The property sits on two acres, with the restaurant surrounded by a grove of large oak trees. The space is updated but still has that same roadhouse ambience—vintage beer and band memorabilia…
Now open, at this country-style family-friendly spot in the Hill Country, chef and pitmaster Austin Fry focuses on meats that are smoked low and slow and flavorful interpretations of classics, from offerings such as the chicken-fried steak burger to smoked skillet pies like the brownie and cream. Texas 46 BBQ is located about two miles west of the intersection of Texas Highway 46 and U.S. Highway 281.
For Kowalski—the owner of Freedmen’s, Austin premier barbecue and craft whiskey joint—taking over the 30-year-old Texas 46 Bar and Grill and reimagining it as a barbecue destination felt right. The property sits on two acres, with the restaurant surrounded by a grove of large oak trees.
The space is updated but still has that same roadhouse ambience—vintage beer and band memorabilia inside and a covered front patio that opens up to a large lawn dotted with picnic tables and a sand pit for washers.
“We are not trying to reinvent the barbecue restaurant,” said Kowalski. “We just want to do barbecue well—and create a meeting place for the neighboring communities to gather, whether for a beer, a meal, or a celebration.”
The main draw, of course, is the meat. Using post oak wood in four 1,000-gallon offset smokers, each about 20 feet long, Fry cooks slow and low, with minimal seasoning, so that the meat is the star. Briskets and pork butts take anywhere from 20 to 23 hours from start to finish.
Fry, who was born in Austin, first began experimenting with barbecue when he was 14. Four years later, he began cooking as a professional, working as executive chef of Roaring Fork and La Condesa in the Capitol City before moving to Asia, where he landed a position as executive chef of Blue Smoke in Hong Kong.
Inspired by everything from great experiences to chef friends from overseas, Fry spends a good deal of his spare time researching and testing new concepts. At Texas 46 BBQ, Fry applies modern techniques to create a menu rich with innovative classics.
Along with meats by the half pound—including brisket, pork and beef ribs, and daily house-made TX46 Sausage—highlights include fried panko-crusted dill pickles with house ranch; a smoked salmon burger with Green Goddess, fried green tomato, and alfalfa sprouts; poutine, a tender pork rib topped with fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy; and smoked skillet pies, including a Texas pecan with a pit-smoked lemon crust.
The full-service bar features 20 draft beers served at a cool 29 degrees; a wine selection offering splits and halves; three frozen cocktails, including the Frose (Enchanted Rock Vodka Peach with Honoro Vera Rose); and four cocktails, one of which—the Texas 46 Manhattan—features pecan bitters, vermouth, and Makers 46 Private Select, a blend that general manager and Austin’s own Whiskey Princess Myria Free created specifically for the restaurant.
The feel is comfortable and laid-back. Hosts greet patrons upon arrival and lead them to tables once they make their way through the line and order directly from carvers. Servers attend to drinks and kids’ requests in line and while folks are seated, making the experience seamless and hassle-free. Three drink refill stations are available for self-service. “We want our guests to feel like family,” said Free. “It is their choice to help themselves or let us be their host.”