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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Counter service

Sun–Thu 10:00am–2:00am
Fri–Sat 10:00am–3:00am

Features Outdoor dining
Bar None
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx

East Austin
2000 E. 12th St.
Austin, TX
(512) 478-0378
Sam’s BBQ
A long-loved local legend with decent, old-school barbecue and atmosphere for days

“E’rybody copy me,” Sam says with a gleaming gold grin, a tiny flash of diamond in the corner of one incisor. “But that’s okay, I’ve been here 35 years!” Signed glossy photographs from musicians, actors, and politicians attest to the cult following the place enjoys, and it’s hardly changed a curling newspaper article or yellowing wall in all those years on its dusty East Austin strip. Dr. Martin Luther King smiles benevolently down on the UT Lady Longhorns, and a handwashing sink is hospitably provided for your post-prandial comfort. Despite the friendly vibe, things can get dodgy here at night: we’ve witnessed shouting matches between staff and drug-stupored wanderers, and the outside seems perennially patrolled by panhandlers.

While we’ve recently found our once-favorite mutton (actually lamb, Sam tells us—a much more attractive prospect than eating sheep) too slick with fat to be enjoyable for more than two bites, the sausage (whose recipe was conceived in-house, then outsourced to Austin Meat Market) is good and the pork ribs are tender and smoky. Brisket’s fat is a bit unintegrated; although supple to the touch, the meat becomes chewy and dry on the tongue—the viscous, sweet-spicy sauce will help.

What Sam’s does best is atmosphere, and it knocks the socks off of out-of-towners, who will realize quickly that they’re somewhere unquestionably, authentically American.

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