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The best Texas barbecue


Kent Wang
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Is John Mueller's still closed?

Yup. Still closed, and from what I understand, not going to reopen. Something about non-payment of rent and the owner/business partners selling the building to another restaurant. :sad:

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Made it to Kreuz, Smitty's and Artz in the past week as I gather my info on Texas barbecue for reading consumption of the New Jersey contingent of eGullet. I will post the reviews after I get back in a couple of days with the pictures if I can figure out the picture thing. Gonna try to take in Louie Mueller's this evening on my last run before I have to leave.

But thank you guys for your help.

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Bad stuff from a good place. When I went to Kreuz in Lockhart the only thing they had left at that point was their regular or lean brisket and it was still mind-blowing. It was still suffused with all that great, smokey flavor and really cared for.

When I lived in Georgia I was perpetually on a quest to eat at their top 'cue places and my frustration with them was how little the smoke played in flavoring the meat: it was for all purposes basically roasted or at the most grilled. It was good and hit the spot for what it was (I do like their tart, vinegary spicey sauces in that area) but it always left me wiftul for the Texas stuff at the same time.

Edit: Dumpling, when you do get your report ready, please post a link on this board. I'm eager to hear about it!

Edited by Kevin72 (log)
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A theoretical question: would you rather have bad wood-smoked cue (e.g. a bad serving or an off day at one of the top five places in Texas) or very very good gas-cooked cue?

Bad wood. Gas cooked bbq isn't bbq in my opinion, it's grilling.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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so i know we've been over this a few times, and i've read a lot of stuff, but i'm headed to dallas tonight and i just have to get one more confirmation: is DFW really pretty much a lost cause when it comes to good brisket?

a few years ago i had decent bbq at the railhead in fort worth, and more recently main st. in euless was fine. i know there's nothing that really approaches kreuz's or smitty's but for the next few hours i'm going to be writing down a few names in the DFW area in hopes that something will turn up, so any last minute suggestions are appreciated...

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i'm just gonna reply to myself here, because this is where i asked the question--mods, if you want to move this, that would make sense.

my question in the post above was answered today at mac's bbq on main street in... well, i'm not sure. near deep ellum, but i don't think it's actually in deep ellum. 39xx main street. the brisket was meltingly tender, not at all dry, and was plenty fatty. it could have been smokier--i couldn't really tell about the smoke ring from where i was standing, but i've had more intensely smoky brisket other places--but it was delicious. ribs were pink through and through from the smoke; sausage was damn good too, although not the loosely-packed sausage that i love at kreuz's. beans were a little sweet but not too much so.

for this yankee, mac's is the go-to place in dallas. unfortunately it's only open like 10:30-2 weekdays...

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A theoretical question: would you rather have bad wood-smoked cue (e.g. a bad serving or an off day at one of the top five places in Texas) or very very good gas-cooked cue?

Interesting to read the responses. I think it depends. Sometimes a bad wood brisket can be so dry that it's downright inedible; that happened to me once at John Mueller's.

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I went to Crosstown BBQ in Elgin at 5pm on Friday. Brisket lacked smokiness though I got a great fatty cut. Sausage was nice and juicy but still bland as Elgin sausages often are. Beef ribs had an interesting sweet rub that carmelized nicely but also lacking in smokiness.

Southside Market is better on all counts; go there instead.

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1) Williams Smokehouse in Houston (especially for ribs)

2) The Swinging Door in Richmond (surprisingly good)

Thank Jeebus for The Swinging Door, that's where my rehearsal dinner will be. I was pretty damned surprised at the quality of the grub there too.

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  • 1 month later...

I went to Coopers Pit Bar-B-Q in Mason yesterday. I have heard from a number of people that the original in Mason is much better than the better-known one in Llano. Austin Chronicle has a short bio of the Cooper dynasty.

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Unlike many restaurants, Cooper's keeps the meat in the pits until they're served. They even have goat.

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Really excellent crust on the brisket, very thick and crispy, even better than Louie Mueller's. The sausage was mediocre.

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Pork ribs. Lackluster but not as dry as Mueller's.

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Beef ribs.

Overall, I felt that Cooper's edges out Louie Mueller's as my favorite barbecue restaurant -- though there are many more that I have yet to visit. The Muellers use only salt and pepper in their rub while Cooper's uses "a bunch of stuff", according to the staff, in addition to salt and pepper -- I'd venture that there was some cayenne pepper in there. Cooper's also dips all their meat in a thin, vinegary dipping sauce immediately beforing serving. This was a very thin sauce -- almost as thin as water -- not a thick sauce like a standard barbecue sauce. The flavor contributed by the sauce is barely perceptible except for the added acidity which I felt nicely complements the greasiness of the meat. The difference is more a matter of preference one as a purist might prefer Muellers' style; I personally prefer Cooper's.

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Kent,

What you noticed, tasted, is the difference in regional styles. Cooper's is of the Western Cattle Trail, Mueller that of the Eastern Cattle Trail, starting just South of San Antonio, photo. (We BBQ regulars don't ususally compare them equally). Each style results from differing techniques, spicing, and woods used for smoking. As you mentioned, the sausage is mediocre, as is ALL sausage outside of Central Texas. Cooper's "thin, vinegary dipping sauce" can be had in Austin (close) at The Pit on Burnet Road. The Mason Cooper's does infact have a better reputation than that of the Llano operation, but both are the best of the Western Trail style. Don't miss the Mason/Brady Cabrito Festivals over Labor day...

And, thanks for the photography.

Edited by BigboyDan (log)
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We hit Rudy's in Waco on the way back from Austin to Dallas. My wife really likes it; I've found it not great, but always reliable and a good fix for the 'cue jones we always work up in the Austin area.

This time however, was borderline awful. In my experience, you have to work hard to screw up ribs as badly as they did: they were tough, rubbery, and flavorless. One of the pieces they gave us was I guess the end cap and it had no meat, and was all gristle, bone, and veins.

So, what's happening? I think it may be experiencing growing pains from franchising out so rapidly and they're unable to do quality control. This was all teenage kids running the place this time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dale Rice at the Statesman has an article about the barbecue joints in Lockhart and Taylor. No real analysis and criticism, just quotes from local customers. Not the most reliable source of objective information but an interesting look at how the locals feel about barbecue.

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I get a kick every year out of the folks up in NYC when they have the annual Big Block BBQ event, which was held last weekend, where hundreds and hundreds of New Yorkers line up for hours and hours to get some good ol' Texas (and elsewhere) bbq. Here's a discussion thread along with some great photos from this past weekend. BBQ teams included Salt Lick and Southside Market. It reminds me of how lucky we are wto have so many good bbq joints nearby:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=81480&st=30

Frank in Austin

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Dale Rice at the Statesman has an article about the barbecue joints in Lockhart and Taylor. No real analysis and criticism, just quotes from local customers. Not the most reliable source of objective information but an interesting look at how the locals feel about barbecue.

Great link! I'm going to have to make a special Saturday road trip with my wife to Lockhart, hit all four places up and write back here about it!

I've been reasonably unimpressed with the Q around here (San Antonio), though I did really enjoy BBQ Station off of 410 NE. Sides are inedible, but all of the meat was divine.

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  • 1 month later...

On Tuesday, August 8 my friend and I made the pilgrimage to the Mecca of barbecue, Lockhart, home to four renowned joints, Smitty's, Kreuz, Black's and -- slightly less renowned -- Chisholm Trail. We went to each restaurant in succession, starting at 11am. Most of these restaurants are open until 7pm so lunchtime is probably the best time to visit.

Before I give you my impressions of each restaurant's barbecue I'd like to quote a great explanation by Jaymes in another barbecue thread:

You're dealing with so many uncontrollable variables -- organic product, fire, skill of the pitmaster, carver, etc. Especially when it comes to brisket (which seems to be the most difficult of all of the traditionally barbecued meats to cook properly), it might be great one day, and dry and tough the next. Pork chops are next on the difficulty scale, I think. But ribs and sausage and the pork butts and whole pigs of those southeasterners seem to be much easier to do consistantly well.

I can only comment on the meat that I was served but you really need a much bigger dataset to scientifically declare which restauarant is the best. Take my opinions in consideration with the experiences of the many other barbecue enthusiasts on this forum and elsewhere.

Smitty's Market

11:30 am

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That's my friend Chuck standing in front.

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I've only seen this setup with the meat kept in the pits at Cooper's in Mason, but all the places we went to in Lockhart did this.

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Brisket - Big cap of fat but dry insides suggests their technique may be off and let the meat lose too much moisture.

Pork ribs - This was one of the ribs towards the shorter end and was very tender, with the bone easily pulled off, which is overcooked by Central Texas barbecue standards. I can only speculate if the ribs on the longer end were better or not.

Sausage - Nice give on the casing, but not as incredibly juicy as some of the sausage in Elgin that I've had though.

Black's Barbecue

1:00 pm

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Brisket - We got lucky with the cut with a great strip of fat running straight across the center.

Pork ribs - Lacks smoke flavor, otherwise average.

Sausage - The skin was too tough and the stuffing too dry. This is apparent just from this photo.

Kreuz Market

2:00 pm

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No, the flame wasn't really supernaturally purple, just a quirk of the camera.

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Brisket - Dry and flaking apart, consistency similar to roast beef.

Pork ribs - Terrific, prodigious amount of black pepper in the rub, heavy smoke flavor.

Sausage - Juicy, better casing than even Smitty's.

We had planned to go to Chisholm Trail but were way too full. I'll be sure to go next time.

Best brisket: Black's, Smitty's, Kreuz.

Best pork ribs: Kreuz, Black's, Smitty's.

Best sausage: Kreuz, Smitty's, Black's.

It's hard to name a best overall of these three as the restaurant with the best brisket, the most important meat, Black's, had rather inferior ribs and sausage. Kreuz, which had the best ribs and sausage, had the worst brisket. In the end though, I have to give the tip of the hat to Black's; the brisket was the clincher.

My current favorites:

1. Cooper's (Mason)

2. Louie Mueller's (Taylor)

3. Black's (Lockhart)

Tied for 4: Southside Market (Elgin), John Mueller's (Bastrop, temporarily closed)

Tied for 5: Smitty's (Lockhart), Kreuz (Lockhart)

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Haven't been. It's at the top of the to do list, for sure.

When you get to City Market, please take some photos of the inside.....especially as you enter into the pit room.

City Market was one of my favorites....I thought the sausage was unique .

the photos of the pits are great....

LISBY OUT!
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  • 1 month later...

Stopped in at Louie Mueller's today and had a chat with John Mueller. He recognized me from my frequent visits to his former Austin restaurant. John says that he's only doing catering now in Bastrop but plans to open up again in Austin around Airport Blvd sometime in January or February. Very exciting news!

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