AUSTIN | Freedmen’s Bar is housed in a building dating back to 1869, that was built by former slave George Franklin to serve as a general store in what was then Austin’s first “freed man community”. You can tell that there’s a lot of history in these walls from the moment you get a look at the building – along with the store it’s served as a residence, a church, a publishing house and more. When you walk inside, the thing that stands out most is the smell of smoke.
The smoke is thanks to the fact that today, the building houses a cocktail lounge, beer garden and smokehouse. Evan LeRoy is the head chef/pit master at Freedmen’s Bar and adopts the philosophy that anything can be smoked. The usual smoked meat suspects are on the menu, but to join them are things like smoked vegetables, cheeses and desserts. For the best introduction to what Freedmen’s has to offer, check out the the “Holy Trinity Plate” of traditional brisket, ribs and sausage. LeRoy’s brisket is thicker than many, but still super tender and pulls apart easily. When it hits your tonuge the well rendered fat melts in your mouth and balances wonderfully with the salty exterior.
The thick pork ribs falls of the bone and are super tasty while the pork and beef sausage with garlic, pepper and jalapeño has just the right snap and juiciness to it. Sides here are above the usual grade too. Simple coleslaw is elevated by the use of smoked cabbage, cilantro and caraway seeds while the smoked beets with herbed chevre and balsamic glaze hit the spot with a nice balance between smoke and tartness. Something we appreciate at Freedmen’s is that instead of the usual Texas toast, the barbecue is served with a tasty foccacia.
For dessert, try the smoked chocolate mousse, which contains slightly smoked chocolate chips and salt flakes for an interesting twist on a classic that works well.
Drinks wise there are over 150 unique whiskeys on offer along with a range of innovative cocktails. Try the Ol’ Schmokey, which embodies the venue’s dedication to smoke and consists of Evan Williams bourbon, smoked orange, smoked pecan bitters, and oak smoke. Beer and wine is also available, but whiskey and cocktails are the way to go here.
If it’s food you’re after or just a drink, Freedmen’s Bar is always worth a visit. As a bonus, there’s even table service which can be a rarity when it comes to barbecue spots.
2402 San Gabriel Street
Telephone: 512 220 0953
Tue – Wed: 11:00am to 10:00pm
Thu – Sat: 11:00am to 12:00am
Sun: 11:00am to 10:00pm