Freedmen’s Bar Embraces History, Provides Upscale BBQ

[W]ith the increased popularity of barbecue in Austin, all joints are not created equal. Walking into Freedmen’s Bar isn’t a typical barbecue ‘joint’ experience. For one, it’s really nice. The lengthy bar sits in front of antique stylings, housing numerous brands of spirits. The bar furniture was also amazing. The glow from the light bulbs that surround the mirror on the wall behind the bar help create the atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time, because in a sense, you are.

The building that is now home to Freedmen’s bar was established post-Civil War, by freed slaves that intended to own land and businesses. (Read more on Freedmen’s history) According to the Freedmen’s website, the historic building has housed a residence, a church, a publishing house, and a grocery store.

That’s what you notice when you first walk in, but then wait a minute- what’s that smell? It’s that familiar scent of wood smoke wafting through the bar from the large pits that Pitmaster Even LeRoy monitors closely. Though you can definitely order meat by the pound, you’re ordering from your server, not at the counter. The options seem similar, but it’s the little details that help raise the bar to another level. The pickled vegetables, the extra effort put into the sides, and how the food is displayed help to separate this establishment from the competition.


On my recent visit I enjoyed a combination of meats and sides. I ordered a sliced brisket sandwich, a burnt end, pork rib, and a link of boudin sausage. LeRoy uses the perfect amount of pepper to elevate the taste of beef and pork. It may be a little more than most people are used to, but for me it hit the mark. I also don’t normally enjoy boudin, but the technique used changed the typical flavor profile and made it something everyone can enjoy.

The sides I chose were horse radish potato salad and baked beans that were served in a cast iron mini skillet. The slight creaminess in the potato salad helped break up the expected saltiness in the meat, but the beans were something special. They had a smooth sweetness from the brown sugar and the addition of Lone Star beer. There are additional sides that should be enjoyed like; grilled cabbage slaw, jalapeno cheese, and smoked beets.


What to know:

Parking at this location is a bit treacherous, so be prepared to walk a bit, but know once inside there are plenty of options to fit your mood. Customers can sit outside on the porch over looking San Gabriel street, at the bar to enjoy a variety amazing Whiskeys, or in the beer garden if you’re with a crowd.

I enjoy that as nice as this place is, it’s still plenty family friendly. You can bring your kids to dinner, and your pets are welcome in the patio area or beer garden.

This is a barbecue restaurant, so the majority of the menu is meat related, but there are additional items to enjoy including the sides mentioned above and during Sunday brunch specials. Items include: Barbecue Benedict– a buttermilk biscuit, smoked tomato hollandaise; choice of: brisket, pulled pork, or sausage, and Jalapeno Cheese Grits.

Location details:

2402 San Gabriel Street
Austin, TX 78705
512.220.0953 (restaurant)

Twitter: @freedmensbar




11:00 am – 10:00 pm

11:00 am – 12:00 am

Brunch: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Dinner: 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm

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