The city of Austin is home to dozens of high-quality eateries specializing in Texas BBQ, but perhaps no neighborhood in the Lone Star capital boasts a greater density of excellent barbecue joints than East Austin. The legendary Franklin Barbecue (and its famous parking lot "tailgating parties", where diners start setting up lawn chairs in the early morning and wait all day for Franklin to open its doors) can be found in this part of town, but if you're yearning for phenomenal BBQ without a serious wait, East Austin has plenty of other options. A prime example is located just down the street from Franklin: Micklethwait Craft Meats, one of the absolute best barbecue destinations in East Austin (and in Austin in general). Micklethwait's charming outdoor picnic tables, on-site "icehouse", and brisket, sausage, and ribs earn accolades from critics, locals, and visitors alike.
Micklethwait's Smoked Brisket is the Stuff of Local Legend
As any Austin diner will tell you (over and over again), excellent smoked brisket is an absolute necessity for a successful Austin barbecue menu. Luckily, Micklethwait more than delivers on this front, serving up tender and flavorful cuts of brisket on the regular. Micklethwait, like many other Central Texas BBQ joints, uses post oak to smoke its meat, and that particular style of wood infuses the brisket with a subtle but distinct smoky and woodsy flavor. The gentle post oak smoke accentuates the natural meatiness and umami of the brisket meat, and Micklethwait's simple salt-and-pepper seasoning creates a robust crust on the outside of the brisket that contrasts brilliantly with the unctuous fat and juicy meat. Micklethwait offers barbecue sauce upon request, but take our word for it: dunking this perfectly-smoked brisket in sauce is the definition of "gilding the lily".
Don't Miss Micklethwait's Housemade Sausages, Flavorful Side Dishes, and Perfectly Texan Frito Pie.
Micklethwait's brisket is reason enough to make the trip to the east side, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you stopped your order there, because the rest of Micklethwait's carefully-curated menu is equally masterful. Among Micklethwait's biggest hits are their housemade sausages; in addition to the "Tex-Czech" sausages (an Eastern European-inspired version made with beef and pork) that are a regular menu fixture, Micklethwait offers an ever-changing rotation of seasonal links, including styles like lamb, andouille, citrus habanero, and "pastrami dogs".
Great barbecue restaurants need to devote as much care and consideration to their side dishes as they do to the smoked proteins, and Micklethwait clearly views its sides as crucial elements of their menu. Fans rave about Micklethwait's potato salad, which includes mayonnaise (in typical Southern fashion), but uses fresh herbs and seasonings (along with a restrained mayo portion) and textural integrity (the potatoes, onions, and celery have plenty of bite to them) to make their salad a worthy companion for their brisket, sausage, and ribs. Another quality Micklethwait side dish is their coleslaw, which features crunchy shredded cabbage lightly dressed with a zingy lemon dressing and sprinkled with poppy seeds.
Micklethwait also pays homage to a Lone Star favorite: "Frito pie", a dish made by ladling chili into an open bag of Fritos and garnishing with shredded cheese and minced onion. Micklethwait's Frito pie isn't served in a Frito bag, but its on-a-plate presentation gives the team more space to turn their pie into a meal worthy of a top-notch Austin BBQ spot.
The chili used for Micklethwait's Frito pie is a homemade "Texas red" (with no beans, in true Texas tradition) with deep flavor layers of beef, chili peppers, and cumin. But this chili isn't the only beef-related Frito pie topping at Micklethwait; they also add slices of smoked brisket before finishing the dish off with sour cream, pickled escabeche, shredded cheese, jalapeno slices, and fresh onion and cilantro.
Saddle Up, Micklethwait's "Ice House" That Serves Beer, Homemade Baked Goods, and Natural Wines, is Also Destination-Worthy.
Micklethwait may be a food truck, but they're committed to turning their East Austin lot into a comfortable space for dining, drinking, and catching up with friends. Large picnic tables and smaller patio tables are tucked under trees and under Micklethwait's dining tent (both of which provide plenty of shade on hot Texas days), with fans scattered throughout to improve air circulation. In past years, Micklethwait was a BYOB operation, but the team very wisely purchased a building next door to their lot and expanded their property by opening a new business, Saddle Up, inside said building. Saddle Up is inspired by the "Texas icehouse", a term referring to a roadside shack that sells ice, snacks, and beverages. But Saddle Up doesn't just peddle Cokes and beef jerky; instead, they offer local beers (canned, bottled, and on-tap), hard seltzers, ciders, frozen low-ABV cocktails, and natural wines. Plus, Micklethwait hired expert pastry chefs to produce artisanal baked goods for Saddle Up, so if your BBQ meal needs a sweet treat to finish it off, grab a lemon-raspberry macaron, a slice of chocolate cake, a Texas pecan bar, or one of Saddle Up's many other delicious pastries.
Micklethwait's Exceptional Smoked Meat gets the Taco Treatment at Taco Bronco.
Micklethwait's hours of operation occur during the day, largely because they tend to sell out by the mid afternoon. The truck officially stops service at 6pm on Thursday and Friday and at 4pm on Saturday and Sunday (they're closed altogether Monday-Wednesday), but if you want to be sure that you can get your fix of brisket and sausage, it's best to arrive on the early side.
That being said, there's still a very good reason to head to the Micklethwait lot after 4pm: Taco Bronco, Micklethwait's proprietary taco truck that takes over food service in the evenings. Taco Bronco uses the same smoked meat that Micklethwait sells on its platters and in its sandwiches to create Tex Mex-style tacos (on corn or flour tortillas) with serious BBQ cred. The standard menu at Taco Bronco includes brisket tacos, smoked chicken tacos, sweet potato and poblano tacos, smoked carnitas tacos, and several non-taco options, like a stuffed burrito, quesadillas, and nachos with housemade salsas. All of these dishes are satisfying and flavorful, but the specials board is where you'll find some of Taco Bronco's most noteworthy dishes. If it's available, be sure to order the lamb birria taco, which comes loaded with tender and savory pulled lamb meat and dunked into an intense and meaty lamb consomme.