Restaurant Review: Restaurant Review: LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue

The BBQ trailer-turned-brick and mortar is generally delicious but could use a more streamlined menu

photos by Jessica Attie

After seven years of building a reputation in the vanguard of Texas barbecue from the confines of a food truck, primarily through an emphasis on sourcing from Texas ranchers and whole-animal butchery, LeRoy and Lewis opened its brick-and-mortar restaurant, located in the Garrison Park neighborhood, at the end of February. Featuring a greatly expanded menu from what’s available at the food truck located at Cosmic Coffee on Pickle Road, LeRoy and Lewis is ambitious and innovative, but lacks a clear through line to connect the various components of the menu.

We made our first visit to LeRoy and Lewis on a Tuesday night, a typically calm dining-out night. We were among about a dozen customers in the huge space, which is segmented into discrete parts: a front room with a bar, beer coolers, and a counter to order “Anytime Eats,” merchandise, and beers. A second room features another bar with a wide array of local beer, wine, and wine cocktails, along with a meat counter and plenty of room to accommodate lines.

I chose a one-meat plate, which comes with two sides; I went with smoked chicken (white meat), the kale Caesar salad, and the Texas red Frito pie. The generous chicken quarter was tender and juicy, and was simply seasoned with salt and pepper. The kale Caesar salad was mildly flavored and not too heavily dressed, so it felt healthy-adjacent next to the small mound (about a third of a cup’s worth) of Fritos topped with spicy, decadent chili seasoned with smoky chile de arbol and sprinkled with cheese. My spouse chose a link of the pork hop sausage and more chicken. As promised in the name, the sausage was flecked with Citra hops and seasoned with coriander, which made for a surprising, non-traditional Texas barbecue sausage. I didn’t love it, but my spouse thought it was pretty special.

Because it was both late and a school night, we took home a banana pudding tiramisu for breakfast-dessert. The dessert comprises a bottom layer of thin banana pudding topped with mascarpone and espresso-soaked ladyfingers, garnished with a Nilla wafer crumble. I found it aggressively sweet. Look, I like banana pudding. I like tiramisu. Some streams don’t need to cross, and that’s okay.

When we returned for an early afternoon Sunday brunch, the layout made a little more sense. The line to order meat stretched all the way to the door; it was a rainy day, so we appreciated that we were in an air-conditioned space that allowed us to wait for our meats indoors. A friendly man greeted us and offered to take our drink order. I chose the frozen Big Red sangria and was not disappointed. The sangria tempered the cloying bubblegum sweetness of the soda, resulting in an earthy berry flavor. I regretted ordering a small, especially since I was finished with the drink by the time it was our turn to order, but I was driving, so I reluctantly switched to water.

Almost everything we tried was expertly prepared and generally delicious. However, the menu lacks cohesion and a point of view.

I’d deliberately invited my vegetarian friend to join us on this visit because the menu seemed fairly inclusive of non-carnivorous folks, but when we told the staff we had a vegetarian in our midst, the list of dishes available to her got very short indeed. The kale salad? Made with anchovies. Same thing for the cauliflower burnt ends. When all was said and done, there were four items on the menu my friend could eat: the miso-glazed carrots, citrusy grain-bow salad with wheat berries, arugula salad, and onion rings. She chose the carrots, grain salad, and onion rings. The carrots were a showstopper, striking in both appearance and flavor, smoked and sliced like a sausage to reveal a bright orange center ringed by vivid reds. They had a firm-but-tender texture and tasted exactly like you’d expect smoked carrots to taste, with a hint of umami from the miso glaze. The onion rings were fresh and crisp, with a sturdy, peppery breading that maintained its structural integrity when cut/bitten, rather than disintegrating/falling apart. They were a huge hit, and I’d definitely order them again.

On this visit, I chose a New School BBQ sandwich with chopped beef. Served on a delightfully squishy Martin’s potato roll, the sandwich features a generous mound of tender beef topped with kimchi, beet barbecue sauce, and herbs. Coco Chanel’s (alleged) advice to remove one accessory before leaving the house feels apt here: the meat, bread, and sauce would suffice and would allow the meat to shine. (Next time, I’ll order the more straightforward Old School BBQ sandwich.) My spouse chose the smoked Italian beef sandwich, featuring sliced beef, giardiniera, and jus on a soft hoagie roll. The salty-spicy giardiniera made this fork-and-knife sandwich pop. We also shared a quarter-pound of the cauliflower burnt ends, which were fine, but wanted a bit more flavor.

We tried the German chocolate cobbler for dessert and it was deliciously gloppy, the buttermilk ice cream rapidly melting and cutting the richness of the dense coconut-stuffed chocolate cake-like cobbler. It was utterly irresistible; I had to force myself to stop eating it.

Perhaps my favorite part of both my visits were the hospitality and conviviality. Every staff member we interacted with was pleasant, friendly, and extremely proud of their product. The staff behind the meat counter were chatty and freely offered their recommendations when asked. The man slicing the meats and veggies made it a point to show off the cauliflower and carrots like a proud papa before slicing and weighing them. The two men in line in front of us ordered what looked like a healthy college fund’s worth of meats, settling in for what looked like a long afternoon; the two men in line behind us had just flown in from Brazil and come straight to the restaurant from the airport. We had a lively conversation with them about all sorts of things during the 20 minutes we waited for our turn at the meat counter. The vibes are immaculate at LeRoy and Lewis.

That said, here’s where I share my unpopular take: LeRoy and Lewis is doing too much. While I value and appreciate innovation and experimentation, there’s a tension here between execution and curation. Almost everything we tried was expertly prepared and generally delicious. However, the menu lacks cohesion and a point of view. There are four kinds of burgers, a couple sandwiches that have next to nothing to do with barbecue, and what the heck is that snack board doing there? The sides menu is a mishmash of influences – Tex-Mex, Korean, Southern – and none of them really “talk” to each other. I’m not saying that every barbecue joint in Texas has to have “old school” potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and pinto beans on the menu. I can see how “New School” applies to sourcing and preparation methodologies for the meats, but every other part of the menu should transcend mere bricolage.

LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue

5621 Emerald Forest Dr.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Food Reviews
Restaurant Review: Bambino
Restaurant Review: Bambino
New Eastside pizza joint from L’Oca d’Oro owners has something to say

Melanie Haupt, June 7, 2024

Restaurant Review: Craft Omakase
Restaurant Review: Craft Omakase
This elite, 22-course omakase menu is exactly as filling as it sounds ... but we wouldn’t skip a single course

Taylor Tobin, May 31, 2024

More by Melanie Haupt
Greek Fest, Taylor Swift Wrestling, and More Weekend Events
Greek Fest, Taylor Swift Wrestling, and More Weekend Events
No weekend plans? We have some suggestions.

May 24, 2024

Croy and the Boys, Warpaint, a Metal Fest, and More Crucial Concerts
Croy and the Boys, Warpaint, a Metal Fest, and More Crucial Concerts
Recommended shows for the week

May 24, 2024


LeRoy and Lewis, barbecue

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle