Spring is one of the best times to scope out the infamous music scene in Austin. If you missed SXSW this year, there’s still plenty of time to visit renowned venues like Antone’s and the Continental Club before temperatures start climbing into the triple digits. If you find yourself in Austin later this month for the city’s annual Food and Wine Festival (April 24-26), you may want to catch a show at Stubb’s Bar-BBQ, a beloved local institution since the 1980s. After attending the festival’s events or enjoying other area attractions like the Congress Bridge bats or the shops along South Congress Avenue, there’s a good chance you’ll wind up here if you enjoy live music.
The restaurant/music venue has entertained thousands of patrons over the years at its location on Red River Street. Everyone from indie rock bands like The Decemberists and Modest Mouse to legendary country artists like Willie Nelson have graced its stage. Meanwhile, the company’s line of popular BBQ sauces, rubs and marinades have appeared on dinner tables all across America and beyond.
The story behind the Stubb’s empire is definitely an interesting one. Founder Christopher B. “Stubb” Stubblefield was one of 12 children born to a Baptist evangelist preacher and his wife in the little town of Navasota, Texas. Stubb, who was born in 1931, learned the art of BBQ from his father, who would often prepare large dinners for his congregation. This being the Depression era, the meals would feature everything from pork ribs to raccoon and opossum steaks.
After further perfecting his skills as a cook while serving in the U.S. military during the Korean War, Stubb opened his first restaurant in 1968 in Lubbock, Texas, in a small ramshackle across from the county fairgrounds. He filled a vintage jukebox with blues records and word soon spread of his amazing culinary skills. In the 1970s, the tiny eatery began to draw musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Muddy Waters. Stubb’s turned into a music scene attracting performers like Johnny Cash, George Thorogood, Linda Ronstadt and John Lee Hooker. Sunday night jam sessions became a weekly event.
Unfortunately, financial difficulties forced Stubb to close the place down in 1985. He moved his operations to Austin and, within a year, opened a new restaurant that was bigger and better than the original. Seven years later, he appeared on Late Night With David Letterman where he revealed the secret ingredient in his sauces: “love and happiness.”
Stubb passed away in 1995 but his legendary recipes and passion for music carry on. The company’s line of sauces, made from all natural, gluten-free ingredients, can be found in grocery stores and kitchens around the world. If you can’t track them down in your neck of the woods, they’re also available online.
Meanwhile, the Austin location remains a popular hub for BBQ and live music. Its menu offers an array of Southern staples like fried green tomatoes, pulled pork sandwiches and beef ribs. The restaurant also hosts a weekly brunch featuring gospel singers and a Bloody Mary bar every Sunday.