Jerome Faulkner at J. Leonardi’s is an excellent pit master. We could tell that after our first visits to his original trailer location on Airport Boulevard in Austin more than a year ago.
Faulkner and his partner, former UT and NFL star Cedric Griffin, opened a second location on the near East side late last year and, after operating both spots for a short while, have since closed the place on Airport.
Their new place is on 11th Street, short walks from both Franklin Barbecue and Micklethwait Craft Meats, two of the very best joints in the state. Stiff competition, certainly. But also an opportunity to get some overflow from each, especially line-weary customers at Franklin.
During a recent visit to J. Leonardi’s, Faulkner sounded as much like a budding barbecue entrepreneur as he did a maestro of smoked meat.
“I’m cooking with confidence,” he said, “so I’m just learning the business part of it more.”
He said he is learning about marketing, branding and broadening the appeal of his operation.
“On the weekends, a lot of older ladies eat here,” he said. “They say it reminds them of the style of barbecue that they had at home.”
The Posse likes the food, too. We ordered brisket, ribs, sausage, turkey, and an enduring favorite from our first visits, smoked cabbage.
“That’s an interesting side that I’ve never seen anywhere else,” Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said of the cabbage.
Randy Mallory, a friend of Wilkins’ making his first trip with the Posse, raved about the turkey.
“It really is good,” he said. “It’s deep down in smoke.”
The ribs, as on earlier visits, were again a hit.
“Whatever he does to his ribs, I like it,” Wilkins said. “They really have their trailer dialed in. It’s not copy cat.”
We asked Faulkner why he and Griffin had closed the original spot in February.
“We couldn’t keep both,” he said, adding that the locations were too close together.
“We had to choose,” Faulkner continued. “I think this is going to be a better spot. We just have to get known and get our customers aware that we’re here.”
J.Leonardi’s Barbeque, 1124 E 11th St, Austin, 512-501-2168. Open Tues-Sat 11am-6pm or until sold out, Sun 11am-3pm or until sold out. Website: http://www.texasbbqaustin.com