Thursday, October 27, 2011

Live Oak Barbecue

AUSTIN: Live Oak Barbecue
2713 East 2nd Street

Austin, TX 78702


Open Daily 11-midnight

I was full I had just had a feast at another East side BBQ joint, Franklin Barbecue. Maybe it was unfair to make a quick stop at this joint that just opened in early 2011, but I had heard some good things. This is market style 'cue where meat is served on butcher paper by the pound. Given their proximity and shared label of 'hipster barbecue', the comparisons to Franklin Barbecue are inevitable. Where the Franklin dining room is bright, packed with people, and playing old time country music, Live Oak was 1/3 full, felt like a windowless basement, and had alternative tunes blaring.

Tom Spaulding is smoking out of the custom made pit. Besides the Texas BBQ standards, he's been cooking up some interesting proteins. If you've been around for the Saturday specials, then you may have the option to try lamb, cabrito, cornish hen or prime rib. The special changes weekly and it's popular. Cornish hen was sold out and a second batch wasn't yet ready so I opted for some brisket slices, a pork spare rib, a hunk of cheddar and a can of Pearl beer.

The brisket showed great potential, but had a few issues on my visit. A rub heavy on the salt had been liberally applied, and each bite grew saltier than the next. Good smoke was certainly there, but the salt really took things over. The texture was a bit tough and required more cooking time to render out the fat that was still a bit chewy. A sloppily cut spare rib had a dense meaty texture and a visible layer of fat, but wasn't really undercooked. The meat came away from the bone and that fat wasn't the least bit chewy. The flavor was smoky and the rub, while still salty, was a bit more subtle than that of the brisket. Luckily it wasn't anything that a bit of Pearl couldn't wash down. Based on this visit, I'm looking forward to a full meal on a return visit. Maybe that brisket will get a little more time in the smoker and a little less salt.

Rating ***
Live Oak Barbecue on Urbanspoon


Scott R said...

I was underwhelmed on first visit to Live Oak as well. Have yet to go back. You should try John Mueller's new BBQ truck on South 1st. That's 5 star quality.

RL Reeves Jr said...

agreed, Live Oak needs more work

PatronSaint said...

I hadn't looked at your review before I went. I ate, shrugged my shoulders, and said "Meh. FCGBBQ probably gives this 3 stars." Sure enough. Pretty much a let down.

Disappointing brisket, pretty good ribs.

Anonymous said...

This place was hot (no AC on) when I walked in on a 90 degree day. I went for the sausage and brisket. The brisket looked good and had some flavor, good ring, but was a bit too tough and the sausage was awful. don't usually like to do sauce (why if meat is great) but I thought it might help wash the sausage down. It was some oriental vinegar junk that was as bad as the sausage! I might give this one star for the potential of the brisket. Then I looked over the counter and saw the stainless steel digital smoker! And he had the audacity to call the cook a pitmaster!! The only up side to this place was the fantastic julebox but then I have an even better Ipod so a return visit is not in the cards!


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.