Longtime Austinite Mark Avalos does not consider himself a country boy.

“I grew up with graffiti. I grew up with hip-hop,” he said.

Anyone who walks into SLAB BBQ will see it is not a typical country barbecue eatery. When Avalos and co-owners Raf Robinson, Chip Osbourne and Chip Gourley opened the brick-and-mortar location in August 2014, Avalos said he wanted it to reflect the culture he knew.

The walls are lined with graffiti art by Austin artist collective SprATX, and customers are more likely to hear Jay-Z over the speakers than Johnny Cash. Names of menu items, such as the Notorious P.I.G. and the Chicken W.A., are a nod to Avalos’ hip-hop idols.

SLAB’s focus on sandwiches instead of meat by the pound also sets the eatery apart from most Texas barbecue restaurants, Avalos said, and his recipes combine elements from Alabama, the Carolinas, Memphis and Texas styles.

“I’m self-taught,” he said. “It allowed me to learn about the different regions.”

Meats are cooked at a low temperature over a pecan- and oak-fueled fire for 12 hours. Sauces and dry rubs are made in-house.

“We show you barbecue in a different way, but it doesn’t mean the back-end traditions of it aren’t there,” he said. “We just present it to you differently.”

Avalos’ cooking career began in 2001 when he bought a grill for his new home. Later he bought a smoker and hosted backyard barbecues for his friends and family. The restaurant, he said, is a reflection of the atmosphere at his home on a Friday night.

In 2006, Avalos started a catering business called Sugar Shack BBQ, and he opened a food truck of the same name in 2008. He renamed it SLAB BBQ in 2013, and a year later opened the brick-and-mortar location.

“We were outgrowing the food truck,” he said. “This [location] completely fell into our laps.”

Because of his food truck following, business has been booming since the restaurant opened, Avalos said. The food truck still caters at special events such as weddings and corporate lunches. It has even catered to some celebrities and professional athletes, including musician Norah Jones and her crew during the South By Southwest Music and Media Conference, Avalos said. Jones ordered a Texas Two Step ($8), he said.

9012 Research Blvd., Ste. C4
512-351-9977 • www.realdopebbq.com
Twitter: @slab_bbq • Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m.