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7 Austin barbecue restaurants and trailers make Texas Monthly’s Top 50 list for 2021

Matthew Odam
Austin 360
Austin's Interstellar BBQ nabbed a spot of Texas Monthly's annual list of best barbecue joints.

Every four years, just like the Olympics, the Texas Monthly team (led by barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn and longtime food editor Pat Sharpe) goes about the extreme sport of eating at an ungodly amount of barbecue restaurants in Texas. The goal: name the Top 50 purveyors of smoked meats in the Lone Star State. 

The magazine this week released its latest edition of that list, and, not surprisingly, Austin is very well represented. Three Austin establishments made the Top 10, and the order may surprise a casual brisket eater. John Bates’ Interstellar BBQ landed the No. 2 spot (read our 2019 review here) and new-schoolers LeRoy & Lewis claimed No. 5. Perennial favorite Franklin Barbecue rounded out the Austin representation in the Top 10, nabbing the No. 7 spot. 

Austin had the most spots (three) in the Top 10 of any city in the state. And the city’s dominance continued down the list. Damien Brockway’s trailer Distant Relatives, which opened earlier this year, is the newest member of the Top 50 (spots 11-50 are unranked) and joins list veterans La Barbecue, Micklethwait Craft Meats and Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ.

All of the Austin restaurants listed by Texas Monthly were in the last list of best barbecue published online by Austin360, except for the not-yet-open Distant Relatives, which would certainly make our revised list and which will make an appearance in our upcoming Austin360 Dining Guide, which will name the 20 Best Restaurants and Trailers to open since the start of the pandemic.

Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue in Pflugerville also made the Top 50, as did Hay’s Co. Bar-B-Que & Catering in San Marcos. 

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In a sign of the changing times in which the Texas barbecue scene finds itself, the No. 1 spot on the list went to Goldee’s Barbecue in Fort Worth, which is run by a quintet of 20-something guys, some of whom have experience smoking in Austin. Lockhart, long esteemed as the barbecue capital of Central Texas, claims no restaurants in the Top 50. The town did, however, claim a spot in the honorable mentions, or “Next 50,” which the Texas Monthly website claims is “coming soon.”