Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Summary Comments on the Texas BBQ tour!

Hopefully you've read through the posts and followed along.  A few final thoughts on a fantastic trip!  First...a thank you again to a few helpful and friendly members of the Texas BBQ Posse for earlier research, advice and tips on scheduling, and a general overview of the best of the best.

We learned that personally we have a way to go on perfecting our own brisket!  We also learned that we feel we could stand in line and compete with this collection of rib smokers.  And we learned that we need to start making and smoking sausage!!  It was all fantastic.

Comparing some of these places head to head is hard.  Maybe even pointless.  We know there can be any given day, any given piece of meat, and a few extenuating circumstances.  But once we polled each other on favorites, we did seem to find a little common ground.  So here goes....

Favorite Brisket
   Mike - Black's in Lockhart
   Matt - Snow's in Lexington
   Tim  - couldn't between Blacks and La Barbecue in Austin

Favorite Ribs
    Not to cop out on this one...but frankly all were excellent.  In our opinion the ribs at this level
     Are "expected" to be fantastic, and there was not a place on the list that disappointed us!

Favorite Sausage
    Was unanimous at Snow's in Lexington!  Not necessarily that it was head and shoulders better,
     So much as we all liked the unique coarser grind and nice spice blend.  Almost everyone had
     Super sausage and it's a signature style thing not really meant to compete head to head.

So thank you Texas, for an awesome welcome,mand awesome BBQ Tour!

The Minnesota Golden Gopher BBQ Posse!

Last Day - just can't get enough!

After a great relaxing night with friends up in Round Rock, we spent the last of the evening sipping local micro whiskey, and choosing from the 60 tap craft beers at the Brass Tap in Round Rock. Holy Cow that's a cool bar, and worth a stop!

Monday put us back on the road north to DFW and a flight home, but not leaving til 6pm, so clearly there is opportunity for even MORE brisket, ribs, and sausage!!  A little more research and low and behold the discovery of highly touted Longoria's BBQ in a south suburb of Everman.

An unlikely location in the middle of sort of no where!  But a full menu of smoked choices, and famous for their 100% brisket sausage!  We had to try it.  So we ordered the Texas trifecta again of ribs, sausage, and brisket.  The build up in other reviews of the brisket sausage had eagerly on edge, and pumped up to try.  

The sausage was excellent. Nothing bad to say. But did not make the short list of "best of" on the trip. It fell into the same category as nearly all, that was really good.  But we left it there.  The ribs, more or less in the same category.  If anything we thought the few bones we had were a little fatty.  A noticeably delicious dry rub that Mike commented on right away.  But not overly memorable.

The brisket beckoned to us on the plate with a gorgeous bark and smoke ring.  But I think we discovered the dis-advantage pit masters have if you're not faced with a mob lined up waiting for fresh sliced brisket.  It seemed dry.  Dry like it had maybe been sliced at noon, and it was now 2pm.  Not over cooked, not over done or bad meat.  Just not fresh off the slab of brisket that we witnessed a few times this trip.  Delicious, gorgeous, but not as fresh as we have become accustomed.

We still had a few hours, so jumped back online, and for no other reason that geographical convenience, we spotted Cousins BBQ in Ft Worth.  Full from Longoria's, we opted for brisket and sausage.  They offered two types Jalepeno and German.

Again...tasty, savory, and well made on site.  Nice kick in the jalepeno!  Both Matt and Mike thought it was a little too "bologne" like with the smooth textured fine grind.  But super delicious.

We watched the brisket get sliced off a fresh slab, which we like!  Nice bark, moist, tender and right on target.  It was the only brisket we've had done totally on hickory...a slightly different smoke taste,, and just the right amount.  The salt was more evident than any brisket we had tasted.  We all like salt, but by being so prominent, it didn't knock anyone off our previous pedestals.

But all in all, very glad we added two more stops before heading back to the frigid MN winter!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Into the heart of the Beast - Austin's BBQ and brisket giants

A fine evening of cocktails and people watching back in town after a day on the road to Lockhart and beyond, and the Garrison Bros Distillary tour....we tried something a little different at the West end establishment of Lamberts.  Known for its professional quality beef ribs, ribs and brisket...we decide to switch it up and try some smoked chicken and Lamberts sausage.  All we can another awesome experience, mood, drinks, and smoked meat.

But it was up early the next morning to face the madness at Franklins with a plan to also get to La Barbecue, and maybe even over the black sheep of John Muellers Meats.  Our intentions were noble.  We got in line at Franklins at 8:40 am and conned our queue mates into a couple of bloody Mary's and prepared to wait it out.  After an hour or so...the pre-order Steward made her way down to our end of the parking lot and promptly informed us that we could expect to get served between 1:30 and 2:00.  Between hunger, impatience, and some might say a modicum of common sense....we decided a 5 1/2 hour wait for yet ANOTHER plate of smoked meat was not in our cards.

Apologies to Aaron Franklin and a well understood and well deserved reputation for awesome Q I'm sure...but we packed up and made our way to La Barbecue.  Sorry Franklins.  It's only meat after all.

HELLLLLLOOOO La Barbecue !!  Short lines, sunshine, and free beer while you wait in line!  Live music of country and John Prine and Johnny Cash classics made for a festive atmosphere and the anticipation was enormously rewarded by a stellar, simply gorgeous and tasty pile of barbecue!  The brisket was fleshed sliced off a freshly unwrapped slab, a set of big meaty ribs, and a new-comer of savory moist smoked turkey (sausage was gone) 

The ribs of course were everything one could expect.  We loved em!  The brisket was incredibly moist, flavorful, colored and a medium crusty bark.  It's hard to compare or contrast one master to another.  We loved it all...but there was one consensus opinion about it all...the "perfect kiss of smoke" we felt was missing.  The smoke ring was perfect in the brisket....but the smoke flavor was hiding somewhere.  Nothing not to like, nothing bad to say...just our observation.  

It must have been a busy Sunday...because by the time we found John Muellers, he was sold out.  Drifted over to Mickelthwait's for sausage and they too were left only with pulled pork.  We sought out a small trailer back downtown called Valentina's for some savory yummy brisket tacos and called it an awesome day.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Full bellies with Lockhart yet to go...bad idea

Lockhart TX has a reputation as a destination Texas Hill Country barbecue spot and rightfully so.  Even a Minnesota foodie like myself has run across the name of Kreuz market now and again.  Coupled with Smitty's and Black's, Lockhart was a must see town on the tour.

See....being the operative word.  We chose Black's to hit first based on reading, reputation, and ambiance.  We went back to brisket and sausage, and saw the bar get moved up just a bit yet again.  Comparing one of these top 10 Texas BBQ spots is really hard!  And certainly there are a lot of factors. But the perfect black bark...the perfect pink smoke ring, and the perfect moist tender savory brisket inside was just eye popping lay beautiful, and incredible to savor.

We were feeling a little weird clicking pics of all this meat wherever we go...but this was a photo op we had to share.  THIS is the appearance we were looking for...being professionals or's what we expected coming to Texas, and we found it.  Incredible sauce, no mess, just mouth watering beef bewilderment!

The sausage on the other hand while flavorful, smokey and delicious....had a distinct level of fat or grease that was too hard on the palate.  We all three felt although it tasted good, after a few bites the mouth sort of rejected it as too rich, greasy, or fatty.

Sitting in the side yard at a picnic table though, sharing a great in house beer selection and a Texas Spring day, and another awesome smoked brisket at a historic smokehouse was all pure joy.

This was the days 3rd stop for meat, and we were feeling taxed!  We had to see the historic open fire brick pits at the classic Smitty Smokehouse, but between the long lines, and our full bellies we deferred both Smittys and Kreuz to another return trip some day.  No disrespect or diminishing expectations of course...but time and physical abilities were limited! :)  but see the bottom photos of the cool historic look, smell, and feel of Smitty's.


More of the top shelf circuit! Louie Muellers and Blacks BBQ

Saying goodbye to Tootsie at Snows, she and Kerry both suggested the monster Texas beef ribs at Louie Muellers in Taylor TX.  So advice taken...and well advised!

The sleepy town of Taylor houses a great old classic smokehouse and some true artisan pit tending.  No pit thermometers here...just know when the meat is ready!  We decided to skip another brisket, although it looked awesome....and try the huge beef ribs.  They are not offered everywhere and we were eager for one.  One.  We split a mid sized rib which weighed in almost at a pound and a quarter...throw in some smoked chipotle sausage and we had another pile of beast to face down. Judiciously trying to get better at pacing ourselves through the day, and managing stomach real estate.

The beef rib was incredible.  A huge tough often fatty piece of beef to master, but this came off like a perfectly bark crusted, pink smoke ringed, moist and tender brisket on a bone!  Meaty, moist, smokey, barked, and simply mouth watering without question.

The sausage was another sample of really good savory and mildly spicy grind.  Either we aren't schooled enough to come up with much bad to say about these sausage makers, or they all know what the hell they are doing.  We are convinced it's the latter.  All in all a great addition to the original plan, and easy to add on to a trip to Snows.


Early morning BBQ at Snows in Lexington, Tx

We heard unanimously in our research, that you can't take a Texas BBQ tour and not get to Snows BBQ in Lexington.  An hour outside Austin is a true gem.

Snows is ONLY open Saturdays, opens at 10 am, and the brisket could be gone by noon or 1pm on a weekend!  People leave Austin, and elsewhere at 7am and get in line for hours sometimes just to ensure they get some of the best brisket Texas has to offer.  So we did too!!

And we were not at all disappointed.  It immediately became Matts favorite.  A simple, friendly, open air pit place.  Pit masters Tootsie and Kerry welcomed anyone with open arms, and were generous in telling secrets, showing the pits, and talking smart smoke.  We loved them!

The brisket was perfectly tender.  An awesome pink smoke ring and that Texas post oak smoke flavor from a real fire.  It was truly wonderful.  Mike and I are a dark bark loving team, and their style is not focused on a crusty bark.  Matt is still talking about Snows brisket.

The sausage became a quick favorite as well.  Everything about it was excellent!  A coarse grind, savory spicing, an edible perfectly crispy not chewy casing.  The grind and no greasy feel and taste made it a top shelf choice!  Overall, the vibe, the hosts, and the meat make the trip essential for any BBQ purists.

(Btw....we sort of focused on sausage and brisket, rather than ribs as they are the more difficult of the two to perfect and offer personal styles and variation.  Sometimes we had the ribs too, because they are all awesome....but ocassionaly we saved the stomach real estate)


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Friday at Freedmen's Bar

After leaving Millers Smokehouse we took a cab down down to a classic old brick bar for yes...more brisket, sausage, and ribs!

Although not on the classic infamous Smokehouse circuit in and around Austin, we were seriously impressed.  In a short summary...we all felt the ribs were excellent.  Moist, pleasantly rubbed, meaty and tender...perfect on the bone. And slightly smaller than the monsters at Millers.

The house sausage was a little overpowered by a bit too much black pepper.  A much coarser grind than Millers, and a bit drier.  Good flavor, good smoke, but too much black pepper.

The brisket was the best surprise.  Gorgeously crusted with a tasty savory black bark, and tender, moist, and kissed with nice oak smoke.  Maybe a generous late nite portion, but there was easily enough brisket for the three of us on this sampler platter!

Coupled with the Whiskey of the Month, $5 Makers 46, we found Freedmen's to be the perfect late nite stop for a night cap of Texas Barbecue!