Where there’s fire, there’s smoke—and in Texas, that often means someone’s firing up a barbecue grill.
Because of their Texas cattle baron and cowboy-centric history, locals have long enjoyed a Texas-sized love affair with barbecue. Everyone from the Alamo to Austin’s State Capitol knows that the best barbecue in the Lone Star state may be found in nearby Lockhart—the “barbecue capital of Texas”—home to Smitty’s, Blacks, Kreiz’s and more. Of course, even New Yorkers and Hollywood types have heard of Austin-area destinations like Franklin Barbecue and The Salt Lick. But there’s no need for San Antonio folks to drive that far to find great sausage, brisket, pork ribs and barbecued chicken. The Alamo City also boasts fabulous meats from local joints smoked “low and slow,” along with equally remarkable sides.
So where to go in San Antonio for great barbecue with sauce that drips down your wrists as you eat it? Here are some of our local favorites.
The Smoke Shack is a moveable feast—OK, it’s a food truck, but it’s worth finding for some fabulous barbecue. They’ve also got a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Broadway across from the Witte Museum in Alamo Heights, where some might not expect to find the best San Antonio barbecue.
Still, if you ask most locals, many will say it’s the best barbecue in town. Owner Chris Conger has been passionate about barbecue since he worked at Dallas’ James Beard Award-winning barbecue restaurant SMOKE some years back, fueling his desire to open his own place. After four years of serving brisket out of his popular Nacogdoches food truck, Conger and his wife Kate opened the Broadway restaurant. Look for an A-line rooftop painted with a bold Texas flag.
Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse is a no-frills, down-home barbecue shack with corrugated tin add-on rooms, picnic tables outside and a big pink pig on a pole for its sign, all tucked away just on St. Mary’s Street, not far from the San Antonio Botanical Garden. There’s an Elvis statue inside and behind the counter are large pans of barbecue ribs, chicken, brisket and pulled pork. With a Texas-style beer garden where patrons can hear live music on the patio, Augie’s is best known for its pork ribs, brisket plates and zingy jalapeño sausage. (There’s an Augie’s Alamo City BBQ Steakhouse on Broadway, too.)
The Granary Cue & Brew folks started with small-batch craft beer at the Granary, then realized what good barbecue and housemade pickles and sodas they make, too.
“The Brown Ale served with brisket ramen is one of my favorite pairings at The Granary, where [the] dinner menu shows elements of smoke and live fire and boasts flavors of uniquely combined farm-to-fork products,” said Tiffany Ruiz, a server at The Granary.
Set in the early-1900s house of the former brewery’s chief cooper at Pearl, The Granary is a seven-barrel brewery, producing about 200 barrels of beer each year. It also has an outdoor deck, in addition to a casual inside dining area.
Two Bros. BBQ Market chef Jason Dady is a household name in San Antonio, where his many restaurants in town include Tre Trattoria, Tre Enoteca and his new Shuck Shack, located within walking distance of the Pearl.
Dady and his brother Jake, also a chef, own both Two Bros. BBQ Market and Southtown’s B&D Ice House. The Dady brothers call Two Bros., “True Texas pit-to-table barbecue” and take pride in how “low-and-slow” meats are smoked over oak in custom-made pits before being cut to order. Folks expect a lot from local celebrity chefs and Dady doesn’t disappoint. While the barbecue here is good (we’re talking cherry glazed ribs, for goodness sake), the side dishes are also big hits. The baked beans are infused with peaches—and, believe it or not, they’re wonderful. There are the usual suspects—a zesty cole slaw, sweet corn and the kids’ favorite, creamy mac-n-cheese—but be sure to leave room for deep-fried strawberry pies, berry cobbler and banana pudding. Families enjoy the back patio shaded by oak trees and outside there’s a playscape and sandbox for kids.
B&D Ice House has long been a staple of Southtown since 1961, where owner Bruno D’Zanski worked and kept bar for 50 years before ceasing daily operations.
In 2014, however, the Dady brothers combined their talents with D’Zanski’s friends, Jody and Steve Newman (of The Friendly Spot and Alamo Street Eat Bar), to bring great barbecue to the vibrant Southtown scene with a re-imagined B&D Icehouse. The menu offers true Texas pit barbecue with slow-smoked brisket, baby-back ribs, chicken thighs, turkey and sausage along with signature sandwiches. On tap are Texas craft brews and wines.
El Machito chef Johnny Hernandez is known for his Mexican street foods at his popular La Gloria and The Fruteria restaurants, but he’s also incredible behind a barbecue grill. He makes barbacoa, a whole calf head cooked in a deep pit he dug in his home backyard. Since you can’t drop by his house, you can still go to carnivore heaven at Chef Johnny’s El Machito at the Quarry. Walk in the door, and the first thing you see is a grill full of meat—whole goats on a spit, sausages, chicken, beef, ribs and more. It’s incredible. A celebration of all things meat, El Machito specializes in mesquite-grilled meats prepared in the traditional carne asada style of northern Mexico and estilo campestre (country style) of Guadalajara.
Influenced by the history, technique and artistry of the parrilleros (grill chefs) of Mexico, Hernandez takes pride in grilling meats over his handcrafted asadero. This open-fire mesquite grill is framed by a wooden altar, providing a window for diners to admire the skills of the specially trained grill chefs who masterfully control the heat, prepare every variety of grilled meat imaginable including the chef’s signature dish, locally sourced cabrito asado (grilled goat).
With a full bar, El Machito's drinks are superb. This is barbecue San Antonio style: No, it doesn’t have smoky barbecue sauce and sides of mustard potato salad, but there is guacamole, queso fundido, chips, sangria, and margaritas (which is even better).
At the BBQ Station, grill masters Zac and Freddy claim to serve “no-frills barbecue done right,” with “beautiful mahogany-skinned chicken, tasty beef ribs and addictive jalapeño mac and cheese.” In 1992, the Peacock family bought an old Exxon station and set out to create a place where they could serve the same kind of great barbecue found in small Texas towns like Lockhart. Today, they serve all the best traditional wood-smoked barbecue and side dishes made from scratch.