- 1960s, 1970s, 1989, 1996
- Frontier Commercial
Stubb’s Bar-B-Q and neighboring VIP lounge CB’s stretch the length of one block at the heart of the Red River Cultural District. The barbecue restaurant is comprised of several dining areas and bars spread across two levels (inside and out); an indoor “basement” stage with a capacity of 200-300 people; and a 2,500-person outdoor concert space.
Widely regarded as one of the best outdoor music venues in Austin, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q is the beating heart of the Red River Cultural District that surrounds it. The structure dates to the 1850s, with records indicating its use as a residence, club (Watutsi in the 1960s and One Knite in the 1970s), used furniture warehouse, junk shop, bookstore, and de facto cultural center. But it was not until Black restauranteur C.B. “Stubb” Stubblefield decided to bring his barbecue skills to Austin in 1986 that today’s incarnation was born.
Having run a legendary barbecue and music venue in Lubbock (regulars included Willie Nelson, Muddy Waters, and Johnny Cash), Stubblefield came to Austin seeking a fresh start. Over nine years, Stubb set up shop at several locations around town and sold the rights to his signature barbecue sauce, to immense success. Upon his death in 1995, Stubb had been planning a new barbecue restaurant and music venue on Red River Street. One year later, friends and family opened Stubb’s Bar-B-Q at this location.
The building’s modest exterior—with its Mission-style arches and low wooden arcade—belies its size and depth. Step into the rustic restaurant bedecked with concert posters, and notice how the building actually extends one story down from street level. The ground in this area slopes gently toward Waller Creek—a key geographic quality that creates the ideal natural slope for the outdoor amphitheater.
Music is essential to Stubb’s. On any given night, visitors might witness an upstart band attempting to blow the wooden rafters off the building’s basement stage. Sunday mornings bring the famous Gospel Brunch, where a Southern buffet is served to the tune of the nation’s top gospel choirs. Meanwhile, the outdoor amphitheater has played host to countless established and aspiring superstars: Lady Gaga; Foo Fighters; Adele; Weezer; Los Lonely Boys; Blondie; Spoon; and more.
An outdoor concert at Stubb’s is a bucket-list experience for any Austinite. What looks like a dusty yard by day comes alive at night: oak branches peer through pyrotechnics while the parabolic bandshell pulsates with sound. Thanks to the gradual topography, spectators enjoy clear sightlines and impeccable sound from almost anywhere in the yard, while VIPs overlook the stage from elevated decks. Here where people from all different backgrounds come together to worship at the altar of music, Stubb’s legacy lives on…one show at a time. – Bud Franck