Austin gets the burnt end of the brisket in recent ranking of best U.S. barbecue cities
Barbecue should be a slow heat, but Austin is burnt to a crisp in a new list of the top U.S. cities for barbecue. The very chill, country-ish capital only made No. 12 in the country, and that's not even terrible compared to some other Texas cities.
Some more curmudgeonly Austinites will use this list as proof that Austin barbecue is not all it's cracked up to be, and to that we say: This list was made by a lawn care company. Still, when LawnStarter compiled the list, it used pretty fair metrics — things like the number of barbecue joints per 1,000 people, how well those smokehouses were rated, and how they did in actual contests where the meats could speak for themselves.
The same company used its data aggregation skills to name Austin the second-best city for naked gardening in 2023, as well as the fifth-best for naked biking, and the second-best for urban treasure hunting. We don't let LawnStarter tell us how to live our lives, but these lists do seem pretty telling about Austin's desire to get a little weird and a lot nude. Maybe barbecue is just too mainstream.
Austin did exceptionally well in the consumer satisfaction category, ranking No. 2 overall. It's a little sad from the outside looking in, considering that the awards category didn't reach such heights. But at least Austinites are happy? It's a good thing, since Austin spends more than any Texas city on ribs and brisket.
The satisfaction ranking reflects the average rating of smokehouses on Google, the number of smokehouses with a 4.5-star rating or higher, and a few other metrics. Maybe it's our tourists being extra generous with their opinions, or maybe Austin barbecue is more for everyday diners than professional judges.
Our worst category was, naturally, those competitions. Austin came in at No. 47; still pretty good among the 200 total cities. More insulting was that on the overall list, although Austin was beat by some legendary barbecue cities like Kansas City, Missouri (No. 1), it was also beat by much less celebrated spots like Nashville and Los Angeles.
Houston led the Texas cities at a solid No. 5. It followed Austin with a consumer satisfaction rating of No. 3, but did much better in competitions at No. 5. Its lowest score was access. Ironically, or maybe just following the laws of supply and demand, Houston's great barbecue is a little harder to get.
The rest of the state deserves at least a strong side-eye. Waco and Lubbock made Nos. 20 and 21, respectively. San Antonio lags a little at No. 31, in a similar situation to Austin's: the Southern Texas city also did well in consumer satisfaction, and worst in competitions.
Dallas and Fort Worth were appropriately close at Nos. 36 and 40. Several Texas cities were scattered around average, including El Paso at No. 84. Finally, the worst Texas city was Irving at No. 192. The consumer satisfaction was abysmal (No. 195), and the competition rank was as bad as any other, bottoming out at a shared No. 74, which probably means the city did not place in any competitions.
The top 10 best US cities for barbecue, according to LawnStarter's research, are:
- No.1, Kansas City, Missouri
- No. 2, St. Louis, Missouri
- No. 3, Kansas City, Kansas
- No. 4, Memphis, Tennessee
- No. 5, Houston, Texas
- No. 6, Orlando, Florida
- No. 7, Springfield, Missouri
- No. 8., Omaha, Nebraska
- No. 9., Nashville, Tennessee
- No. 10, Richmond, Virginia