SLAB BBQ's hip-hop themed sandwiches offer a fresh take on barbecue

The Donk is a 1-pound sandwich that includes every meat served at SLAB.

The Donk is a 1-pound sandwich that includes every meat served at SLAB.

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SLAB BBQ & Beer, with locations at the Y at Oak Hill in South Austin and on Research Blvd. in North Austin, is not your typical Texas barbecue joint. The restaurant’s interior is decorated in graffiti-style art, while classic hip-hop music is played at all hours. The restaurant also focuses on original barbecue sandwiches, not plates or meat by the pound.

“Obviously we’re a little different than most barbecue places, but people don’t know that unless they walk in or come across pictures of us on social media,” co-owner Raf Robinson said. “We like to have fun with barbecue.”

SLAB draws influences from “all barbecue regions,” taking elements from Texas, Memphis, St. Louis, Alabama and the East Coast, he said. The SLAB staff smokes meats slowly and at low temperatures every morning, an essential process for making good barbecue, Robinson said. 

In fact, SLAB is an acronym for “Slow, Low and Bangin’” he said, with the final word coming from the Houston hip-hop scene.

“You can walk in pretty much any barbecue restaurant across the country, and it is going to be themed with country music and cowboy boots,” he said. “That just wasn’t a reflection of who we are. We grew up on hip-hop, and it creates a fun environment.”

The emphasis on sandwiches assures every bite has a particular flavor profile, Robinson said. One of the restaurant’s specialties, The Donk, features brisket, chicken, sausage and pork. The meats are smoked in a traditional way, but SLAB adds grilled vegetables, queso, jalapenos, Frito chips and housemade barbecue sauce.

“That’s probably not how you would normally eat your barbecue, but all of those ingredients together create a flavor explosion,” Robinson said.

For restaurant-goers who are not as ambitious, the menu includes eight single-meat sandwiches, sliders, nachos, wraps and classic sides, he said.

The Oak Hill location opened in 2016 as SLAB’s second brick-and-mortar shop. Founder and co-owner Mark Avalos started SLAB out of an Austin food trailer in 2006. Robinson said when he joined the team in 2013, the duo expanded with a new food truck, and in 2014 opened the first restaurant.

In 2019, SLAB will introduce family combo meals and will be expanding its catering services, Robinson said. A new Round Rock location is also in the works, although an official location has not been finalized.


7101 W. Hwy. 71, Austin
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.- Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.


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