Sunday, May 26, 2013

Three outta four ain't bad

Texas Monthly just released their list of the top 50 BBQ joints in the state of Texas. This list is only updated every five years and needless to say they take this selection pretty damn seriously.
On the heels of of TM hiring an Daniel Vaughn as BBQ editor (see how serious they take bbq in texas), they released this list.
When my son and I went to Texas last summer we visited 18 spots and of those, 12 were on this years list of the top 50. To further up the ante TM singled out the four top spots. That short list included Franklin BBQ, Snow's, Louie Mueller and Pecan Lodge. 
As I have written before, this type of BBQ (Central Texas) completely captivates my soul. I love the history and the regional components that put this type of cooking into play.  The minimalist approach to cooking due to lack of resources actually makes this food so much more that the sum of its parts. Meat, salt, pepper and wood smoke come together in a synergistic way  that makes this food rival any other native cuisine on the planet.
I want to give a tip of the hat to the below pitmasters that my son and I had a chance to not only meet, but to eat their food. I can only say that I am thankful that these people are keeping this tradition alive.

Franklin BBQ  with Aaron Franklin

 Snow's with Tootsie Tomanetz (78 years old!) & Kerry Bexley

Louie Mueller with Wayne Mueller

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Louie Mueller

Louie Mueller-Taylor, Tx

Well, it took us a week and a half to hit 18 BBQ joints in and around Austin, Texas. We drove over 800 miles and we hit some of the finest BBQ that Central Texas had to offer. What did we learn? Well, here is a small list.
1. Don't judge a book by its cover (some of the best places are literal dives).
2.  Hill Country is hauntingly beautiful.
3. The BBQ in this area is unique to America. This style of cooking is an American treasure.
4. We are coming back soon (real soon).

Brisket, Sausage, Ribs & a Big Red

It was only fitting that the last stop of the trip was to Louie Mueller in Taylor, Tx. (on the way to catch our flight home). This place is family owned and is run by the grandson of the founder. 
Louie Mueller was my inspiration for the trip to start with. I had been there in 2010 and it opened my eyes as to what Central Texas BBQ is all about. This trip we had the works. The line was crazy long at lunch, especially for a Tuesday afternoon. We had the brisket, pork ribs, beef ribs and a sausage. I had heard that Wayne Mueller had a couple of new guys assisting him. The rumor was that they had fine dining experience and were "interning" to learn BBQ. Well, I have to say that the food quality was a notch above where it was a couple of years ago. The brisket was as good as anything we had on the trip. The sausage may have actually been my favorite of the trip and the beef ribs were the best we came across. The only lacking component was the pork ribs and while tasty, they just needed a bit more time on the smoker.
Full Custom Gospel BBQ just upgraded Louie Mueller to 6 stars-Personally, I would go 5+stars (just because of the ribs).
My son and I had a great trip to Texas and I would highly recommend a road trip like this to any Father or Son. If I am lucky maybe I will get to do this trip again with my son's son.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


How serious was this little father and son BBQ Pilgrimage? How about serious enough to drive 2 hours one way to a tiny shack to experience what FCG BBQ called ****** worthy.

Roasted Chicken
Brisket & Sausage

So, was the food worth a 2 hour drive. Hell yes! We ordered the first chicken of the trip just because it looked so good. The brisket and sausage were up to par with anything we had eaten the previous 5 days too. To me the best part of this trip was the "windshield time" I got to spend with my son while we traversed Central Texas in search of these little hidden and off the beaten path gems.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Epicenter of Central Texas BBQ

One of the big highlights of this BBQ Pilgrimage was learning fair bit about Texas history and how the area around Austin developed.
Of course the Czechs and Germans played a huge roll and when you start looking at the BBQ culture in Central Texas it really comes down to cooking locally. This area is the start of the Chisom Trail and there is also an amazing amount of Post Oak, Pecan and Mesquite wood. Basically the mathematical equation is:  Beef + wood smoking = Central Texas BBQ.

So, where is the epicenter of Central Texas BBQ? If you ask me, it has to be just south of Austin in the communities of Lockhart, Luling and Gonzales.  We set out on a Tuesday (this is a great way to beat the crowds-think I am kidding? These BBQ joints are known to sell product upwards of over a 1000 lbs per day) and first hit City Market in Luling. From my previous post you can see that this place has gotten (literally) world wide recognition.  The next stop was to Gonzales and Gonzales Food Market.  Daniel Vaughn at Full Custom Gospel BBQ has a terrific story about Gonzales Food Market.  Gonzales Food Market is a modest little family run enterprise. This was the only place we had a chance to sample lamb ribs (killer!) and the sausage was terrific. Pickles, white bread and sweet tea and you have lunch.

 Gonzales Food Market

I would say that the other incredible thing about touring through Texas was the discovery of all of the historic courthouses.

Texas is divided up into 254 counties and nearly all of them have a  historic architectural gem of a courthouse. Check this link for a comprehensive list of all the historic courthouses in Texas.
Gonzales County Courthouse-Gonzales, Texas

After Gonzales we headed up to Lockhart and hit the Holy Trinity of Smitty's, Black BBQ and Kreuz Market. All three of these establishments are enshrined in Texas BBQ lore. We sampled brisket, ribs and sausage at all three spots and of the three, our favorite was Kreuz Market. 

 Schoen Boy's at Kreuz Market
Kreuz Market-Brisket & Sausage
The brisket is apparently hot smoked and so the cooking time is decreased. The smoke ring and bark on the brisket was something I hadn't seen elsewhere and if this hadn't been the last of five stops we would have gone back for seconds.
Since Lockhart is so small, do take time to walk the historic downtown. Lockhart is also home to Caldwell County and another beautiful courthouse.
Caldwell County Courthouse-Lockhart, Texas

City Market Luling

City Market-Luling, Tx

When you see an article in Newsweek magazine that lists the worlds greatest restaurants I think it brings visions of Thomas Keller's French Laundry,  Ferran AdriĆ 's El Bulli or some other white table cloth temple of fine dining. We landed in Central Texas the same week that City Market was named as one of the 101 destination restaurants in the world (not the county, not the state, but the world!). If you are looking for a maitre' d, white table clothes or fine china.....then  this isn't the place for you.
If you are looking for perfectly smoked brisket, house made sausage, perfect ribs  and a Big Red (cherry red soda pop that tastes like a red gumball-big favorite with the locals and perfect for BBQ), then this is your place.

City Market is small, worn, smokey and a slice of Americana that is quickly disappearing from our landscape. The food was off the hook good and this little place is on our list of places to hit again when we are back in the area.

Pit Room-City Market-Luling, Tx

Brisket, Sausage, Ribs
Fine Dining

City Market-Luling, Tx