Austin Restaurants & Nightclubs
While culinary experts credit German influences for Central Texas barbecue appeal, African Americans in Austin have elevated BBQ in distinctive ways. Javier Wallace of Black Austin Tours talks of past Juneteenth celebrations where pitmasters dug deep holes, added hot coals and a side of a cow. They covered it up to cook for hours. The meat, of course, fell off the bone.
But black restaurants serve more than barbecue. If you’re a soul food foodie, too, Austin has a lot to choose from. Here are four eateries worth a visit:
Brian Mays’ restaurant is a mecca for locals and tourists wanting meat and side dishes prepared by a community legend. Photos, news articles, publicity stills and fliers cover the wall with everyday folks and celebrities who’ve passed through and articles about Mays. He’s a regular on lists of “Best Barbecue in Austin,” and even parlayed his dry wit and gift for gab into a role in the 2013 Nicholas Cage movie, “Joe.” Important tip about eating at Sam’s — Go early or you’ll miss out. We walked in within an hour of closing. Out of a dozen menu items, brisket and chilli beans were all that was left. The brisket was tender, smokey, with the right amount of a family-recipe sauce that made you want to steal the family recipe. Chili beans can be a disappointment, too often coming from a Hormel can. But Sam’s beans that tasted as if they’d been simmered for hours and seasoned with a heavy hand. Duck through a side door of Sam’s and you’re in his Austin Daiquiri Factory. No food. Just daiquiris. He explained that serving the fruity alcoholic drink was more profitable than serving ribs. The business is run by family, including his grandson and manager, Marketh Biscoe, who was on duty the night we dined. The menu carries more than a dozen flavors including strawberry, mango and “hypnotica.”
ADDRESS: 2000 E 12th St, Austin, TX
HOURS: Opened 10 AM to 8 PM Sunday through Thursday and 10 AM to 10 PM Friday and Saturday.
Roland’s Soul Food and Fish
DESCRIPTION: Though you can get good barbecue at Roland’s, I decided to try the meatloaf. Served with a side of smothered cabbage, the thick gravy-laden slices were moist and well-seasoned with the kind of flavor that makes you smile and remember eating at your Mama’s table. Because of the pandemic, there was no in-door dining. You order from the counter and can sit inside to wait. If you prefer to stay and eat, picnic tables with red and white checked tablecloths are set up in the back.
ADDRESS: 1311 Chestnut Avenue, Austin, TX
Bird Bird and Biscuit
DESCRIPTION: Fried chicken sandwiches are all the rage now, and you’ll find no better one than at Bird Bird Biscuit. The menu is simply the name of the place. You can get fried chicken sandwiches on a biscuit or egg sandwiches on a biscuit (for breakfast) or biscuits. The crispy, spicy chicken of the Queen Beak is set off by cayenne black pepper honey and bacon-infused aioli mayonnaise. The Theodore features the same chicken, this time with barbecue sauce, cheddar and bacon. The biscuits are light, fluffy and buttery. Order take out, have it delivered to where you are or eat at the picnic table on the side of the building. Brian Batch is co-owner and chef.
ADDRESS: 2701 Manor Road, Austin, TX
DAYS & HOURS: Mon-Wed 8a–2p, Thu-Sat 8a–9p, Sun 8a–3p
Anything’s Baked Potato Food Truck
DESCRIPTION: For a brilliant take on comfort food, check out Anything’s Potato. As the name implies, you can order almost anything to be stuffed into a huge russet. I had the brisket topped with barbecue beef, beans, cheese, onions, pickles and sour cream. Though technically a potato dish with outrageous toppings, this brisket meal ranked as one of the best I’d eaten in Austin. High praise considering the barbecue all over town is excellent. Another winner is the Cajun, topped by shrimp, fried chicken, andouille sausage and a cajun cream sauce. Salmon and asparagus and a vegetarian portobello mushroom are also popular.
ADDRESS: 1326 Rosewood Avenue, Austin, TX
DAYS & HOURS: Wed-Sunday Noon-6p
To support other black-owned restaurants, including those serving Central Texas barbecue, check out The Austin Chronicle’s list of 60 places worth your dollars.
Historic Victory Grill
In the heyday of East Austin, East 11th Street was jumping. Nightclub after nightclub welcomed throngs of black folks on Friday and Saturday nights. One of the few music venues still in operation is the Victory Grill, which was a stop on the storied Chitlin’ Circuit. The circuit comprised a string of juke joints across the United States where black entertainers could jam at a time that segregation forbade them from playing in white establishments. Such performers as James Brown, Ike & Tina Turner, Etta James, Billie Holiday and B.B. King played there.
ADDRESS: 1104 East 11th Street, Austin, TX