Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lamberts Downtown Barbecue

AUSTIN: Lamberts Downtown Barbecue
401 W. Second

Austin, TX 78701


Open Daily 11-2 & 5:30-11

Downtown Austin is home to many new structures, many of them modern. In the midst of the building boom sits Lambert's, which is located in a historic two-story brick building with lofty ceilings and an open kitchen. On a Wednesday afternoon, there were no open tables during lunchtime, so we made our way to the concrete bar.

Detractor's generally chalk up Lambert's as "fancy barbecue" and insist that it does not belong in the discussion of great Texas 'cue. The descriptions on their menu do little to dissuade the first time visitor. Rather than brisket, ribs and sausage, you can instead choose from "Brown Sugar & Coffee Rubbed Natural Brisket, Maple & Coriander Crusted Natural Pork Ribs, and Homemade Jalapeno Hot Link." Fortunately the bartender understood when I simply asked for brisket, pork ribs (they do offer beef ribs) and sausage.

A thin line of fat hugged the bottom of each beautiful thick slice of brisket. The black crust held a deep smokiness that permeated the meat and the fat. I initially peeled some fat off before my first bite, which I rescued later after realizing just how good each previous bite was. The only negative I could find was a slight toughness to the meat which could just be chalked up to a consequence of the thick slices. The sweet rub on the ribs was incredible. It wasn't cloying, but it married well with the smoke flavor. Each rib had a deep red color with well rendered fat and excellent flavor throughout. The rib meat was also less than velvety in texture, but not uncomfortably tough. The jalapeno sausage is house made and features a bold pepper flavor, a fine grind and great snap. Each bite of link also had a great smoke flavor. Three sauces are offered in mild, hot and mustard, but save it for your bread...this meat needs no adornment.

The owner has a sense of humor as evidenced by the menu which pokes fun at this joints supposed reputation by adding the question "Fancy Barbecue?" at the bottom of each page. As far as this BBQ Snob is concerned, if it's good tender meat that is caringly smoked over oak wood, then superfluous descriptions and cloth napkins are no reason to keep you from enjoying some paticularly scrumptious 'cue.

Rating *****
Lamberts Downtown Barbeque on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I discovered your blog on CNN serendipitously on the eve of a trip to Austin. I moved to Chicago last year from Dallas, and frankly it had been a long time since I'd had good 'cue, in Texas, much less out of it. I was tired of the haphazard crap-shoot just dropping into places (I'd been on a run of sore disappointments)- I wanted a sure thing.
So almost straight from the airport I headed to Lambert's for lunch, based on your rating. man was I glad I did.
I would say overall the best bbq experience ever had, at a restaurant that is. I especially appreciated having collards that still had some texture, and that weren't drowning in fat. The "ranch style baked beans" were excellent, if the portion a bit small. As the name implies they should be, they were a bit sweet and a bit spicy.
I tried the brisket and the pork ribs, and a bite of friend's pulled pork. I didn't care for the sauce on her pork, but my dishes were superb. The coriander in the rib rub was a revelation.
Brisket was firm in places, but not tough, and certain bites with extra crust were as good as it gets.
Portions were perfect - you won't feel ready to explode, but then again, you shouldn't want to. You can savor the bites, instead of plowing through a monster plate enough to feed three.
Key lime pie for dessert came with a side of coconut ice cream, all home made and incredible. The crust on the pie was a bit thick and tough to fork cut at times, but the flavor was just about perfect -maybe a touch too sweet.
The atmosphere was pitch perfect - really well-designed, mod meets old Texas. NO CHEESE, no cut corners. Good service.
A new favorite; I'd also give it 5 of 6 stars.

Anonymous said...

I had a meeting in Round Rock, so I drove the extra 15 miles to try this place for lunch. In short, not impressed.

While the brisket was flavorful, it was not tender. Ribs were tough and too salty. Sausage was okay, but nothing to write home about.

Two tiny cornbread muffins accompanied the meal. Where are the slices of white bread? Beans tasted like they came from a can with chunks of brisket added. Just okay.

Not really my idea of good Texas barbecue. While I'm not a expert, I am a barbecue fan. I'd give this place 3 stars.


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.