The smell of smoked meats permeates as customers enter Liberty Barbecue in downtown Round Rock. Sounds of knives on plates and muffled chatter characterize the Tuesday lunch crowd. Owner John Brotherton circles between tables, exchanging greetings with customers.

Brotherton and his business partners, the Perez family, opened Liberty Barbecue in Round Rock in December 2018. The barbecue joint shares recipes with Brotherton's other restaurant, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue, in Pflugerville—recipes that earned his Pflugerville business top honors in a statewide ranking of the best new barbecue places in Texas.

“Barbecue is super hot right now,” Brotherton said. “Everybody’s got this obsession with barbecue, and I think a lot of it has to do with just the way that barbecue has improved over recent years.”

Brotherton said now is an era of experimentation in Texan cuisine that has led to new and evolving recipes, adding that his own staff often revisit their menu for newfound inspiration—from Tex-Mex reimagined to an upcoming barbecue charcuterie concept.

Some customer favorites, Brotherton said, include Liberty’s Trash Fries—a plate of french fries doused in brisket, mozzarella, bacon and pico de gallo— along with its wings, smoked sausages and brisket. Liberty Barbecue features a steak night every Wednesday and offers takeout, cubside pickup and delivery for patrons to enjoy from home.

While Brotherton said his recipes are created in-house and do not hold familial roots, he said his childhood was influenced by the presence of barbecue. His mother worked in a barbecue joint, and he remembers weekend nights marked by smoking meats out on the grill. It is that same sense of comfort, Brotherton said, that he takes as the highest compliment from his clientele.

“I think it all kind of brings everybody back to your childhood a little bit,” he said. “When somebody tells me this brisket reminded them of [their] dad’s or [their] grandpa’s, it’s that nostalgia."

Liberty Barbecue

103 E. Main St., Round Rock | 512-433-6330

Hours: Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m., closed Mon.-Tue.