Austin’s Top 16 BBQ sides

By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking

1. Cabbage at Brown’s Bar-B-Que. Nobody wants to be known for beans over brisket, but side dishes are the pitmaster’s silent pride, the expression of wider culinary ambitions and family traditions. Daniel Brown picked up this cabbage recipe from his grandmother and aunts, and it rules like a Southern matriarch. It’s cooked down soft and sweet in the same pan as the bacon that flavors it, with black pepper and cayenne heat that hangs on after it’s gone, reminding you how much you miss it already. 1901 S. Lamar Blvd. at the Corner Bar (map), Facebook page
2. Smoked corn at Valentina’s. Bless Tex-Mex for bringing us roasted corn. Valentina’s smokes it on the cob, shears off the kernels and puts the kettle back in the smoke. Finished with home-blended chile salt, Mexican crema and lime, it’s as sweet, smoky and funky as the mesquite in the firebox. Updated May 2015: 7612 Brodie Lane (map).
3. Grilled cabbage slaw at Freedmen’s. Coleslaw has its place, and most places treat it like mayonnaise confetti. But Freedmen’s trades that confetti for streamers to celebrate the triumph of cabbage that flexes with black pepper, apple cider vinegar, caraway seeds and muscular heat. This is the coleslaw Texas barbecue has been begging for. 2402 San Gabriel St. (map),
4. Cucumber salad at Live Oak Barbecue. UPDATE: Live Oak has closed. A vinegary quick-pickle of shaved cucumber, onion, sugar and dill that acts as palate refresher and acidic counterpoint to the heavy pH factor (short for “phat”) of the barbecue next to it. 2713 E. Second St. (map),
5. Jalapeño cheese grits at Micklethwait Craft Meats. Tom Micklethwait makes refreshing coleslaw and dill potato salad, but his grits are the mack-daddy of Micklethwait sides, as thick and smooth as ice cream, with all the jalapeño flavor but none of the heat. 1309 Rosewood Ave. (map),
6. Baked squash at John Mueller Meat Co. Thick with cheese and squeaky as only yellow squash can be, this is mac and cheese for the low-carb carnivore, with the same black pepper that falls like snowflakes over the whole Mueller menu. 2500 E. Sixth St. at Pedernales (map),
7. Lemon vinaigrette coleslaw at Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew. Peppered heat and a citrus supernova turn this tangle of cabbage and carrots into a culinary Wet-Nap, a palate cleanser for whatever’s next. Like maybe Stiles’ mac and cheese or corn casserole. 6610 N. Lamar Blvd.(map),
8. Brunswick stew at Mann’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que. UPDATE: After 18 years in business, Mann's closed 11/25/15. A Southern menagerie of tomato, corn and smoked meat. Like GoGurt’s answer to meatloaf. The appeal of the former escapes me. The appeal of the latter is inescapable. 8624 Research Blvd. (map),
9. German potato salad at Blue Ox BBQ. Update: Blue Ox has closed. While we might forget that sturdy German immigrants forged many of our Central Texas barbecue traditions, the Blue OX remembers with a warming blend of tender cubed potatoes, vinegar, pepper, ham and boiled egg. 1505 Town Creek Drive at the Buzz Mill coffeeshop (map),
10. Collard greens at Ruby’s BBQ. Ruby’s was stewing collard greens long before the ironic kids discovered them. With the twang of vinegar weaving through the swampy liquor of ham and boiled-down greens like a blues harmonica, Andrew Bell’s Collards never needed to act cool. They already were. 512 W. 29th St. (map),
11. Blue cheese coleslaw at Kerlin BBQ. It’s about time somebody looked at coleslaw and said, “You know what? To hell with acidic balance. Let’s make it a barbecue and blue cheese cage match.” Kerlin’s coleslaw is so full of silky mayo and lush blue cheese that the carrots and cabbages might have grazed the same fields as the beasts to fatten up. 1700 E. Cesar Chavez St. (map),
12. Mac and cheese at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue. Remember your better-off friends growing up? They had the boxed mac and cheese with cheese sauce instead of powder. Lamberts is one of those kids, only its grown-up mac tastes even better, baked to a brindled brown in its own dish. 401 W. Second St. (map),
13. Buttermilk bacon potato salad at La Barbecue. This trailer ‘s chipotle coleslaw is the most famous — infamous? — of its sides. But this blend of skin-on potatoes, sharp whole-grain mustard and well-behaved bacon represents a new whirled order. September 2015 update: 1906 E. Cesar Chavez St. next to Stay Gold (map)
14. Brisket beans from Cafe Mueller at H-E-B. A combo plate usually means a scoop of beans and potato salad in the wells of a styrofoam clamshell. At this respectable barbecue operation inside the H-E-B at the old airport, the sides are half-pint cups filled with chunky, fresh potato salad and, best of all, brisket beans packed with tomato and cracked pepper. 1801 E. 51st St. (map),
15. Creamed corn from Scotty’s BBQ. This late-night trailer on Rainey Street made this list in the 11th hour, on a social-media dare from the owner, who was tired of getting no respect. Scotty’s creamed corn deserves respect, shucked and roasted fresh, then folded into a sturdy cream base that offers a sweet counterpart to the trailer’s campfire beef rib, which deserves some respect of its own. Look for the smoke Thursdays-Saturdays from the afternoon until 2am if the meat holds out. September 2015 update: 2730 E. Cesar Chavez St. (map),
16. Mashed sweet potatoes at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q. For anybody fleeing the tired buckets of barbecue-joint potato salad, Stubb’s offers the burnt-orange refuge of sweet potatoes with the earth and sugar and string in full effect, fortified with butter, pecans and cinnamon. 801 Red River St. (map),
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)