This one burns

Favorite Austin barbecue joint goes up in smoke amid West Campus redevelopment

Favorite Austin barbecue up in smoke amid West Campus redevelopment

Freedmen's
Freedmen's is moving out of its historic building at the end of the month. Photo courtesy of Freedmen's

After a quiet few weeks, this summer’s wave of restaurant closures is rearing its head again. On August 14, campus area barbecue joint Freedmen’s announced that it is closing at the end of the month.

Opened in December 2012, the restaurant was one of the new-school restaurants that helped launch Austin as a barbecue destination, regularly landing on lists like Texas Monthly’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas. With an encyclopedic whiskey selection, it also became a popular watering hole.

Luckily for fans, the eatery’s smoked meats will live on. A company rep tells CultureMap that owner Cuatro Kowalski will be devoting his efforts to a new concept — tentatively called Four Stones — that will be an evolution of the concept. The rep did not reveal the location, as lease negotiations are still being finalized.

The move comes as rapid development continues to encroach on the block around the historic building at 2402 San Gabriel St. In June, adjacent bar Tap 24 decided to not renew its liquor license because of an impending sale of its lot.

Plans filed with the City of Austin show that the lot will be the site of a new apartment building from limited liability company AMS Retail Two — the construction of which would have eliminated Freedmen’s parking and complicated day-to-day operations.

However, the 1860s building where Freedmen’s is located — which formerly housed a grocery store and one of the first black-owned publishing houses in the nation — will be spared. The building is registered as a historical landmark with the city, and the apartments will be built in a U-shape to prevent demolition.

Freedmen’s last day of business will be August 31, but fans of its smoked meat shouldn’t despair. Until the build-out of Four Stones is complete, the team will be operating out of a commissary kitchen to make sure you can get your brisket fix through a catering operation.