Regional food specialties
- A Return to America's BBQ Heartland
We stay in Texas for today's post. I had a good 8 days to get some spots doc'd on my most recent visit which took me to Dallas with a roadtrip to Austin in-between. Coincidentally one of these cities is considered to serve the best BBQ in Texas (ATX) and the other is said to have some of the worst (DFW). While the former is almost certainly true the latter is becoming a myth. No trip to Pecan Lodge (Seen in Part One) this time due to the fact they were closed on the 26th. But it along with a couple of the spots I tried this trip are holding their own as far as smoked meat in the Dallas area goes. Texas style Barbecue is taking the nation by storm, with it's home-state included in the mix.
As evidenced here many of the best places to eat BBQ in the Lone Star State these days are relatively new spots. It would take a handful of years living down there to get a full idea of whether or not I dispute or agree with this but I put alot of trust into the local experts down there. Thus for the most part I visited places they had praised that I had not yet been too. Happy to report back that the mission was a smashing success. All due respect to KC, Memphis, NYC (Muhahaha) and others when I say Austin is the best metropolis for BBQ in America. No bake zone. They know better.
The Slow Bone
As I already mentioned, much like my previous trip I relied on the local experts to guide me to the best spots in their respective towns. A tweet to Daniel Vaughn aka @bbqsnob resulted in a handful of recs in Dallas on top of the beoved Pecan Lodge. I decided to check out the much lauded Slow Bone hoping that due to the fact it was the day after Christmas there wouldn't be a line, which there usually is. Lucky me because I walked right in and placed my order for a two meat combo plate. What makes for Central Texas style BBQ? Pretty much everything you'll see in this visit.
1st Class Condiments Bar
First and foremost is the brisket. This is the cut most everyone will judge your product by, sure theres places within the state that do other things better but the spots that make a mean brisket should for the most part stay successful. Thus it looks as though Slow Bone has a long future. The picture doesn't quite do the requested fatty part of the brisket I ate justice. Hidden underneath is some of the best bark I'd encounter on the entire trip and the meat itself was tender with perfect hints of both beef and smoke. The other beloved smoked meat in Texas is sausage. Here they make their own blend and also one with cilantro. Seeing as I'm always a fan of cilantro I opted to try that blend and loved it. Sides were above average and while I'm usually not a sauce guy, I really enjoyed their thin chili laced brew remembering it as one of the better dipping sauces I've ate of late. Last but not least when it comes to the signatures of Texas style BBQ is the condiments. Pickles and Onions are pretty much a must to go along with the bread and also the meat. I love how they took the onions a step up by serving pickled red onions as opposed to raw. Add in house pickles, sliced jalapenos and all is well.
Two Meat Plate (Cilantro Sausage and Brisket) with Brussels Sprouts/Cauliflower Au Gratin + Jalapeno Mac & Cheese______________________________________________________________
Next stop up is a popular Smokehouse in Dallas thats recently expanded to the suburb of Plano. Since I was in Texas for a wedding, which would be held in Plano, I figured this @bbqsnob rec would be doable and it was. There was a line to the door near lunchtime on NYE but it moved pretty quick. There's plenty of seating and also a bar for some libations while you wait. Aside from the usual suspects I was intrigued to try the smoked beef clod shoulder and then I saw another customers spare ribs and those became part of the order. I got a ton of food and was even comped an end piece of the spares but make no mistake the price adds up. Still a ton of food and I had three meals with it.
Spare Ribs, Brisket, Shoulder Clod, Kreuz Market Sausage
First off my initial reaction to the spare ribs was dead on as these were really smoked well on this particular visit. Along with an upcoming spot these proved to me at least that Texans can make beautiful smokey ribs that give some resistance and don't just fall cleanly off the bone, much like the Chicago aquarium style I'm used too. Brisket was damn good, might of been a tad past done as it easily fell apart but I was still very satisfied with the overall flavor. I'd love to try it fresh out the smoker. The clod was a bit of a miss as it was just a tad too tough, not inedible but some of the fattier pieces were better off removed. The pieces that were good made for a great sandwich with pickles, onions, and jalapenos in between some squishy white bread. The sausage here comes from Kreuz Market of Lockhart Texas fame and it's sensational.
The trip where I learn Texas can do ribs really good too______________________________________________________________
Rider's BBQ and Hot Sausage
Pitstop for some gas and a quick link just outside of Austin. I'd read about Riders when looking for spots to eat 'que in-between Dallas and Austin. Located about 45 miles north of Austin in a stripmall this place had the highway exit smelling good with smoke in the air. We stopped in on the way back to Dallas and I had just ate at a couple spots before but still wanted to get some of their sausage to nibble on for the ride. Excellent. Both the hospitality and the hot link.
Hot Smoked Sausage at Rider's______________________________________________________________
A quick 20 minute ride from Austin sits Elgin. The proclaimed sausage capitol of of the State. Southside Market has been around since 1882 making it the oldest BBQ shack in Texas. They started making their famous hot sausage a few years later and it all went into the history books from there on in. I drove over for breakfast one morning and got one original and one cheddar jalapeno. The all beef sausage which locals order as "hot guts" was simply outstanding. So they say "there's hot links in other parts of the state, but hot guts are different." Though according to a story I read from Daniel Vaughn said the grandfather of the current owner switched the recipe as far as spicing goes as he was lucky to see two woman in there a week. Even though it was toned down I still got a nice little tingle, feel free to add more heat with the house hot sauce on the tables. I wanted to try the other popular spot in town but at this point in the trip I was basically burping smoke and needed a break.
House Sausage (Full Link) and Jalapeno Cheddar (Sliced)______________________________________________________________
My first order of business upon arrival in Austin was to get some BBQ. No trip to eat smoked meat in ATX should be made without a peak at Mike Sutter's website. His series titled 'BBQ City Limits' would be my tour guide for this trip. I had a handful of spots picked from his Top 10 List and Brown's was up first as it was one of the places I did not want to miss. Daniel Brown has been smokin' in Austin since 2006. There's a nice Eater interview with him HERE. Barbecue is the family lineage as Daniel's dad was a pitmaster down in Lockhart. He cooks with post oak in a smoker (attached to the trailer) built from an old propane tank by his cousin in Lockhart.
a peek inside
Using @fedmanwalking as my guide I knew what I was here for. First up were the ribs, as mentioned this would be the trip where I ate some great spares. Listed as the best pork ribs in the city according to Fed Man Walking these did not disappoint. Smoke, salt and pepper are all these giant bones of pork need, that and plenty of time to morph into a magnificent piece of perfectly textured meat. Not pictured is their side of cabbage which comes from an old family recipe that's been passed down thru time. All you need to know is it's cooked with lots of bacon and tastes great. It's also Ranked #1 amongst best sides on the aforementioned list.
Spare Ribs and Brisket
The brisket was damn near as good as the ribs. In fact I'm sure if I had tried one without the other the experience just wouldn't of been the same. I thoroughly enjoyed the deeply penetrated smokey meat that had just the right amount of resistance while still being as tender as one wants it to be. The combined quality of overall bbq along with the hospitality I was shown makes me envision this as a regular spot in my future Austin eating plans. Protip: If you're lucky enough to be in town on a Sunday they give free BBQ away at the bar next door.
You are getting hungry, very hungry...______________________________________________________________
Valentina's Tex-Mex BBQ
Here we have the food trailer that may represent Austin as a city better than any other. The marriage of Tex-Mex and BBQ is a match made in heaven. It just may be the the ultimate mash-up cuisine, at least thats the feeling I got when I started eating this beautiful brisket taco seen below. Made with their signature mesquite smoked brisket paired with a smokey house salsa and some homemade guacamole on a handmade flour tortilla this is where I want to be next time I'm in town.
Smoked Brisket Taco w/ Smokey House Salsa + Homemade Guac on Handmade Flour Tortilla. Smoked Elotes and Charro Beans in back
One of the men behind this trailer grew up in San Antonio and the food reflects his youth. Down there they do lots of smokin' with mesquite but I believe they're the only people in Austin smoking with it. The flavor of the smoke is noticed in the brisket which is a good thing, a nice change of pace that paired perfectly with the wonderful tomato salsa included alongside the more standard bbq sauce. I had high hopes coming in as I love both BBQ and also tacos and I'm glad to say they were met and then exceeded. Only in ATX. Shout-out to Jose @tacotrail for the heads up on the terrific tacos.
Mesquite Smoked Brisket______________________________________________________________
Two of the biggest trends over the last five years pair together at this Cocktail Bar with a Smokehouse in back. I admit that I prefer my BBQ in a more rustic almost falling apart setting as opposed to the fancy room inside here where you'll eat and drink. But when I saw this place was ranked #2 overall as far as BBQ spots in Austin go, I knew I had to check it out. Glad I did. We were moreso looking to drink when we stopped in but a nice slice or two of brisket was also in-store. Talk about bark! Some of crispiest, richest, jerky-like crust I've ever come across. As Mike Sutter explained, the pitmaster here has a long history of smokin' some excellent meat. Pair it with a nice bourbon based cocktail and all will be good in your world. At least it was in mine.
1/4 lb taste of brisket______________________________________________________________
Last stop is certainly not the least. I follow both critics previously mentioned on twitter as well as a few others who are well versed in Texas BBQ. The buzz for la Barbecue is at its peak right about now. Named the best all around barbecue joint in Austin by Mike Sutter he ranks their beef rib #1, pulled pork #1, sausage #1, brisket #2, pork rib #2, and their sandwich #4. FWIW Franklin ranks 5th overall with the #1 brisket. Having eaten there last trip I decided to wait in line here on this trip.
a peek inside
The story behind John Lewis who's pitmaster here can be read over on Fed Man Walking. In short this trailer is owned by Leann Mueller (of Mueller Barbecue fame) and Lewis took over when Leann's brother John left to go on his own. I came here on a cold rainy Sunday morning but there was free keg beer so I had that going for me. After a pretty easy 45 minute wait it was my turn to order. It was a damn shame but the one thing they were sold out of was beef ribs which I had planned to try. Nonetheless I ended up with an amazing lunch consisting of pulled pork, sausage and brisket.
Fire Sausage, Pulled Pork and some barely visible Brisket that had everyone hollering at it...
Worst to first, the pulled pork was cold and while it might of been good in other parts of the country I just wasn't that interested with the sausage and brisket lying beside it. Next up is the fire sausage which was fan-flipping-tastic. The handmade link comes bursting with fat as you hear a heavy snap with each bite that yields a heavy tone of heat. This Chicagoan salutes their sausage making skills. Then there's the brisket, the most luscious thick slices of beef I've ever laid my eyes on. All I could come up with when comparing it to something was a beautiful video girl from the Caribbean. It's mouthwatering and tastes like the nectar of the Smoke Gods. Capable of causing wet dreams and possibly even an orgasm making you a one minute man. For sure to leave you wanting more.
...now baby tell me how you want it.______________________________________________________________
The Slow Bone
2234 Irving Boulevard
Dallas, TX 75207
1026 East 15th Street
Plano, TX 75074
Riders Barbecue & Hot Sausage
305 Limestone Terrace
Jarrell, TX 76537
1212 Highway 290
Elgin, TX 78621
1901 South Lamar Boulevard
Austin, TX 78704
Valentina's Tex-Mex BBQ
600 West 6th Street
Austin, TX 78701
2402 San Gabriel Street
Austin, TX 78705
902 East Cesar Chavez Street
Austin, TX 78702