Trending Now at SXSW: BBQ Off the Beaten Path

Melissa Knowles
Trending Now

Let me preface this blog entry by saying that I love Texas barbecue. As you may have noticed at the end of every episode of "Trending Now," I say "y'all." I don't say it just to be cute. I say it because I am a native Texan, and because the word "y'all" is as much a part of my vocabulary as barbecue has been a part of my diet for as long as I can remember. If I go too long without having some real authentic Texas barbecue, I start to go through withdrawals.

We are deep in the heart of Texas at the interactive conference during SXSW, and the "Trending Now" team just had to get our hands on some of the local cuisine. It's hard to walk around Austin and not smell the aroma of barbecue. Not only does it make you hungry -- it also makes you curious.

We started by asking the locals where are the best places to get barbecue. Several restaurants were mentioned over and over again: Franklin BBQ, The Salt Lick, Stubbs, and Opie's. These places are heralded as having some of the best barbecue not just in the state, but also in all of America.

But we decided to go a different route and ask the locals about the hidden gems in the city. Crunched for time, we got to pick only three places. So forgive us if it seems that the hidden gems are underrepresented.

We first took a quick walk to Blue Ribbon BBQ in downtown Austin. The line was out the door, and it was already after two in the afternoon.

We happened to meet Todd Plunk, a certifiable barbecue aficionado and a founding member of the blog "Man Up Texas BBQ." Plunk and his team travel all over the great state of Texas sampling barbecue at different restaurants, documenting the details along the way with pictures, helpful hints, and vivid descriptions. Plunk recommended Stiles Switch, a relatively new member to the Austin barbecue scene.

If I had to pick a favorite, just from the day, it would be Stiles Switch for several reasons. The hospitality of the staff is second to none. James Jackson, the general manager, went out of his way to accommodate us, and I saw him doing that for every patron who stopped by. In addition, the restaurant's brisket -- which is the staple meat by which I judge barbecue restaurants -- is the best I've had in my life not made by my grandparents. That brisket is the kind of meat country songs are written about. It's moist. It's "you don't need any teeth to eat it" tender, and the flavor is phenomenal. But it does not end there. Stiles Switch's signature beef ribs are gargantuan and just as flavorful and tender as its brisket.

Our last stop of the day was Uncle Billy's in Barton Springs. Here's where things started to get interesting. This pet-friendly establishment features a unique indoor-outdoor space with live music and a brewery. Uncle Billy's is known just as much for its beer as it is for barbecue. The staff was superfriendly, and there were a lot of families enjoying their meals and the sunshine.

I know I'm biased, but Texas barbecue is in a league of its own. If you take anything away from this blog, just know that Texas barbecue is not just about the meat. It's the experience of eating quality meats with friends and family and taking part in a Texas tradition that will never get old. You have to experience it for yourself.

[Related: Best BBQ Cities]

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