Austin’s Top 8 BBQ sauces

By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking

1. John Mueller Meat Co. John Mueller and his sauce have been together for so long they’re starting to resemble each other. They’re like an old married couple, all agitated red and bristling with black pepper, left to simmer in their own deep thoughts. This isn’t just barbecue sauce. It’s onion stew gone Southern Gothic, as sweet as everlasting love and sour as love that’s lasted too long. 2500 E. Sixth St. at Pedernales (map),
2. Franklin Barbecue. It takes a lot of overnights to become an overnight success. Aaron Franklin had the foresight to park his trailer next to a coffee roaster in the formative days of those overnights. That’s the origin story of Franklin’s superhero espresso sauce: part coffeeshop beatnik, part barbecue diehard. It’s come to symbolize both the man and his customers. It’s as deep dusky bronze as a swirled ristretto with lump sugar and a finish like Worcestershire. 900 E. 11th St. (map),
3. Freedmen’s. Swirl and swish the barbecue sauce. Go ahead. It’s as darkly fruitful and tannic as the cabernet that goes into it. Then the pepper and garlic start to build, then the sweetness of caramelized onions, then the smoke that comes from a reduced stock of barbecue bones. A good year every year. 2402 San Gabriel St. (map),
4. Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew. The warm red glow of Stiles’ sauce is like most everything here: easy, relaxed, efficient. Just the right amount of tomato and sweetness balanced with vinegar, black pepper and onion. Pancake syrup for brisket at the IHOQ. 6610 N. Lamar Blvd. (map),
5. Ruby’s BBQ. At Ruby’s roadhouse, this is a sauce that’s nice. Until it’s time to not be nice. It starts with a velvet-rope rush of red sugar, but the chairs start flying when the band lets loose with a peppers-in-vinegar groove. Roadhouse. 512 W. 29th St. (map),
6. Live Oak Barbecue. Update: Live Oak has closed. A mop-style sauce with vinegar’s big bite and a luster like the reduced liquors of a braising pan with just enough acid and spice to win the sauce-vs-smoke staredown. For now. 2713 E. Second St. (map),
7. Lone Star BBQ. Just like they are with their progressively dusky dry rubs, John and Jaylyn Morell are rebels with their sauce, not content to let it fit a mainstream model. It’s a rich mahogany red rippled with onion, apple cider vinegar and something to balance its sweet disposition: beer. Lone Star beer. Setember 2015 update: 2323 S. Lamar Blvd. (map), Facebook page
8. Scotty’s BBQ. Whatever traces of Dr Pepper’s 23 flavors might have played into its education, this sauce got its Ph.D. in pepper. Cracked black pepper that goes straight to the chest like a defibrillator, jolting the sweet syrupy base into a Hadean rhythm, all hellfire and magma, putting its volcanic stamp on everything that comes after. September 2015 update: 2730 E. Cesar Chavez St. (map),
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)