Word of mouth is the best
advertising. So one hot afternoon while stopping for a cold one in Buffalo
Billiards, we asked Chris, the bartender, where we would find the best barbeque
in Austin, Texas. Without hesitation he said “Go to The Iron Works and order the
Fortunat Weigl's Iron
Works in this historical red tin building
He looked like a man who knew what he was
talking about. In fact, Chris told us he doesn’t eat chicken or fish. He‘s a
beef man, and we were in cattle country. So we set out to find the most
righteous plate of barbecue in a town known for its barbecue.
Walking up to the unpretentious establishment located on Red River
Road, it was obvious that there was history and a personal story to this simple
red tin building. It turns out that in 1913, German immigrant Ironworker
Fortunat Weigl, Sr., along with his wife Anna, their sons Lee and Herbert, left
Bavaria, Germany looking for a better life in America. Since they had no radio
in Germany, the Weigls often read books to their sons for entertainment. The
family particularly loved the Wild West for its unabashed and uncompromising
Cowboy stories. These stories and an adventurous spirit are what led the family
directly to Texas.
This standard of freedom, self-reliance
and independence is apparent in the history of Texas on many fronts. It either
appeals to you or it doesn’t. Well, this wide open land of opportunity was both
inspiration and lifeblood to the Weigls. Fortunat supported his family as a
construction worker until 1922 when he was asked to create iron wall fixtures
for a project in San Marcos, Texas. He agreed and a Mr. Mansbedel advanced him
$75.38 for a few tools, a sack of coal, and some flat iron. Mr. Weigl used his
new found fortune to make a down payment of $20.00 and established his own
ornamental iron works business in Austin, Texas.
Hungry patrons place their orders here
Fortunat continued to search for some cheap property to call his own, settled on
a small plot of land located on Red River Road and the Weigl Ornamental Iron
works moved to this red tin building in 1935. In June of this same year shortly
after their opening, disaster struck. It was one of the worst floods Austin has
ever seen and it raged throughout the city.
After the waters receded, to save their building and their business, the Weigls
were forced to cut out pieces of floorboard to scrape massive amounts of mud
into the basement. Today in the dining room, you can see these same cutouts
covered with Iron Works Business license plates along with the 7 foot flood
scars marking the walls. They serve as an impressive reminder of the forces of
nature and the words "Flood Stage, June 5, 1935" are written above them.
Mountains of fabulous barbecue! WooHOO!
Weigl and his sons made their name and fortune with their distinctive hand
wrought ornamental iron works. Many significant Austin homes, the State Capitol
and buildings in the State University proudly show his work, and his firm
remained in operation until 1977.
Curious about the
history, and hungry for dinner, from the moment we walked into Iron
Works Barbecue restaurant, we were warmly greeted. We introduced
ourselves, and got right to the point - We wanted to taste the best
barbecue in town. Charlotte Finch, the owner of this establishment
for 31 years, took it upon herself to personally direct the staff to
fill our plates with one order of the Sampler Plate and one of the
Smoked Pork Ribs.
and bold flavors took away any reservations. We were tasting the
best of Texas barbecue. Billy had the sliced beef brisket, IWB’s
own special sausage, a moist and meaty beef rib that would make
Barney Rubble happy, accompanied by Italian green beans, and sweet
corn on the cob. The smoked pork ribs given to me dominated my plate
and were to die for. Every bite of the potato salad tasted of summer
and it reminded me of my mother, my grandmother and home. Pickles
and onions on the side are a BBQ tradition in this part of Texas,
and we were here for the full experience.
Top of the line traditional barbecue
Two styles of barbecue sauce were placed on
the table - their award winning spicy and the traditional style - along with our
own roll of paper towels! Our mouths were already watering and there’s no rule
here against using your fingers to hold the ribs. Before long we had wide grins
and barbecue sauce on our faces from cheek to cheek.
A few minutes into our meal,
Charlotte came by and asked how we were doing. We thought we’d died and gone to
heaven and had to shake ourselves out of the reverie to respond with something
more coherent than groans of satisfaction. Lest you think we are exaggerating,
this stuff is so good that it might even be the path of agreement for our
nation’s law makers. What do George W. Bush and Barack Obama have in Common?
They both love the Iron Works Barbecue house in
Smoked ribs and the best potato salad ever!
MSN.com ranked Iron Works’ barbecue sauce as #1 out of a full competition of
other restaurant and supermarket entries. A representative from Budget Living
tasted their barbecue and claimed to have found religion. And Jay Leno enjoys
Iron Works beef ribs so much that he orders them regularly via Federal Express.
Even the current governor of Texas Rick Perry asserts that Iron Works Barbecue
is his favorite place to eat. So, we were in good company and no doubt we were
in the right place.
This is a
down-home, self-serve operation. There’s a wood stove in the main
dining room to chase the chill in winter. And it doesn’t matter if
you sit inside close to the action of the line of customers moving
to pick up their orders or outside overlooking the peaceful river
and abundant ferns, the Texas hospitality abounds.
Peaceful open air view of the river below
Do yourself and your family a favor and visit
can order your own slice of paradise from their website - sauces, spices, ribs,
brisket, sausage and smoked turkey. And if you are ever in town, it would be a
sin to miss this experience.
Texas is all about beef, and Austin is all
Hours are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday and all big holidays. 100 Red River,
Austin Texas. Say hello to Charlotte and tell her we sent you.
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