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AUSTIN: Live Oak Barbecue
2713 East 2nd Street
Austin, TX 78702
Open Daily 11-midnight

I was full I had just had a feast at another East side BBQ joint, Franklin Barbecue. Maybe it was unfair to make a quick stop at this joint that just opened in early 2011, but I had heard some good things. This is market style 'cue where meat is served on butcher paper by the pound. Given their proximity and shared label of 'hipster barbecue', the comparisons to Franklin Barbecue are inevitable. Where the Franklin dining room is bright, packed with people, and playing old time country music, Live Oak was 1/3 full, felt like a windowless basement, and had alternative tunes blaring.

Tom Spaulding is smoking out of the custom made pit. Besides the Texas BBQ standards, he's been cooking up some interesting proteins. If you've been around for the Saturday specials, then you may have the option to try lamb, cabrito, cornish hen or prime rib. The special changes weekly and it's popular. Cornish hen was sold out and a second batch wasn't yet ready so I opted for some brisket slices, a pork spare rib, a hunk of cheddar and a can of Pearl beer.

The brisket showed great potential, but had a few issues on my visit. A rub heavy on the salt had been liberally applied, and each bite grew saltier than the next. Good smoke was certainly there, but the salt really took things over. The texture was a bit tough and required more cooking time to render out the fat that was still a bit chewy. A sloppily cut spare rib had a dense meaty texture and a visible layer of fat, but wasn't really undercooked. The meat came away from the bone and that fat wasn't the least bit chewy. The flavor was smoky and the rub, while still salty, was a bit more subtle than that of the brisket. Luckily it wasn't anything that a bit of Pearl couldn't wash down. Based on this visit, I'm looking forward to a full meal on a return visit. Maybe that brisket will get a little more time in the smoker and a little less salt.

Rating ***
Live Oak Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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