THE BARBECUE JOINTS:
El Azteca, 2600 E. Seventh St., Austin, 512-477-4701. Even if it is steamed, not smoked, the barbacoa is delicious. The cabrito (baby goat) is, too, although it isn't smoked either (as is traditional), but baked, then fried.
Sam's BBQ, 2000 E. 12th St., Austin, 512-478-0378. The mixed plate of brisket, sausage and pork ribs is phenomenal. Get it sauced. Oh, and a quarter-pound of mutton, too.
Randy Olfers and Douglas Roberson at the Taylor Cafe in Austin, Tex.
(Matt Archer - Getty Images for The Washington Post)
Ruby's BBQ, 512 W. 29th St., Austin, 512-477-1651. The spicy chopped beef sandwich is sensational. Save room for sweet potato pie.
Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, 505 W. Dallas St., Llano, 325-247-5713. When the brisket is on, it's unbeatable. Try the cabrito -- it's smoked.
Louie Mueller Barbeque, 206 W. Second St., Taylor, 512-352-6206. Brisket, ribs, sausage, you name it, all of it is state of the barbecuer's art.
Taylor Cafe, 101 N. Main St., 512-352-2828. Go for the anthropological experience, stay for the turkey sausage.
Kreuz Market, 619 N. Colorado St., Lockhart, 512-398- 2361. Overlook the convection oven. This is Texas 'cue at its best.
Smitty's Market, 208 S. Commerce St., Lockhart, 512- 398-9344. The barbecue rivals (some say surpasses, but not I) the fabled fare served at the other side of the family's place up the street.
Southside Market and BBQ, 1212 U.S. Hwy. 290 E., Elgin, 512-285-3407. Famous for its "hot guts," or spicy all-beef sausage. Not as fiery since they reduced the pepper back in the '70s. Still delicious, though.
Crosstown Bar-B-Q, 202 S. Avenue C, Elgin, 512-281-5594. Funky and down-home, with brisket that can be heavenly or greasy, usually both.
Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Q, Hwy. 87 South, Mason, 325-347-6897. Started in 1953, it is the original outlet for Cooper's, predating the one in Llano (established by the founder's son). Some say it is better than the Llano Cooper's, and maybe the best in the state.
-- Jim Shahin