Freedmen’s

2402 San Gabriel St.
Austin, Texas 78705

Phone: (512) 220-0953
Hours: M-Sat 4-midnight, Sun 11-midnight (no BBQ from 3-5)
Website: www.freedmensbar.com
Twitter: @FreedmensBar
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Freedmens

Opened 2012
Pitmaster Evan LeRoy
Method Indirect heat smoker

TMBBQ Rating: 4.25

TMBBQ Buzz

Comments from our joint finder app.
Brisket is really good and tender! Has great smoky flavor. This place also has a butcher!
Nathaniel Cox @ Vincek’s Smokehouse, 2014-08-31 18:30:40
The hunt for the best barbecue continues with the second joint today. This is a small victory as I have always wanted to hit more than one restaurant on the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ establishments in a single day. Billy's Old Fashion Barbecue happens to be number 9. I have a hair less than four years to visit the other 41 before the list is updated. I have my work cut out for me as these places are as far at 500 miles from home. I wasn't hungry when we rolled into Jasper, but I was here to eat barbecue. I knew I wanted brisket and when we found the dilapidated restaurant, I knew we were going to experience some magic. I chose the sliced brisket sandwich. I wasn't expecting this monstrosity as it was quite large. Topped with pickles and onions, this sauce soaked sandwich was perfect. I only wish I had ordered the sauce on the side. The sauce was decent, but I came for the meat. The sliced brisket was very nice. It was juicy and the fat was rendered beautifully. It was a bit toothsome, but it certainly wasn't tough. I had forgotten to ask for untrimmed meat, so I was pleased when I saw that the crusty bark was intact. The meat had a mild flavor. Not too much smoke, and it wasn't overpowered with seasoning. It was a simple, beefy masterpiece. At only 2 1/2 hours from home, I can see myself loading up the family for a nice meaty adventure. This is easily a 4.0/5.0. Well done, Texas Monthly. This BBQ doesn't disappoint.
Theodore Luoma @ Billy’s Old Fashion BBQ, 2014-08-31 01:12:51
It has been a few months since I was able to hunt for some good Texas BBQ. It is a bit of a tradition that my oldest daughter, Alli, and I enjoy. I'm not a hunter, so we aren't likely to go kill deer as we spend time together, but we have our own game we like to track down. We decided to have lunch at the Hitch-N-Post in Livingston, TX. It's 3 1/2 hours from home so we had time to work up an appetite. We both ordered untrimmed fatty brisket which in my estimation, is the best tasting meat. I usually try the sausage as well, but we are planning an early supper at another BBQ place and I don't want to gorge myself. The brisket, though cooked, could probably have used another four hours in the smoker to completely render the fat and make the meat fork tender. I actually had to use a knife to cut the meat. There was a beautiful smoke ring and a decent crust, but I was hoping for a denser crust. Then again, this ain't Lockhart. The beans were good, but they were punched up canned beans. The potato salad probably came from Brookshire Brothers, but I came for the meat. The sides are just a bonus. Apparently, the proprietor has a policy to give free cake to first time customers. He was a really nice BBQ enthusiast as he asked if I had tried Snow's in Lexington. Then he started showing me pictures of BBQ joints on his phone. The ambience was a schlockfest with old tricycles dangling from the ceiling and tiki umbrellas reminiscent of Gilligan's Island. It was enjoyable soaking it in while I soaked up sauce with my bread. The food was good. I would rate it a 3.0/5.0, but with the outstanding service and friendly atmosphere, I rate it a solid 3.5. Hitch-N-Post is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
Theodore Luoma @ Hitch-N-Post BBQ, 2014-08-30 18:24:06
It has been a few months since I was able to hunt for some good Texas BBQ. It is a bit of a tradition that my oldest daughter, Alli, and I enjoy. I'm not a hunter, so we aren't likely to go kill deer as we spend time together, but we have our own game we like to track down. We decided to have lunch at the Hitch-N-Post in Livingston, TX. It's 3 1/2 hours from home so we had time to work up an appetite. We both ordered untrimmed fatty brisket which in my estimation, is the best tasting meat. I usually try the sausage as well, but we are planning an early supper at another BBQ place and I don't want to gorge myself. The brisket, though cooked, could probably have used another four hours in the smoker to completely render the fat and make the meat fork tender. I actually had to use a knife to cut the meat. There was a beautiful smoke ring and a decent crust, but I was hoping for a denser crust. Then again, this ain't Lockhart. The beans were good, but they were punched up canned beans. The potato salad probably came from Brookshire Brothers, but I came for the meat. The sides are just a bonus. Apparently, the proprietor has a policy to give free cake to first time customers. He was a really nice BBQ enthusiast as he asked if I had tried Snow's in Lexington. Then he started showing me pictures of BBQ joints on his phone. The ambience was a schlockfest with old tricycles dangling from the ceiling and tiki umbrellas reminiscent of Gilligan's Island. It was enjoyable soaking it in while I soaked up sauce with my bread. The food was good. I would rate it a 3.0/5.0, but with the outstanding service and friendly atmosphere, I rate it a solid 3.5. Hitch-N-Post is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
Theodore Luoma @ Hitch-N-Post BBQ, 2014-08-30 18:24:05
Third in line pound of lean got two ends and a sausage PERFECTION worth the drive ft worth good food good folks
doug_wallace @ Louie Mueller Barbecue, 2014-08-30 15:38:00
Loved that there was no wait unlike that other place on East 6th. Fatty brisket was as advertised. Pepper on crust was perfect. Jalapeño sausage was okay. Loved the cheesy squash - my new favorite side. No beef ribs today sadly. Drank the BBQ sauce too; very good stuff.
Rahul Yaratha @ John Mueller Meat Co., 2014-08-29 16:44:19
Brisket was moist, but tough. Needed more smoke. Spare ribs were ok.
mrb @ Rudy’s Bar-B-Q, 2014-08-27 02:53:29
Stopped at Rudy's at Leon Springs. Not good. Brisket was moist but tough. Ribs were fair.
mrb @ , 2014-08-27 02:47:40
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Review

July 23, 2013

Freedmans 01

Evan LeRoy has come a long way from New York. He worked for a while at Hill Country Barbecue in Manhattan before making his way to Austin. That’s a long way to come so you can cook in the back of a bar, but it’s not any bar and it’s not just any kind of cooking. LeRoy is doing some honest barbecue in an old offset smoker out back of Freedmen’s bar. The building itself has a long history dating back to 1869 when it was built as a store by a former slave in the middle of a freedman’s community named Wheatville. It’s now right in the heart of Austin, but how does it hold up to the stout barbecue competition in the city?

Freedmans 03

Fatty and lean brisket

Several weeks ago I went with a friend for my first visit so we could sample a good bit of the lengthy menu. There’s plenty that’s smoked and it’s not all meat. Smoked beets with chèvre may be more heart healthy, we were here for beef and pork. We started with the Holy Trinity Plate of brisket, ribs and sausage for $17. Any meat can be added for $5, so the pork belly came along for the ride. Seeing a few slices of both lean and fatty brisket on the tray showed me that somebody knew what they were doing back in the kitchen. I’d rather be able to pick my brisket portions straight from the carving table rather than have it delivered by a server, but this was a good sampling. The brisket was stunning. A flawless texture and well rendered fat throughout made for incredibly moist meat. The seasoning was heavy on the black pepper (good) and salt (not as good), but the smokiness was spot on.

Freedmans 02

Pork belly and spare ribs

Most all was well with the pork side of the tray as well. Thick slices of pork belly were silky tender, but the heavy rub could be a little less sweet and the smoke flavor could be more developed. The spare ribs had plenty of smoke. The black bark held juicy meat beneath. The bits came away from the bone nicely, but again, the rub was a bit heavy. Even given the small quibbles, I’d happily order either of them again. The made-in-house sausage was also very good. The links were juicy and well made with a great snappy casing. I expected a bit more flair in the seasoning given the rest of the menu, but it was more reserved. It’s still a solid link with plenty of peppery flavor.

Freedmans 04

Beef rib

The heft of the beef short rib was impressive. The common problem with these type of beef ribs is usually having the patience to get them done. In this case they had sat in the heat for too long, The meat was overcooked. It slumped off the bone, and the knife had shredded the edges as it was sliced. While the beef was mushy, the flavor from the smoke and the peppery rub was great. Even after all the meat we’d just ingested, we nearly polished off the beef rib. As I paid the bill I was already plotting my next visit.

Freedmans 06

Brisket and pulled pork

Last week I was dining alone at the bar at Freedmen’s. A modest two meat plate was in order.  More of that brisket and some pulled pork came with a generous garnish of house made pickles. It would be hard to top the brisket from my earlier meal here, but this one was flawless. A thin bark crackled under my teeth as it gave way to a beautiful line of rendered fat. The bark and fat carried a smokiness that enveloped my entire palate. I say that any great brisket should exhibit a good level of moisture and tenderness and have a balance of smokiness, beefiness and seasoning. None of those three flavors should overpower. The brisket at Freedmen’s nailed all of those characteristics.

A vinegar sauce gave the pulled pork a decidedly Carolina flavor, but the bark was all Texas. It was pulled rather than shredded, and the moist meat was full of good smoke and rendered fat. A side of German potato salad, served in a jar, was at once dense and creamy. The vinegar kick was there, but there was a real depth of flavor from the bacon fat. If only there’d be more of this potato salad around the state and less from a delivery truck.

Freedmans 07

Chopped brisket and beef rib sandwich

I didn’t want to waste a pile of food, but I really wanted to try the chopped beef sandwich. It was made with leftovers, but they had chopped together both beef rib meat and brisket. As my neighbor at the bar was perusing the menu I suggested we split the $5 sandwich and he’d get the rest of my two-meat platter. He agreed and soon I was tucking into one of the finest chopped beef sandwiches I’d ever eaten. Meat, sauce and bread were the only ingredients, but the sum of those parts was magical. My half was gone in three bites.

Freedmans 05

Smoked banana pudding

Of course dessert would be smoked too. I skipped the salted and smoked chocolate mousse and got the smoked banana pudding instead. A jar is layered with smoked banana slices, a custard and whipped cream. There are cookies in there for crunchiness too. I can’t say that the smoke flavor of the bananas was obvious, but the whole dessert was well executed. I now have a new member in the top five banana puddings that I’ve had the pleasure of finishing a meal with.

Next time it’ll be hard not to get the brisket, but I’ll have to save room to try another beef rib. Given everything else I’ve eaten there, it deserves another shot. Lucky for me, that means another meal at Freedmen’s where they’ve found a way to take a setting that diverts from the Austin norm of lunch-only and exterior seating to create a barbecue joint that on it’s way to being as good as any of them in town.

Comments

  • Jeromy D Hughes

    I’ve had the pleasure of dining there several times, myself. I brought my visiting father there (who is retired and now lives on Bolivar Peninsula) when it first opened, and now almost every time he comes to visit me in Austin, he wants to go there (for the banana pudding, if nothing else, but I digress…) My only point is to strongly suggest that this restaurant be given a chance, and serious consideration, as it is so very well done. The food is fantastic (try the Holy Trinity on your first visit, to get an overall taste of their best); but the atmosphere and service are excellent, as well. It’s not stuffy or pretentious, but it’s very sophisticated and elegant, in a subtle way. Give it a shot; you will not be disappointed.