I’ve had BBQ all over the US, from burnt ends in Kansas City to chopped pork in North Carolina to Brisket in Texas. I always thought I didn’t care for brisket until I moved to Texas. That’s when I was introduced to wet brisket. I’ve been to almost all of the famous BBQ spots in and around the Austin area including the chains. After four years of living in the Hill Country, we finally established the bar for BBQ which all other BBQ places will be measured against.
The standard for decent BBQ here in San Antonio, Texas is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before, and if you want a real barbecue, you won’t find it on The River Walk. Be warned, barbecue will never be the same again once you’ve had it from the places listed in this article.
2M Smokehouse BBQ ($$)
Address: 2731 S WW White Rd.
2M Smokehouse arguably the best barbecue in all of San Antonio! We go to 2M, 4-5 times per year and it has never disappointed and continues to put out jaw-dropping barbecue day after day. 2M is located on the East side of San Antonio (SATX) and offers a stack menu that includes, sausages, brisket, ribs and one of the best Mac N’ Cheese in the universe, covered in crunchy chicharrones.
The first time we ate at 2M Smokehouse, we settled on what we thought was a modest menu for two: 1/4 lb pulled pork, 1/4 lb brisket, 3 pork ribs, 1 Oaxaca cheese, and Serrano sausage and a side of chicharrones macaroni. A BBQ joint in Texas would be remiss if they didn’t offer the usual accouterments of foamy, white store-bought bread and some sort of pickled item on the side. My BBQ companion was impressed at the offering of potato bread and house-made pickles and onions. Everything we ate was exceptional; Melt in your mouth tender BBQ that would make even Ron Swanson bow down to these meat masters. 2M had become our new standard for BBQ.
If you are going to eat any decent BBQ in Texas, be prepared to put a Texas-sized hole in your wallet. But the cost is completely justified when you understand what kind of care goes into the preparation of 2M’s BBQ meat. I read that they sleep overnight on a mattress they got from “their mattress guy”/ landlord in the adjacent building and they were marked down on their health audit score because of it. The motto inscribed on the front of the building is “Barbecue con Ganas” (with desire) but you have to have the heart to make food that people desire and these guys put love into every single last detail of this establishment.
If you’re still not convinced 2M is worthy, watch this 8-minute video if you want to be hungry. Be warned, this place sells out fast on the weekends. Get there before they open, it’s worth the wait.
Recommendation: Giant Beef Rib & Brisket
B & D Icehouse ($)
B & D Icehouse is located within walking distance from the heart of downtown San Antonio in the Historic King Williams District. While 2M Smokehouse might be the best BBQ in San Antonio, B & D Icehouse is my favorite. It’s affordable, walking distance from downtown, and the barbecue is fantastic! This little gem serves all the essential smoke meats: ribs, brisket, sausages, pulled pork, and chicken.
B & D Icehouse itself isn’t big, so inside seating can be an issue, however, there’s plenty of picnic tables outside. Overall B & D Icehouse is great, especially for people on a budget looking to taste authentic Texas BBQ. If you’re in the mood for good BBQ downtown SATX, head to B & D Icehouse located in Southtown.
Recommendation: Big Red Baby Back Ribs
Alamo BBQ Co. ($)
Live music on the weekends, Alamo BBQ Co. serves up staple items like Peach Glazed Baby Back Ribs, Classic Texas Pit Smoked Creekstone Brisket, Smoked Sausage, and House-Made Banana Pudding. This cozy little BBQ joint is stone’s throw away from the Pearl Brewery, a historic district just north of downtown San Antonio. Alamo BBQ is budget and kid-friendly, with great outdoor patio, fire pit (for when it’s ‘Winter’) and a playground for the little ones.
Pro-tip, parking can be a pain since there’s no main lot on that side of Broadway, you’ll probably need to find street-level parking which can be annoying on a busy Friday night. If you don’t mind a little bit of walk, you can park for free at the Pearl Brewery and make your way up the street, about a 5-minute walk.
Augie’s Alamo City BBQ Steakhouse has a couple of locations, one closer to downtown San Antonio and another further north of downtown next to the SA Zoo. We’ve only ever been to the Broadway location, which had a friendly staff fast service. You basically get in line, choose your sides and pay.
It’s common in Texas to pay for meat by the pound and Augie’s is no different. If you’re looking for a BBQ join close to downtown SATX or you’re visiting the Zoo with the kids, check out Augies BBQ.
Rusty Bucket JawSmacking BBQ ($)
Located just 15 minutes from downtown SATX, Rusty Bucket JawSmacking BBQ is a great little BBQ hideout most tourists will miss out on, and its’ been around for over 10 years. This local San Antonio BBQ join offers reasonable prices and large portions, they definitely don’t skimp out on the servings. Rusty Bucket JawSmacking BBQ is a testament to good BBQ that can’t be found on the River Walk.
These barbecue joints are well outside of San Antonio, TX but certainly worth your time if you’re looking to get out of the city.
Black’s Barbecue San Marcos | Lockhart | Austin | New Braunfels ($$)
Black’s BBQ is legendary across Central Texas and currently offers 4 locations to get your cue fix. Unfortunately, if you’re located in downtown SATX, all of Black’s BBQ locations will require driving. The closest location to SATX is in New Braunfels and it’s absolutely worth the drive. If you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous, I would highly suggest going to the Black’s BBQ in Lockhart, Texas to the “Original Black’s Barbecue” which opened in 1932.
We made this pilgrimage to Lockhart, TX a few years ago and met up with some friends, the BBQ is as good as advertised. Although the wait can get pretty hot in the middle of the Texas summer since there’s not a lot of seating inside the original location. My favorite Black’s BBQ location is the one in San Marcos, Emily and I usually stop by on our way home from Austin on a regular basis.
Salt Lick BBQ ($$$)
Even though Salt Lick is closer to Austin than SATX, this place definitely gets an honorable mention and I would encourage you to visit this place if you’re in town and you have a car. This place isn’t easy to get to from San Antonio, but well worth the drive for some legendary open-pit barbecue. Salt Lick has huge open seating outdoors and indoors, ample room and kid-friendly.
The only issue I will mention is the distance from SATX, if you’re driving from downtown it will take almost 2 hours to get to Salt Lick, but I think the drive is worth it for great BBQ and the experience seeing the open pit stacked with meat is incredible. So if you think Salt Lick is a place you want to visit, try to make a day trip out of it and maybe visit a couple of amazing wineries in Driftwood around the area.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
If you really want to get the most out of your BBQ experience while visiting San Antonio, you have to get out of the River Walk. I realize the River Walk provides endless choices for food and drink, but amazing BBQ isn’t one of them. It takes just a little bit more effort, but if you have the time to check out some of the places in this article, your experience will be that much more authentic.