Name: Lamberts Downtown Barbecue
Location: 401 West 2nd Street, Austin TX 78701
Order: Beef Brisket with Fried Okra (link to menu)
Before we started this blog and started reviewing barbecue, I had eaten at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue and thought it was the best brisket I had ever had, so I was excited to go back and try it again.This time it was on the record.
Lamberts describes themselves as ‘fancy barbecue’ which causes some people to question if they should be really be considered as a barbecue “joint”. Texas Monthly Barbecue recently ranked Lambert’s in their Top 50 and two years ago it was ranked as one of the top 100 most important restaurants in the US (I can’t find the link to this anymore, but Darren Rovell had this year’s rankings, and I looked at the past ones at the time). So needless to say, while the barbecue may be called fancy, it also is called good.
Lamberts uses a coffee and brown sugar rub which gives the meat, and especially the bark, a tremendous amount of flavor. The only problem with this is that pieces of the brisket that don’t include the bark seem like they are missing flavor, when it is only because it is being compared against other bites. Some of this is also a result of the fact that Lamberts uses a gas smoker instead of wood, so the meat doesn’t have that full smoky taste. That being said, it was still tender and wonderful, however it was not as good as I had remembered it to be.
For a side I had the fried okra, which was hand-breaded and came with a spicy remoulade dip. It was fantastic and a welcome alternative to the weak sides that often plague barbecue joints around here.
Lamberts is located in an old historic warehouse in downtown and has a great feel to it. There is dining indoors and on a patio, plus live music upstairs. While it is a great atmosphere, it doesn’t scream barbecue, but it’s a great place to enjoy a meal. The barbecue was great, the side was great, and the atmosphere was fun, but my only complaint was the price. The menu says fancy barbecue, and I think the only thing that made it seem fancy was the high price. $18 for less than half a pound is more than twice the price of brisket almost anywhere else. Fried Okra and a small amount of brisket costing $30 is pretty ridiculous. So far it seems like you pay a price for great brisket in Austin. It’s either a 3 hour wait at Franklin’s or a $30 tab at Lamberts, but at least it’s great when you are eating it.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 Hogs
Brisket – 4 Hogs
Sides – 4 Hogs
Overall – 4 Hogs