiness and a hint of sweetness. But perhaps the most notable sandwich offering at LeRoy & Lewis has nothing to do with meat at all. Their sandwiches can also be ordered in totally plant-based fashion by swapping out the meat choices for LeRoy & Lewis' signature cauliflower "burnt ends". The smoky essence, toothsome texture, and distinct umami flavor of this vegan specialty collaborates beautifully with the sandwich's other elements, making for a meat-free BBQ meal that really shines.