Saturday, June 11, 2016


Review of Freedmen's BBQ (Austin, TX)  

Freedmen's Website, Facebook, & Twitter 

Freedmen's had been on our list for a while. Scott and I had both enjoyed what we had at the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival, and I had liked what I tried at the Red Dirt BBQ Festival. So we headed down that way to get a more complete sampling.

Freedmen's is in an older building off of San Gabriel and 24th with a lot of history, having originally been a gathering place for the "freed man" community in Austin (which is where it gets the name). There's a lot more detail on their website and it is a fascinating read.

Scott's comment: You get an instant impression of Austin's past (the 1860's era building) and its present/future (the sounds of road and building construction) just down the block. 


Freedmen's is an actual sit-down to order place, with inside and outside dining. It's also a whiskey bar with more types of whiskey on the menu than everything else combined. They tend to stick to a smaller BBQ menu when it comes to the meats: brisket, sausage, pork ribs, chicken, and pulled pork. We get ½ pound of everything (and ¼ dark meat chicken).

Pulled Pork: The pulled pork is moist without being greasy. On my first helping I noticed it was a bit sweet but otherwise a bit bland and was leaning towards rating it a 6. Scott thinks he has a spice pocket in his and he likes it a little more. On my second serving I notice a little more spice, which does improve it, and I would have given a 7 just to that part. We both agree that it feels like it is missing something, and that the sauce helps this one. Final scores: Tom 6.5/10, Scott: 7.0/10.

Scott: I tried a little bit of the sauce that was provided on the pulled pork, and I felt it did provide some enhanced flavor for it.  Readers of previous reviews will recall we normally don't try sauces, but this was a test, and in this case, sauce did provide some additional benefit. 

Sausage: The sausage is a jalapeno blend (so no score from Tom). There's a good snap in the casing and it is obviously well-prepared. The heat starts subtle and finishes strong. Scott is really impressed. Score - Scott: 8.5/10.  Scott: My jalapeno sausage happy place... 

Chicken: The chicken is tender and juicy. It has a nice light smoky flavor and a mild bit of pepper. We both really like it. Score - Tom and Scott: 8.0/10.

 
Brisket: They really cut the brisket thick here, as our half-pound was two slices. There's an excellent bark, and a heavy smoke flavor. There's also a strong pepper flavor as well. The fat is well-rendered and it is extremely tender. Score - Scott and Tom: 8.5/10.

Pork Ribs: The ribs have a nice crust and are heavily coated with black pepper, with that being the strongest flavor, although there's some nice smoke underneath. They are reasonably tender, and there's a good amount of meat on them. Score - Scott and Tom: 8.5/10.
Scott: The pork ribs weren't falling off the bone variety, but that's fine. There was plenty of meat on the bone, and we got our money's worth for the meat to bone ratio. 

There haven't been many sit-down places that truly impress, but Freedmen's is definitely one of the exceptions. Their BBQ is definitely exceptional, and it looks like a great place to have a slower-paced meal and enjoy a high-end drink while eating. While we don't normally comment on sides, their beans (with chopped beef, pork, brown sugar, and Lone Star) are the best we've had.

Is it worth a visit? Absolutely.

Is it worth a trip? Again, absolutely.

One note: The parking situation seems a little tight in their back lot. If you live on a bus route, that might be the better way to get there. 
Scott: If you drive there and plan on having a whiskey or two (or more), make sure someone's brave/able enough to navigate the Freedmen's parking lot in reverse. Other nearby businesses' have parking lot signs specific for their businesses and say they'll tow.  Passing along the warning to save you any possible impound fee. Save that money for more BBQ.

-Tom

Scott's PS:  If you have the $111.00 to spend on the Van Winkle 23YR Limited Release Bourbon,  please let me know how it is and how it complements the BBQ experience. I'm curious, but this is a BBQ blog on a budget. 

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