Sam’s Barbecue in East Austin, Texas

Brian Mays, owner of Sam’s Barbecue in east Austin, Texas just turned down a $3 million offer from a real estate investor.

That’s a lot of $4 half-chicken platters.

We have a long history with Sam’s and the Mays family.

Back in the late 80s when we were busying ourselves writing about rock n roll we received an assignment to cover a new music festival in town: SXSW.

After a long night in the bars watching True Believers or some rockabilly band from Detroit we needed brisket, mutton and light bread to sop up the grease. Back then Sam’s stayed open til 4 or 5 in the morning and they didn’t care if you had a stealth six pack in your backpack.

The 12th and Chicon zone was a mite rougher back then. Hookers were some of Sam’s best customers, and if you needed rock or powder cocaine you were in business as the dealers were thick in the neighborhood.

This was years before 600 square foot bungalows started selling for $350k.

After countless late nights we got to be buddies with Miss Waunda, and her sister Miss Roni. They were the Mayses that were always “on the block” as they put it. That meant they were the ones chopping the meat on the old cutting board behind the counter.

When Miss Waunda got some bad health news she didn’t blanch. She announced a party, a “living wake” so we could all sit around in her living room bragging on her while she was still around to hear it.

It was a raucous affair, and in one of the highlights of my cooking career Waunda declared the bacon-heavy green beans I brought “the best she’d ever eaten.”

A week later she had passed. And not longer after that Miss Roni joined her in heaven.

In an old interview with Southern Foodways Alliance, speaking on the food at Sam’s Barbecue, Waunda Fay declared:

“Yep, that’s love. Gotta have love. If there ain’t no love in there, no food’s right. Gotta
have that love in it.”

And that same love is what fuels Brian Mays. Any man that turns down $3 million so he can keep cooking ribs and chicken for his community has to either be crazy or eat up with love.

Brian Mays: “When the community loves you, you gotta show love back…I don’t want to sell out for the community right now.”

We’re planning a trip to Austin soon, and can’t wait to close down Beerland one night and drive over to Sam’s for a half chicken plate.

It’ll still be around for awhile but eventually somebody with a truckload of cash is going to roll in and they’re not going to be able to say no.

Sam’s Barbecue
2000 E 12th St.
Austin, TX 78702

(512) 478-0378

Since we get asked this quite regularly. Sam’s Barbecue was not guilty of purchasing briskets purloined from the HEB grocery chain. more

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