Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kerlin BBQ - Austin

The center of the Texas barbecue world has traditionally been Lockhart.  However, there is little doubt that the epicenter has moved to Austin.  If you had to mark a ground zero for Texas BBQ within that Austin epicenter, it would probably be somewhere near Kerlin BBQ.  Kerlin BBQ set up shop just over a year ago in the crowded Austin barbecue market.  They sit between two of the state’s heavyweights in La Barbecue and John Mueller Meat Company and only about a mile from Franklin Barbecue.  In the span of a year, Kerlin has managed to forge their own name and garner the respect of the city. 


Orders are placed at a small, rather unremarkable trailer that sits in a primitive lot in East Austin.  The meat is cut as the order is placed.  A second trailer sits nearby and serves as a screened in smokehouse where the meat is prepared.  I opted for a spread of brisket, sausage, pork ribs and a beef rib.  My order was prepared and I was called back to the trailer to collect my meats.

A spread of meats from Kerlin BBQ in East Austin

The strips of gorgeous brisket begged to be the first sample.  I obliged and was instantly wowed.  The brisket featured a simple salt and pepper rub and a deep black and well established crust.  Smoke blessed this meat with wonderful flavor.  The perfectly rendered fat made for a deliciously juicy bite.  The slices held together well but pulled apart with ease.  This was grade A brisket that could easily stand up against either of the Mueller family neighbors on their best day.

The link of sausage was also very good.  In fact, it is one of my new favorites in the state.  The link is not Kerlin’s but comes from nearby Smokey Denmark’s Smoked Meats Co.  Each bite revealed a perfect snap and plenty of juice.  The flavor is very good and features a good amount of spice.

The small St. Louis style pork ribs hold a course rub matted to the sweet glaze.  The ribs carry some smoke but the peppery sweetness of the glaze was the prevailing flavor.  The meat held well to the bone but easily yielded to each bite.  Unfortunately the ribs were a little too dry on this specific day.  They are certainly above average, but really did not stand out over some of Austin’s other stars.

The beef rib was by the book.  The fat was well rendered and meat was tender throughout.  The beef contained plenty of moisture thanks to the abundance of dripping fat.  The texture was just about perfect.  The meat was very lightly seasoned and lacked deep flavor.  I would have liked a bit more salt and pepper to aid the traces of smoke.


As is the tradition in the new Austin regime, the sides come as carefully crafted as the meats.  The menu features items like Jalapeno Dill Potato Salad, Smoked Corn with Chipotle Butter and Queso Fresco, along with a Blue Cheese Coleslaw.  Also notable are the delicious homemade pickles.  These pickles were actually more cucumber than pickle, combining a deceptive cool flavor with a lingering bite of spice.

The thin homemade sauce carried a stronger vinegar tang than the pickles had and was balanced with a touch of sweetness along with the slight bite of pepper.  It was not a bad sauce and provided a nice companion for the bread on the side of my plate.

You may have to search for Kerlin a bit as it is hidden among the unkempt business along Cesar Chavez bearing names like Pinata Party Palace.  Once you manage to find a parking spot (and double check that your doors are locked), you will find Kerlin’s lot to be large and accommodating with plenty of picnic table seating and a Texas Country soundtrack.  And although you can easily find a barbecue line that stretches down the street in Austin, there was no wait for barbecue at Kerlin on this Friday at noon.


Even on the Austin barbecue scale, the most stringent of all Barbecue standards, Kerlin BBQ is a can’t miss.  The brisket is some of the finest you’ll find anywhere and the other meats do Austin proud as well.  From the main course to the sides, there is little you can find to complain about here.  Expect the Kerlin name to continue to grow along with the lines.  Even in the midst of other must-visit East Austin BBQ joints, Kerlin proves itself to also be a must-visit.

*Note: Since writing this, Kerlin has scaled back their Barbecue business and focused on their booming "Kolache" demand.  Kolache options range from "Smoked mushroom, carmelized onion & gouda" to "Brisket & Cheddar."  Kolaches are available Wednesday - Sunday. Barbecue hours were Fridays only, but have now been expanded to Saturdays and Sundays as well.

Address: 1700 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702

Phone: 512-412-5588
Hours: Barbecue: Friday - Sunday: 11AM - 2PM (or sold out)
           Kolaches: Wednesday - Sunday: 9AM - 2PM (or sold out)


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*All Grades Are Based Solely on the Quality of Texas BBQ Offered at the Joint. We Aren't Looking for Burgers or Catfish!

My Grading Scale:

A = This is some of the finest BBQ you'll find anywhere. It is worth a roadtrip in itself along with any required wait.
B = This is very good BBQ, even if it is over an hour away, consider making the drive.
C = This is just average BBQ but it's worth a stop in a pinch.
D = This is a poor example of Texas BBQ. Even if it's the only place around, skip it. Apologize to any non-Texans that have eaten here.
F = This is not only a bad Texas BBQ, it is probably not suitable for human consumption.

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