Daniel Brown of Brown's Bar-B-Que has been smoking brisket for hungry Austinites since 2006, and recently he's hit not one but two of Austin's top ten barbecue lists. Matthew Odam ranks his smokey meats at number five in the city, and Austin barbecue obsessive Mike Sutter slots him at number three.
Eater spoke with Brown about his rise from selling food outside of ACL to running one of the best barbecue trailers in this very competitive town. Brown learned barbecue from his Lockhart-born father, and his son now works in the trailer with him daily parked outside of Corner Bar on South Lamar. Read on for the story behind one of Austin's hottest barbecue newcomers.
How did the Brown's Bar-B-Cue come to be?
Before ACL, I would set up on the corner of Barton Springs and Lamar and we would just sell barbecue [from 2006-2008]. Then, it started getting to the point where [the city] didn't want anybody setting up outside the venue. I told my cousin in Lockhart I wanted to build out a trailer and put a pit in it. So we started working on it in 2009, and we finished it in 2011.
How was the first year in the trailer?
The first year was really hard. Just putting everything into your cooking and nothing's selling, brings you down. Just kept on it and kept on it. Then, finally, Fed Man Walking, Mike Sutter, he did an article on us and then we started slowly taking off. I didn't do any advertisement or nothing like that. It was all word of mouth.
How are you finding the trailer life?
I love it. I look forward to it every day. This is my home, and my second home is my home.
How has the sudden popularity been for you?
It's exciting to see people lined up for my barbecue. I love interacting with people. The looks on people's faces. They go and eat and come back and just tell us how awesome the food is. It gives us more push to make it, to bring them the same thing the next day. It's like my food is seeing someone else eat my food. I'll sit there and just watch people and just see the reactions after the first bite. That's what I get off on.
How would you describe your barbecue style?
I cook, I would say, kind of a Texas-style, but with my own twist. Good wood, low heat, salt, pepper. You don't need all the other stuff. I don't think people cook as long as we do. With my own twist because I built my own pit.
Old school barbecue is: you're supposed to get a lot of food and it's not supposed to be expensive. That's how barbecue started out. That's what the whole plan was: to give people great food for a cheap price, catering to the middle of the working class so they can get the same treatment.
What are some of your early barbecue memories?
My dad, he's always been around barbecue. He always cooked and I'd just watch him, seeing him cook, and him taking pride in his food. He's from Lockhart so you can't tell him that he can't barbecue. But now, it's weird because I do all the cooking for him now. He'll come over, 'Oh son, use a pinch there.'
We used to go down to this place called Alexander's Place. It was weird because it was a gas station and hole-in-the-wall booth. I remember watching Thomas Alexander work the pit and just learn how to start a fire and stuff like that.
What are your future plans?
We're building another trailer. I'm going to bounce between the two and put my sister in one and my son in the other and we're just going to hire a couple more people to work under them.
We're going to use two trailers. One's going to have the pit in it, and one's going to have the kitchen. I'm thinking right now, somewhere up north but it's going to be winter, early spring before it's going to be finished.
How has it been working with your 20-year-old son?
It's challenging. He's a teenager, but he's a great kid. He comes to work, he does his thing, he enjoys all of it. Sometimes, I even let him do the brisket. People cannot tell the difference. He's going to be the next star. That's for real. He's a great kid. It's very hard sometimes because he doesn't see me as a boss, he sees me as his dad.
How do you see yourself fitting into the Austin food scene?
I'm one of the originals. I'm born and raised here, so I think people love us because we are family.
— Nadia Chaudhury
· All Brown's Bar-B-Que Coverage [EATX]