I Compared Famous Barbecue in Dallas and Austin

Angle down icon An icon in the shape of an angle pointing down. I compared Terry Black's in dallas and Franklin Barbecue in Austin, two of the most famous BBQ spots in the country. Erin McDowell/Business Insider I tried popular menu items from Franklin Barbecue in Austin and Terry Black's in Dallas.Franklin Barbecue impressed me with its juicy, tender brisket.Terry Black's sold out of brisket, but its tasty sides made it my preferred barbecue spot.

I tried two of the most famous barbecue joints in Texas and one came out on top.

On a recent trip to Dallas, I tried one of the most famous barbecue restaurants in the city, Terry Black's Barbecue, to see how it compared to my last Texas barbecue experience in 2021.

The last time I visited Texas, I ate at the world-famous Franklin Barbecue, which opened in 2009 and has been an Austin staple for barbecue ever since.

In 2011, Bon Appétit called it the "best barbecue in the country," Eater reported, while Texas Monthly ranked Franklin Barbecue first on its list of "The Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas" twice, in 2013 and 2017.

Terry Black's has also received quite a few accolades. Run by fourth-generation pit masters, the spot has locations in Austin and Dallas and was voted the best barbecue in Dallas in 2023 by the Dallas Observer.

Here's how the two experiences compared, and which barbecue spot my mouth is still watering for.

On a recent trip to Dallas, I visited Terry Black's Barbecue for some classic Texas barbecue.

The exterior of Terry Black's Barbecue in Dallas. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

Terry Black's has three locations across Texas: one in Dallas, their flagship restaurant in Austin, and one in Lockhart, where the restaurant's namesake, Terry Black, was born and raised and learned to master Central-Texas-style barbecue.

I'm based in New York City and visited the restaurant not only because of its reputation, but because it was one of the few barbecue spots open in Dallas at dinner time on a weekday. Many other famous spots were only open for lunch.

I visited Austin in October 2021 and also had to try some famous barbecue while I was there.

The exterior of Franklin Barbecue. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

Franklin Barbecue only has one location and, like many of the barbecue spots I researched in Dallas, is only open for lunch six days a week.

Franklin is open until everything sells out, which, according to its website, is usually around 2 or 3 p.m.

When I arrived at Terry Black's at 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, the restaurant was heaving.

Customers eating inside Terry Black's. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

A line stretched out the door and down the block, but it was moving quickly. According to the restaurant's website, the average wait time is about 15 minutes.

In line, I was informed by an employee that three out of the restaurant's six meat options had already sold out: the brisket, pork ribs, and beef ribs.

The restaurant's sliced turkey, chopped beef, and two kinds of link sausage were still available.

Even though the main dining room was packed, there were quite a few tables still available outside and in the back dining room, which is where I was able to grab a booth.

Due to the pandemic, the dining room wasn't open when I visited Franklin Barbecue in 2021.

Chairs outside Franklin Barbecue. Erin McDowell/Insider

I placed my curbside pick-up order two days in advance on its website.

The only hang-up with ordering online was that I needed to order at least 3 pounds of meat.

When I checked the ordering website in 2024, you now have to preorder 5 pounds of meat to do a pick-up order. However, you can also visit the restaurant in person and order just the amount you want to eat.

My meal at Terry Black's was enough for one sitting, plus a little to take home for leftovers.

My meal at Terry Black's. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

While the meat options at Terry Black's were limited by the time I got to order, the side options were practically endless.

It offered single, pint, quart, and gallon sizes of all the sides, which include mac and cheese, pinto beans, green beans, Mexican rice, cream corn, baked potato salad, and coleslaw.

I ordered a "single" portion, or about 5 ounces, of coleslaw, potato salad, creamed corn, mac and cheese, and a side of free pickles. I also ordered a ¼ pound of chopped beef, half a jalapeño-cheddar sausage, and a canned beer.

My order came to $35.74, plus a 15% tip, bringing my total cost to $41.66.

My meal from Franklin Barbecue was a lot more expensive, but I got enough food to last me for days.

My meal at Franklin Barbecue. Erin McDowell/Insider

I ordered a pound of brisket, 2 pounds of pulled pork, a sausage link, potato salad, coleslaw, and a soft drink. I spent $135.50 on my order, including taxes and a 15% tip.

Franklin is all about the meat. The restaurant only offers three side options: potato salad, coleslaw, and pinto beans in pints, quarts, and trays for preorder. I'm not a fan of pinto beans, so I only ordered the other two sides.

My order ended up being way too much food for one person to eat in one sitting, but I was able to eat it over the span of multiple days, so it didn't go to waste.

I was disappointed at first that I didn't get to try Terry Black's famous brisket, but the chopped beef blew me away.

Terry Black's chopped beef. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

I would describe it as if pulled pork and brisket had a baby — it was super tender, perfectly seasoned, and packed with flavor.

Mixed with the barbecue sauce that was available in large bottles right on the table, I could have easily polished off a half-pound of this tender meat.

It was juicy, slightly sweet, and paired well with the free bread offered by the joint for a do-it-yourself barbecue sandwich.

The brisket from Franklin Barbecue tasted as good as it looked.

Franklin Barbecue's brisket. Erin McDowell/Insider

Franklin's brisket is famous around the world. Anthony Bourdain visited the spot in 2012 for an episode of "No Reservations," waited in line for over an hour, and told the Huffington Post that the brisket was "earth-shatteringly good."

I had to agree.

The brisket had a beautiful, smoked crust on it, while the meat inside was dripping in juices and incredibly moist without being overly fatty. The portion was huge, but I wasn't complaining. 

The brisket was perfectly marbled and practically fell apart with just my fork. It was so moist and flavorful that it didn't require any barbecue sauce to amp up the flavor, though they did pair nicely together.

I also tried the jalapeño-cheddar sausage at Terry Black's.

Terry Black's jalapeño-cheddar sausage. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

I ordered a half-link, which I thought was the perfect portion for one sitting when combined with the other meat and sides.

The sausage's casing was crispy, with the perfect amount of snap. It was slightly spicy without being too overpowering and very moist.

Frankly, it was the best sausage I've ever had in my life.

I ordered the sausage from Franklin Barbecue, too. It was good, but it didn't impress me as much as the one from Terry Black's.

Franklin Barbecue's sausage. Erin McDowell/Insider

The casing also had a good snap to it, but not as much as the one from Terry Black's. I also thought the meat wasn't as flavorful as the jalapeño-cheddar variety.

I also got to try the pulled pork at Franklin Barbecue, which was tasty on its own and part of a sandwich.

Pulled pork from Franklin Barbecue. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The pulled pork was well-seasoned and very tender. It was the best pulled pork I've ever eaten, despite spending four years living in the South.

However, I didn't enjoy the pulled pork quite as much as the brisket. If I had to choose one, I would definitely opt for the brisket.

Terry Black's coleslaw was perfectly tangy and fresh.

Terry Black's coleslaw. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

Terry Black's coleslaw had kale and carrots in it, in addition to classic ingredients like red cabbage. I thought the coleslaw was tasty, and I liked the addition of the kale.

The coleslaw from Franklin Barbecue was very similar to the one from Terry Black's but didn't have kale in it.

Franklin Barbecue's coleslaw. Erin McDowell/Insider

Made with red and green cabbage, the coleslaw was lightly dressed and seasoned with pepper, which came through more than the version from Terry Black's.

The coleslaw was crunchy and light, and it wasn't made with too much mayonnaise, which I sometimes find with coleslaw.

I also tried a single serving of potato salad from Terry Black's.

Terry Black's potato salad. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

It was made with baked red potatoes, green onion, and mayonnaise.

It was also topped with some sort of barbecue seasoning that looked and tasted like paprika.

The potato salad at Franklin Barbecue had a distinctly different flavor profile.

Franklin Barbecue's potato salad. Erin McDowell/Insider

The potato salad tasted strongly of mustard, dill, and eggs.

Typically, when preparing potato salad, I opt not to include eggs, even though I'm aware they are a staple in many Texas-style potato salad recipes.

I polished off the entire side of potato salad from Terry Black's.

Terry Black's potato salad. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

It was a fresh, traditional, backyard-style potato salad that's similar to the one I make in the summer — only a whole lot better.

The red-skinned potatoes added a lot of texture and flavor to the dish, and I liked the addition of the green onion and seasoning for an added kick.

I admittedly wasn't a huge fan of the potato salad from Franklin Barbecue.

Franklin Barbecue's potato salad. Erin McDowell/Insider

While I found the potato salad to be indulgently creamy, I believe adding some celery or red onion would have provided a more desirable balance in texture.

I also got a free side of pickles from Terry Black's, which had the perfect amount of crunch and tartness.

Terry Black's pickles. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

I'm somewhat of a pickle connoisseur and was highly impressed by Terry Black's pickles. They were the perfect addition to my meal.

I also got a side of pickles and onions from Franklin Barbecue.

Franklin Barbecue's pickles and onions. Erin McDowell/Insider

They were a great addition to the do-it-yourself barbecue sandwich I made.

I was also able to try two additional sides at Terry Black's, which ended up making it the winner in my book.

Mac and cheese and cream corn from Terry Black's. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The mac and cheese was mind-blowingly good. It was exceptionally creamy, with a hearty helping of cheese sauce that coated each of the large macaroni noodles.

The cream corn also impressed me. It was slightly sweet and tasted almost of cinnamon, topped with the same seasoning as the potato salad. It reminded me of a New England-style corn chowder in the summer.

Ultimately, I had to give the win to Terry Black's — and I'll be back to get my hands on that brisket.

A sign that reads "Brisket is King" inside Terry Black's. Erin McDowell/Business Insider

While the brisket at Franklin Barbecue certainly lives up to the hype, that was the only truly memorable menu item I tried that would make it worth the trip out west.

Overall, I was more impressed by the variety on Terry Black's menu, especially when it came to the sides. From the mac and cheese to the coleslaw and free pickles, every side blew me away. The meats were also delicious, and I understood why they were sold out of many of their most popular meat options by the time I got there.

I'll be back to Terry Black's — maybe to determine which Texas city's brisket truly is king.


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