Austin’s Top 8 BBQ sandwiches

By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking

1. Franklin Barbecue. The comedian Mitch Hedberg had this bit about mile-high deli sandwiches: “It's like a cow with a cracker on either side.” Franklin’s Tipsy Texan is the No. 1 reason I’m cool with that. A barbecue sandwich is the pitmaster’s playground, a place to slip the surly bonds of tradition with altitude and attitude, to throw together meat and sauce and intangibles to make something greater than its parts. At Franklin, they do that by chopping brisket with sweet barbecue sauce in a heaving mass that threatens to swamp its picnic bun. It’s layered with sliced sausage, then piled as high as the condo construction around it with cole slaw if you want it. And you do, along with pickles and onions, for a handheld combo plate. Now all you need, according to Mitch, is a loaf of bread and some other people. 900 E. 11th St. (map),
2. Freedmen’s. This one’s a cheat, because it’s really two in one. Two sliders, a side and a cold pint of Lone Star for $10 from 11-4. They call it the Lunchbox, but I call it the lunch hack, because it’s a bargain in this premium-priced venue. Evan LeRoy offers your choice of chopped brisket or pulled pork. Get one of each, order the grilled cabbage slaw and do what I do: dump the slaw on the silky pork for crunch, then hit the brisket with LeRoy’s two-day sauce and whatever housemade pickles land on the tray. Toast your ingenuity with Lone Star. 2402 San Gabriel St. (map),
3. Mann’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que. UPDATE: After 18 years in business, Mann's closed 11/25/15. Kathleen Mann makes some of the city’s best pulled pork, and her Brunswick stew is a Southern smoothie of tomato and vinegar and the shop’s menagerie of meats. Together they form the Sloppy Pig, a low-slung sandwich that relies on sensible tastes and textures rather than vertical leap. At less than $7 with a side (hint: fried okra), it’s also a solid value. 8624 Research Blvd. (map),
4. La Barbecue. Just for the hell of it , La Barbecue did its version of the KFC Famous Bowl this year, piled with just about everything on the menu. The El Sancho is like that, with pulled pork or chopped brisket — or both, if you’re “loco” — plus aromatic hand-cased sausage and a tangle of pickled pink onions. The La Barbecue Famous Bun. Trademark. September 2015 update: 1906 E. Cesar Chavez St. next to Stay Gold (map)
5. Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew. Buford T’s Diablo is named for a Jackie Gleason line from “Smokey and the Bandit.” This sandwich is every bit as portly and unapologetic, piled with bricks of Taylor-bred brisket and columns of spicy Switch sausage, finished with jalapeños and Stiles’ onion-breath red sauce. Smokey and the Brisket. Buford T also said, “I’m gonna barbecue yo’ ass in molasses.” Can we get to work on that? 6610 N. Lamar Blvd. (map),
6. Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ. The low red snarl of mesquite works best with brisket laid bare, but Valentina’s piles it like Jenga blocks on a bun and hits it with cole slaw for a sandwich almost as good as its chopped brisket taco on a fresh flour tortilla. Almost. Updated May 2015: 7612 Brodie Lane (map).
7. Chief’s BBQ & Grill. The Homer is a twangy meritage of Chief’s strong suits: chuckwagon chopped brisket animated by Mother Turner’s secret sauce, punctuated with thunderstruck red V&V sausage on a plain white picnic bun. 7811 S. First St. (map),
8. The Pit Barbeque. Chopped beef is usually a chop-gun wedding of sauce and brisket, a way to use up whatever’s left over. And sometimes that’s just fine, especially when it’s this cheap, and even more so when blue-collar brisket and working-ranch sauce pull together for the common good. 4707 Burnet Road (map),
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)