After exploring the best barbecue joints in and around Austin for the past two years, business partners Matt Carter, John Korioth and Clarissa Alcantara decided to try their hand at the popular Texas cuisine with EastSide Tavern.
“We’ve been working on this project for about a year,” Carter said. “We had never done barbecue before, but we’ve always loved it and wanted to give it a go.”
Carter said their lack of barbecuing experience wasn’t an issue because they enlisted the help of pitmaster and chef Cade Mercer from Lambert’s Downtown Barbecue to curate their menu and run the barbecue pit out back.
“We really want to bring back the East Coast tavern atmosphere where it’s a very neighborhood feel,” Carter said. “You can come in and have a great meal, but you can also come in when you’re by yourself and grab a drink at the bar.”
Managing partner Alan Hernandez said while he and his partners have settled on a menu at EastSide Tavern for the time being, they are open to adding and subtracting menu items based on customer feedback to keep things fresh and exciting.
“I want to make sure that we’re keeping everyone interested,” Hernandez said. “Austin’s a big community where we can all teach each other something.”
In only its first week of business, EastSide Tavern is already showing plenty of potential to become a household name, not just on the East Side but throughout the entire city, with customers coming from campus, North Austin and the downtown area.
It is immediately apparent that the barbecue is smoked by someone who knows what he’s doing on the pit. The brisket, in particular, shines above everything else. It’s moist, tender and well-seasoned to the point of not requiring any sauce. It’s very similar to the brisket from popular Central Texas joints like Southside Market and The Salt Lick with just enough fat for maximum flavor.
The ribs are also well-executed. Instead of “falling off the bone” as many people think they should, they are firm with just enough give to allow for the bone to be completely cleared of meat.
EastSide doesn’t just stop at the barbecue basics. The menu features everything from sandwiches and burgers to salads. It has plenty of hits, but some sides and appetizers fall short of expectations.
The brisket cheddar tater tots, in particular, are anticlimactic. Instead of being piled on top along with the cheese, the brisket is mixed in with the tater tots and settles to the bottom of the dish. It comes off as a lot of effort for little payoff.
“The tater tots were good, they just weren’t as exciting as their description made them seem,” customer and economics senior Ryan Fraissinet said.
The two best specialty items on the menu are the brisket patty melt and smoked chicken wings. The brisket patty melt substantially improves the classic sandwich by replacing cheap ground beef with quality-smoked brisket. The smoked chicken wings are simple, but the smoke flavor from the pit and the spice of the buffalo sauce they are coated in makes for a great combination.
It’s clear that the folks at EastSide Tavern still have some kinks to work out, but it has all the essential tools to become one of the more popular barbecue stops in Austin.
“We want people to genuinely want to come here,” Hernandez said. “We want people to hang out. We want them to feel like even though it’s new, it’s a staple in Austin.”