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The best Texas barbecue


Kent Wang
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How is the Luling City Market that opened in Houston? How does it compare to the original in Luling?

Ha. Actually Kent, after our discussion about Beaver's a couple of weeks ago (which I must say, I apologize for my rudeness in a couple of the replies...I just get really fired up sometimes), I decided to embark on a Houston BBQ Journey of my own, in order to form some better informed personal opinions. Here was the schedule.

Sunday-noon-Goode Co.

Monday-noon-Lenox BBQ & Catering

Tuesday-noon-Thelma's BBQ

Wednesday-noon-Burn's BBQ

Thursday-noon-Luling City Meat Market

Thursday-evening-Beaver's Icehouse

...A lot of BBQ, in extremely varying styles of which I'll report on later--maybe in a more specific Houston BBQ thread.

All that to say, my visit on Thursday to Luling City Meat Market on Richmond, was one of the best that I've had at that particular location. Of all the BBQ places in Houston, I've probably eaten at this one the most. I would suggest not going for dinner, just in case they've had a slow day and you wind up being served some brisket or ribs that have been in a warming tray for way too long. When Luling is having a good day, it is some of the best BBQ that I've ever had.

Having been somewhat confused as to their affiliation (if there is any) to the original City Meat Market in Luling, I finally was able to talk to the owner on Thursday. When I asked him what the connection was, he got kind of snippy, saying, "There is no Luling City Meat Market, in Luling." Puzzled, I responded, "But, I've eaten there." He says, "No you didn't." Starting to put two and two together, I realized that the Luling establishment is just officially called, the City Meat Market...in Luling, TX. He said "Right". I then asked why there were so many similarities, because the sausage is almost identical, as is the sauce, ribs, the brisket, etc. He said when they opened 25 years ago, one of the first people they hired, came from the City Meat Market in Luling, TX. That explains a lot!

He went on to tell me of the numerous awards that they've won from Texas Monthly, Esquire, etc. Some people here in Houston swear that the City Meat Market in Luling is better. I've eaten at both, although it has been a couple of years since I've been to the Luling establishment. I must say after my visit on Thursday, I don't know what more I could ask for. Everything was absolutely amazing. I'm going to be in the vicinity of Luling within the next month or two and will hopefully stop in and refresh my mind on the original.

I'll let you know when the Houston BBQ report is up.

As a side note, I was planning on going to Williams Smokehouse on Tuesday at lunch when I got to work and jscarbor had emailed me the news of it burning down. Many people have said they had the best ribs in Houston.

Edited by Morgan_Weber (log)
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I took my brother and a few of his friends up to Austin for his bachelor's party last night, and as part of the itienerary, we stopped by lockhart to have a massive bbq crawl (not exactly the best idea a few hours before heading to 6th, but yesterday wasn't about good ideas)

We went to Black's, Kreuz's, and Chisolm Trail. Before you get up in arms about us not hitting up Smitty's, when we were driving up, they were flipping the sign to closed. So I guess I'll have to make a return trip to finish off the bbq trinity.

Overall, Black's was my favorite, the fatty brisket was moist and flavorful, and the sausage was decent and dense in flavor. But best of all, the staff seemed generally happy to see us there which is always a good feeling. Kreuz's had the best sausage, but the ribs and brisket were really lackluster. For an establishment to demand no forks or sauce is fine, but both the ribs and brisket needed it, they were really, really dry, and the ribs were mealy for some reason. I'd take an order at Beaver's and Rudy's over theirs anyday though it could've just been this one time, I'm planning on a return trip sometime soon just to make sure I didn't miss anything. Chisolm Trail by then was overkill, but the ribs were exceptionally tender even though the sauce was really candylicious in how sweet it was. Not really my cup of tea. They did have an exceptional peach cobber though. Good ratio of topping to peach.

As to Kent pointing out about how the sausage should spray rivlets of juice into your mouth when you bite into it, this happened moreso at Black's than at Kreuz's. I'm not sure how I feel about it because then it made the sausage seem really, really greasy to eat and if you take a bite then put it down and eat other things, a lot of the juice had seeped out by then and the sausage was dry-ish. Given it is a really cool affect, and it made the sausage more plump and juicy to eat, maybe I just don't eat quickly enough to really enjoy it. It's fun to find the difference in cooking though.

Any way around it, the whole trip was fun. There was no bad que to be had in Lockhart. Comparing it to other, more southern styles, it's different. No better, no worse, it just really depends what you have a hankering for, I guess.

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As to Kent pointing out about how the sausage should spray rivlets of juice into your mouth when you bite into it, this happened moreso at Black's than at Kreuz's. I'm not sure how I feel about it because then it made the sausage seem really, really greasy to eat and if you take a bite then put it down and eat other things, a lot of the juice had seeped out by then and the sausage was dry-ish. Given it is a really cool affect, and it made the sausage more plump and juicy to eat, maybe I just don't eat quickly enough to really enjoy it. It's fun to find the difference in cooking though.

Related to this, one should avoid getting the sausage to go as it will leak all its juices out before you get home. For to go, concentrate on the ribs first, then brisket, then if you must, the sausage.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As I read over this thread, I marvel at how much I've learned about barbecue in the last few years and how much my opinions have changed over the course of visiting all the barbecue meccas. I don't plan to stay in Texas for long, so I feel fortunate that I have had the opportunity to enjoy such a rare and unique cuisine in my time here.

I recently reviewed Beaver's (Houston) barbecue, which, although I found it mediocre, the review provides a good summation of my thoughts on what good barbecue should taste like.

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  • 1 month later...

It looks like I will be doing a BBQ tour towards the end of February. I'm really looking forward to this. I'm going with some friends that have done this before, so I'm not on my own. Here is a preliminary, proposed itinerary..

Sat Obscene-o-thirty: Depart Dallas

Sat 11:30AM: Arrive @ Kreuz Market for lunch

Sat afternoon: Maybe hit City Market in Luling, nap

Sat evening: Possibly more BBQ, definitely Sixth Street if others go

Sun lunch: Smitty's Market, or maybe Black's BBQ

Sun afternoon: ???, drive home

Sounds like we have a lot of the big name palces covered or under consideration. Is there any place missing from this that we should consider?

I'm also going to toss out the idea to my group to do maybe a little different for dinner Saturday night. Of course, we may be totally stuffed, but something other than BBQ might be good. Maybe some good tex-mex. (or Mex). Something that's very "Austin"

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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You might be hitting Luling a little late. If you can handle waking up earlier you should try to do Kreuz (or wherever else in Lockhart) at 10 am or whenever they open.

You can also consider Cooper's in Llano or Louie Mueller's in Taylor. Both are kinda on the way between Austin and Dallas. So you could do Mueller's then Lockhart on Saturday and Lockhart and Luling on Sunday. Note that Mueller's is closed on Sunday.

Cooper's is a little different as they use the vinegar dip, and Mueller's is just hands down my favorite. Their beef ribs are also pretty unique.

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I grew up in Dallas and was born not far from Austin...

If you haven't been to the Hill Country then I think you need to go to Cooper's. My SO still talks about her first time there (she's from LA).

It's an experience like no other; the pits, the smoke, the way they serve the meat, the low ceiling and the "free" fixin's! My impression is that more than a few Q places have mimicked the style, decor and atmosphere of places in the Hill Country, like Cooper's Barbeque.

Banished from Chowhound; I like it just fine on eGullet!

If you`re not big enough to lose, you`re not big enough to win! Try this jalapeno, son. It ain't hot...

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It looks like I will be doing a BBQ tour towards the end of February.  I'm really looking forward to this.  I'm going with some friends that have done this before, so I'm not on my own.  Here is a preliminary, proposed itinerary..

Sat Obscene-o-thirty: Depart Dallas

Sat 11:30AM: Arrive @ Kreuz Market for lunch

Sat afternoon: Maybe hit City Market in Luling, nap

Sat evening: Possibly more BBQ, definitely Sixth Street if others go

Sun lunch: Smitty's Market, or maybe Black's BBQ

Sun afternoon: ???, drive home

Sounds like we have a lot of the big name palces covered or under consideration.  Is there any place missing from this that we should consider?

I'm also going to toss out the idea to my group to do maybe a little different for dinner Saturday night.  Of course, we may be totally stuffed, but something other than BBQ might be good.  Maybe some good tex-mex.  (or Mex).  Something that's very "Austin"

If you're in Austin, give Rudy's a go and have the fattier brisket (they have 2 kind).

I maintain it's my favorite. (despite Kent insisting to others what "real" barbecue *should* taste like :rolleyes: )

You should try and, between the rest, decide for yourself.

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From Austin Chronicle:

Media World USA, producers of a television and Web travel series called The Official Best Of (www.officialbestof.com), has named Taylor's famed Louie Mueller Barbecue (206 W. Second, 512/352-6206; www.louiemuellerbarbecue.com) as the Official Best Barbecue in Texas for 2008. This is another in a long series of accolades for the revered barbecue emporium, including an America's Classics award from the James Beard Founda­tion in 2006 and television segments on the Food Network and the Travel Channel in recent years.

I've been to Mueller's at least five times and it is my favorite as well. What really sets it apart is the consistency of quality, the beef ribs (which very few places have), the unmatched old town vibe, and the fairly decent sides.

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I like Louie M's but it has been the least consistant of my favorite places over the years. I have had 2 GREAT experinces here and 3 not so great. I chalk one of the bad one's up to hitting it at about 10:30 am the sat after thanksgiving. Anyway, its good but not the best IMO because of that.

City Market in Luling, Smitty's in Lockhart, and Burns in Houston are probably my favorite.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I haven’t been eating much bbq lately - I think I od’d a couple of years ago. Back then City Market in Luling was my favorite overall for doing the triumvirate of brisket, ribs and links so well. My second fave was Black’s for brisket and sausage. Then it was Louie Mueller’s, mainly for the sausage (best I ever had) and also the single best gimme piece I ever had. Otherwise Mueller’s brisket and ribs didn’t always impress. Last of the places I frequented was Kreutz. My first visit there was awesome, except for the fact I ordered the shoulder clod instead of brisket, but all subsequent visits have had problems such as over-cooked or over-salted meats.

I’ve never been to Smitty’s or Chisholm Trail or Cooper’s but I have been to Gonzales Food Market and while it’s good, it doesn’t measure up to the 4 above. I’m sorry to say I hadn’t been to Williams in Houston in over a year before it burned but it would have been in my top 5 with the ones above.

Post-Williams I’m hard pressed to say Houston has any great cue anymore. I most recently tried Houston BBQ Co.on Eldridge Parkway. I had just some ribs in keeping with my more modest appetite these days, and was planning on bringing some brisket and sausage home but the ribs were so disappointing - no smoke ring, not quite ready to serve - that I decided to cut my losses and leave empty handed. I can say the potato salad was above average. Looking at reviews on b4 however apparently I should've tried the brisket.

The best Q I’ve had in the past year was at Novosad’s in Hallettsville. I went with a friend a year ago and went back last week. I’m surprised this place doesn’t get more comments; perhaps because it’s so far from any major population center?

Here’s a pic we took a year ago:

gallery_58650_5736_57484.jpg

This time around I just went for brisket and ribs and brought some sausage and some of their wieners home. Although the brisket looked about as good as that picture the meat was actually quite dry, cooked dry I’d say. The ribs were even fattier than pictured and very good, although less flavorful than I remembered, probably just the result of less rub.

Novosad’s is right downtown, just a half block off the courthouse square. I thought I remembered it was only open W-Sat, 10a-3p, but the sign in the door said Tue-Sat, 8:30a-3p. They also do lamb ribs and pork chops. The macaroni side is good; I don’t care for sweet slaws and I wasn’t impressed with the confetti slaw w/pineapple which Robb Walsh says is their best side, and I haven’t tried the canned, chilled peaches which he says are the standard dessert!

I’ve also been to Austin’s in Eagle Lake 4 or 5 times in the past year. The sausage is the thing, one of my top 4 favorite sausages in the state, but their sides are very good too. The brisket is above average but not exceptional, the sauce, a thick, tomato-ey, ketchup-y concoction, is pretty bad. I’ve never tried their ribs or their occasional specialty, cabrito. Their eating area is covered but not enclosed and the weather's been miserable everytime I've been so I've eaten in the car:

gallery_58650_5736_101763.jpg

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Post-Williams I’m hard pressed to say Houston has any great cue anymore. 

Try the ribs at Lenox on Harrisburg--IMHO they don't need sauce. Try everything at Burn's BBQ. Try the ribs and link at Luling City Meat Market on Richmond (go for lunch though...it is more consistent). Thelma's is pretty good too, if you get the sauce on the side (she might charge extra for that, lol).

I might get crucified for this next suggestion, but if you're up for a drive to the Woodlands, stop in at Rudy's. The last two times I've eaten at Rudy's (albeit two locations in Austin...one on New Years, and one two weeks ago), they have had the best example of what I think brisket should taste like that I have EVER had. They use oak for the smoke and the guy swore up and down that they didn't use gas smokers...not even to get the fire started. Both times I ordered the the 'extra moist' brisket.

For more of a contemporary style of BBQ, there is always Beaver's Ice House off of Washington Ave. It is by no means a traditional BBQ stand and since opening last November or so, they seem to have really gotten in a consistent groove of making great food.

Minus Luling City Meat Market, Rudy's, and Beaver's, most of the BBQ here is in the East Texas style. I'm just of the opinion that we do indeed have some good BBQ in Houston, it just has to be searched out.

Edited by Morgan_Weber (log)
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Lenox used to cater our church and company picnics years ago -- have never been to the restaurant.

Luling City Mkt - I probably hit that more than any other since it's closest to me -- must go before 1pm; I try to make it before noon. Yes, I know it's not as good as the one in Central Texas but I like the ambiance of eating off butcher paper and you can find a lot worse Q in Houston.

I went to Burns a couple of years ago and wasn't impressed at all. I've been meaning to try it again since so many people rave about it but haven't gotten around to it.

Beaver's - haven't been yet. Will report when I do, but like I said, I'm not much into Q these days.

Thelma's - been going for several years, tired of the inconsistency. Usually go for catfish but last time I was there, a couple of months ago, that was not very good either.

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  • 2 months later...

Just happened to notice today - b4-u-eat lists the new place on W. Gray in Houston as Luling BBQ, not Luling City Market, and lists the two separately. A copy of a copy?

I know this has been talked about before but I can't find the thread.

Edited by brucesw (log)
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Beaver's - haven't been yet.  Will report when I do, but like I said, I'm not much into Q these days.

Beaver's Berkshire ribs were outstanding. Brisket was okay, Carolina pulled pork was on the dry side IMHO. Would definitely return for the ribs.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Short notice here, but work is sending me to San Antonio for one night, tomorrow. I will not have a car, so I'm confined to what I can hit by taxi, but is there a must-go bbq joint in San Antonio I should hit?

"All humans are out of their f*cking minds -- every single one of them."

-- Albert Ellis

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  • 2 weeks later...

I picked up a copy of the June issue of Texas Monthly today and they have proclaimed a new #1 bbq place in Texas. Snow's BBQ in Lexington, where is Lexington anyway, and Snow's is only open for 4 hours a week. That seems a pretty astonishing statement considering the Lockhart hold on that title for so long.

In this bbq coverage, I found a poem that was very right on, here is a part of the poem by Tony Hoagland

The waitress says

the man at Table Three

is making noises.

You'd think she would be used to grunting

when the sun goes down

at Melvin's Rib Chateau,

but this one's whispering amen

into his marmalade,

getting sauce all over his Armani.

It could be

he is an escapee

from a gated community

there is more this was my favorite part.

Now to go read more what they have to say about the state of Que in Texas.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Yes, I saw the issue in newstands yesterday and was astonished at this. The articles are also available online.

Considering the rest of their top five is nearly in line with my own, I will certainly be heading over to Lexington very soon. Maybe next Saturday.

Their Top 50 also reveals some places I've never heard of like Mann's in Austin, and Burns and Vergie's in Houston. Missing is any mention of Cooper's in Mason, which is in my top 2.

I was reminiscing the other day about John Mueller's in Austin. The cue was so great, just slightly below Louie Mueller's -- especially since Louie's makes beef ribs while John did not. But they had the best sides and sauce. I was in Louie's about a year ago where John saw me. He said he recognized me from all the times I went to his restaurant before it closed and I got a chance to shake his hand and visit for a bit. Ah, good memories...

Edited by Kent Wang (log)
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I'm pretty sure Burns has been mentioned in this thread but only mentioned, not reviewed. I haven't been in a couple of years and wasn't impressed but lots of people are these days and I've been meaning to get back up there.

Virgie's is brand new to me, too, but I see Jay Francis has been.

If Vincek's in East Bernard is making cue worthy of a 4.5 they've improved somewhat. I like the place for sausages and kolaches and the atmosphere.

Noted as MIA: Thelma's???, Beaver's???? (Sorry, couldn't help myself).

Also: Gonzales Food Market - I've only been once but thought it was pretty good.

The fun for me these days is in discovery, not in hitting the same old, same old.

I'll try to get up to Virgie's this week with a cam.

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Their Top 50 also reveals some places I've never heard of like Mann's in Austin, and Burns in Houston...

Oh come on Kent, surely you've seen me mention my love of Burn's BBQ in Houston. It is awesome. East Texas style bbq. Ask them for the sauce on the side and make sure you take cash. Get the homemade sausage. Jscarbor and I were there a few months ago and the homemade stuff was similar in texture to Luling's--it has been several months since I've made my way up there though. They're mostly consistent too. I've only gotten burned their once. (no pun...)

Happy smoking.

M

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Sorry Morgan, I haven't been reading very many of the Houston topics.

I think Beaver's could deserve a mention. I haven't tried the other Houston picks so I can't say whether they're any better or worse. But if Lambert's in Austin is picked, then I don't see why Beaver's shouldn't. Then again, maybe Beaver's is too new?

I'm currently planning to get up at 6 am on Saturday in order to get to Snow's in Lexington at 8 am when they open. Anyone else want to meet me there?

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