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The best Texas barbecue


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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?

Ha. No problem man. I can't believe it. I drove by Snow's in Lexington probably, once a month, when I was in college and never ate there. It was on the way home from Waco to Yoakum. I can't say I really even knew it existed. Shame on me.

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We have a big bash every once in awhile out in Lexington at my Father In Laws little ranch and we have it catered by someone that sells in lexington only on weekend. Its darn good. I wonder if its the same?

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Kent, have you been able to swing by Mann's yet?

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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This Saturday two friends and I got up at 6 am and drove out to Lexington to try Snow's BBQ. We arrived early around 7:30 but they were ready to serve us.

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I asked what the vertical smoker was for and the fellow I spoke to said brisket. That's very unorthodox.

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All the other meat, though, was in traditional pits, like these pork butts.

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The overall ambiance of the whole place is quite nice. Not as great as Louie Mueller's, about as good as Black's.

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The chicken was great. Not dry at all, tender and juicy, while still quite smoky. The best barbecue chicken I've had. They were out of pork ribs. The pork butt was pretty good, but definitely cooked at too high heat -- too chewy, more like roasted than smoked.

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Brisket was very dry. Nothing special about the rub, and I didn't feel it was especially smoky either.

The sausage was also extremely dry. There was hardly any juice in it. My friend made the amateur mistake of slicing the sausage -- which you should never do because you loose all the juice this way -- but when she cut through it no juices flowed out whatsoever, the butcher paper remained quite dry.

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Free baked beans, rather overcooked and mushy though. Potato salad was quite good. They were out of coleslaw.

Aside from the excellent chicken, this is the worst barbecue that I've had in recent memory. I've had better barbecue from places that use gas. I don't think I've ever had anything this bad from any of the top ten joints. Once I had some pretty dry brisket from Kreuz and once from John Mueller's (out of the over 30 times I've been there) but this may have been even worse than those rare occasions.

My best guess is that they had some trouble with the fire that day -- maybe it got too hot and overcooked everything.

Texas Monthly visited this place three times. If you add my visit, that's one miss out of four -- a pretty poor ratio. My last twenty or more visits to the top ten joints have all been consistently good to great. Maybe I just had bad luck, but I'm not planning on trying Snow's again unless a whole raft of people post good reviews.

Overall, the trip was still quite nice. The chicken alone was worth the drive. We played a round of croquet at the Lexington park after eating, and the drive through the countryside is always pleasant.

Kent, have you been able to swing by Mann's yet?

Maybe next week.

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I'd like to add that the Texas Monthly article has some great photos by LeAnn Mueller, granddaughter of Louie Mueller and daughter of current proprietor of Louie's, Bobby Mueller.

She also has some terrific photos on the Louie Mueller website, which I might add is one of the finest restaurant websites I've ever seen.

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That is a nice, artistic site LeAnn did. Unusual and ingenious. I like the way you can drag the menu and history pane around, on the page for no apparent reason at all; just for fun.

I wished the pics were bigger. Great photos, though. She should expand on it. I wonder who took the pics?

Makes me yearn for home and Q. I was born near Taylor. Now in CT

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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Bruce,

Have you tried Lennox on Harrisburg?  The last couple of times I've been there, the ribs have been really good.  Just wondering if you had an opinion about them?

M

No, not yet, but after a disappointing experience at Virgie's last week I'm feeling the need for a redemptive bbq experience - maybe Thelma's, maybe Lenox, maybe a new place I've read about on TC Jester.

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Kent,

I think it’s obvious that you really, really like barbecue and that you are passionate and diligent about seeking it out. I also understand that you have certain guidelines and personal preconceptions about what makes proper, orthodox barbecue. I guess though, I don’t understand a few things about your approach. First, it is apparent that you left Austin early, in order to arrive at Snow’s several hours before they opened. This leads me to believe that you hung out for a while taking pictures and talking with the folks that were cooking and tending the fire. It blows my mind that you can talk with these people and visit with them about what they do, and then get on eGullet and just rape their product in a review.

I would guess that an overwhelming majority of the BBQ joints don't go through their days hoping for a Texas Monthly review that puts them in the Top 50. Granted, at this point I’m sure the spots in Lockhart and maybe Luling, along with Mueller’s, and Coopers—they take the Texas Monthly yearly review seriously, but a place like Snow’s? Not in a million years. Most people didn't even know this place existed. She doesn’t stay awake at night, tossing and turning, mulling over her technique, wondering things like, “Would my brisket be better if I sous vide it for 3 days and finished for eight hours on the smoker?” She’s more than likely not toiling over different blends of wood to use in her firebox to impart the perfect balance of smokiness to different specific meats (maybe she does and I would be surprised). I have never spoken to her, nor eaten her barbecue. This is not to say that she doesn’t, in turn, take her barbecuing very seriously; she’s obviously been doing it for years. What I am saying is that probably to her, and most other small-town Texas BBQ joints, barbecuing is more a way of life. It is what they do on a day to day basis because it is in their blood. Although I’m sure certain things could be improved by the knowledge that a trained chef could bring to the table, a majority of places simply don’t approach it that way. They’re doing it the same way their parents and grandparents did it—maybe tweaking a thing here or there.

The bottom line is that she didn’t ask Texas Monthly to stop in and try her cue, just like she didn’t ask you. She’s not going for a Beard Award and she’s not a CIA Alum, she’s simply doing what she knows how to do, come what may. You get so wrapped up in the technical aspects of BBQ that it seems (at least in your writing) like you miss what this ethnic cuisine is really about. I didn’t want to respond to your Snow’s review, but after thinking about it, and especially after reading her story, I felt like I needed to say something. I just don’t feel like she deserved some of things you wrote, even if you didn’t like her food. Now, I doubt seriously that she reads eGullet or will ever read what your opinion, but you need to keep in mind that words are extremely powerful and can do a lot of damage. I found this out the hard way and am now really careful of how I say things. You can express your distaste for something without saying things like “…the worst barbecue that I've had in recent memory.

Anyway, just my thoughts, for what they’re worth.

Edited by Morgan_Weber (log)
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I'd like to add that the Texas Monthly article has some great photos by LeAnn Mueller, granddaughter of Louie Mueller and daughter of current proprietor of Louie's, Bobby Mueller.

She also has some terrific photos on the Louie Mueller website, which I might add is one of the finest restaurant websites I've ever seen.

I have been to Louie Muellers 5 times in my life and have had 3 great experiences and 2 not so good. Thats a worse ratio than the little place in Lexington????

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Morgan: I find your reply completely ridiculous.

She will most likely not read this thread.

She didn't ask for Texas Monthly to review her place, and yet they did. She did not ask them to remove their review -- as far as I know. You're saying that she should receive all this positive publicity and yet be immune to any negative criticism?

Perhaps you should tell Texas Monthly that this dear old lady can't handle the publicity. I'm not the one that exposed Snow's to the public.

It's really ridiculous that you can even presume to speak for her to begin with. Really, I find your attitude towards her rather patronizing and paternalistic.

My review is very objective. I did not say this place sucks or it's hopeless, or that Texas Monthly was wrong. I simply stated what my single experience was like. Knowing how much barbecue can vary day to day, I specifically avoided making such statements based on a single trip.

What you're asking me to do is cut her slack and be unobjective. This I will not do.

I have been to Louie Muellers 5 times in my life and have had 3 great experiences and 2 not so good. Thats a worse ratio than the little place in Lexington????

Maybe you had bad luck and I had great luck? Who knows. But Texas Monthly does put it as their number 5, a number of other posters in this thread rate it highly, as well as numerous other publications.

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Obviously I had bad luck 2 times. I was just making fun of your 1 out of 4 comment and pointing out that 2 out of 5 is worse, thats all. It has good and bad days like everyone else in the que biz. I don't know if I had thier bbq or not, if I did it was a catered event. My father in law has a ranch in Lexington and I will hit this place next time I am visiting.

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It kind of bugged me that Texas Monthly gave the #1 spot to a place that's only open one day out of the week, and then for only a few hours in the very early morning. Seems a little strange to me that they would give such a coveted accolade to a place so difficult for the vast majority of people to ever get to try.

That said, thanks for taking one for the team, Kent. I am always dubious when these kinds of awards are handed out to places like Snow's. Not that I am trying to be patronizing toward Snow's in any way, but these tiny, out-of-the-way, difficult to pin down places are almost never as good as famous magazine reviewers insist. I'm glad you got to try it and give an honest review before I went out and blew a precious Saturday morning and even more precious gas trying the place. I appreciated your review, as I appreciate all honest reviews of food. There is too much "cutting slack" for restaurants in this state (especially the Austin area) as it is.

-Sounds awfully rich!

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

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My apologies if my little rant came across as "cutting her slack". That was not intended. My main point is that I don't feel Barbecue of any sort should be expected to adhere to a certain formula that someone has in their head. Obviously there are formulas and traditions, there isn't just one . What makes it an awesome regional cuisine is the variation, which obviously makes it hard to compare 'apples to apples', especially when a style can vary so much even within its own region.

Edited by Morgan_Weber (log)
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I haven’t been eating much Q for the last couple of years but I headed out to Virgie’s last week to find out why it made Tx Monthly’s Top 50 list - hope springs eternal that Houston will get a great Central Texas style Q joint. The first good sign was the big pile of wood out back. The interior is spic and span, a little disconcertingly so for a bbq joint; I’ve read a portion of the space used to be a beauty salon. Adrian, the owner, is a very nice guy and eager to please.

The menu is quite small; I got a 2 meat plate with 2 sides for $8.49.

I got my order to go and once I sampled the sauce I was glad it was on the side. When I opened up the box the I first thing I noticed was the small portions. Those small sections in the foam boxes hold about 2/3 to 3/4 c but there was only about 1/3 c of mashed potato salad, which was too sweet for me, and green beans which I was pretty sure were canned. The ribs (3) also were quite small. I saw no distinct smoke ring though they did have good smoke flavor but they were almost entirely devoid of fat and I couldn’t use the words flavorful or succulent to describe them. Perhaps these are what are known as St. Louis style ribs? Pardon my ignorance but I don’t believe I’ve ever had St. Louis style ribs before but I think they’re just spare ribs with the rib tips trimmed which might be what I was served. There’s nothing on the menu to describe them.

The brisket was the best part of the meal. I got 4 slices, 2 very thin ones and one medium thick one- the last slice was thicker still. There was only a little discernable smoke ring but good smoke flavor and tenderness.

I thought the sauce was awful. It tasted more like the stuff in the bottom of a pot of Boston baked beans, very thick and very sweet. I didn’t think I’d easily find a sauce I disliked more than the very tomato-ey and ketchup-y sauce at Austin’s in Eagle Lake but this is a strong contender. If you’re trying this place I suggest you get it on the side to try it and see if you like it before you put it on the meat. Some probably will like it.

While I was waiting for the food I was surprised to see a framed Chronicle article on the wall - I completely missed this on Alison's blog last year. She gave the place a better review than I would but this is not the first time I’ve disagreed with her assessment of bbq places. Note she had a sandwich - maybe with the bread and pickles and onions, the sauce wouldn’t taste so bad but I almost never order a sliced beef sandwich - it’s not a good way to judge great Texas Q as far as I’m concerned.

Re: the ranking. I’ve never been very high on Goode Co. but I can’t see this being in the top 50 and them getting only an honorable mention. I’m not as high on Thelma’s as some others on this board but I can’t see her being omitted completely and this place making the top 50.

Sorry for such a negative review but I’m very opinionated on bbq. Sorry also there are no pix, would really like to have one but the batteries were dead and I had taken two of the spares the night before for my wireless mouse and hadn’t remembered to pick up some more.

I will probably give this place another try someday if I’m in that part of town but it was an hour round trip and not worth a special trip as far as I’m concerned. I would either go for a sandwich or meat by the pound to go.

Postscript: I remembered I had a pic of a 2 meat plate from Thelma’s from a couple of years back. Of course Thelma fills the containers to overflowing - she’s known for very generous portions. There was probably more than twice as much food on Thelma’s 2 meat plate ($8.50 I believe) vs. the 2 meat plate at Virgie’s for $8.49. It’s been ages since I had a plate at Williams, I was used to buying by the pound, but I believe Williams’ side portions also were quite skimpy.

For those who don't read the Try Something New thread, I just posted a review with of another new place in Houston which I think is more promising - Pierson & Co., East Texas style Q just a few blocks from where Williams used to be - page 5, post # 143.

Edited by brucesw (log)
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The ribs (3) also were quite small.  I saw no distinct smoke ring though they did have good smoke flavor but they were almost entirely devoid of fat and I couldn’t use the words flavorful or succulent to describe them.  Perhaps these are what are known as St. Louis style ribs?  Pardon my ignorance but I don’t believe I’ve ever had St. Louis style ribs before but I think they’re just spare ribs with the rib tips trimmed which might be what I was served.  There’s nothing on the menu to describe them.

It sounds like you got the short end of the stick so to speak. St. Louis style ribs are trimmed spares, you remove the tips/cartlidge and square the rack by cutting away the shortest ribs at the small end. They cook more uniformly when trimmed St. Louis style. Were they fall off the bone tender or did you have to work a little to get the meat? I've found that higher initial heat then a long slow cook can render out all but the cartlidge when doing untrimmed spares. If you did that with trimmed spares it would leave them just short of dry. If the meat was pink to the bone, not white, then the smoke ring penetrated all the way through.

I'm living vicariously through you, Morgan-Webber & jscarbor. I wish I had the ability to hit all of the BBQ/Ethnic food joints that you three frequent, keep up the good work!

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The ribs (3) also were quite small.  I saw no distinct smoke ring though they did have good smoke flavor but they were almost entirely devoid of fat and I couldn’t use the words flavorful or succulent to describe them.  Perhaps these are what are known as St. Louis style ribs?  Pardon my ignorance but I don’t believe I’ve ever had St. Louis style ribs before but I think they’re just spare ribs with the rib tips trimmed which might be what I was served.  There’s nothing on the menu to describe them.

It sounds like you got the short end of the stick so to speak. St. Louis style ribs are trimmed spares, you remove the tips/cartlidge and square the rack by cutting away the shortest ribs at the small end. They cook more uniformly when trimmed St. Louis style. Were they fall off the bone tender or did you have to work a little to get the meat? I've found that higher initial heat then a long slow cook can render out all but the cartlidge when doing untrimmed spares. If you did that with trimmed spares it would leave them just short of dry. If the meat was pink to the bone, not white, then the smoke ring penetrated all the way through.

I'm living vicariously through you, Morgan-Webber & jscarbor. I wish I had the ability to hit all of the BBQ/Ethnic food joints that you three frequent, keep up the good work!

Okay, I posted this reply once and it didn't show up - I'll try again.

Thanks, Jim. I'd looked up some info about St. Louis style on the web and concluded that was what I had. Pork ribs with no fat????? They weren't falling off the bone but didn't require much effort, just a bit dry for my taste. I think I got about as much meat from the 3 ribs at Virgie's as from just one rib at Pierson's.

I'm thinking of doing a Q tour of Houston since I haven't been to Burn's or Thelma's in a while - those 2 plus Virgie's and Pierson's. That would give me a philosophical excuse to go back.

I've read before - maybe in this thread??? - that smoke ring isn't a good indicator of smokey flavor, but I still look for it.

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I'm thinking of doing a Q tour of Houston since I haven't been to Burn's or Thelma's in a while - those 2 plus Virgie's and Pierson's.  That would give me a philosophical excuse to go back.

Q tour sounds fun, can i come?

"Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks."

-Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living, 1937

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I'm thinking of doing a Q tour of Houston since I haven't been to Burn's or Thelma's in a while - those 2 plus Virgie's and Pierson's.  That would give me a philosophical excuse to go back.

Q tour sounds fun, can i come?

Sure! Only thing is, I might need to take a nap between a couple of the stops. I did as many as 3 places in one day in Central Texas a few years back but I wouldn't even want to think about doing that now.
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Willie Ray's (Beaumont) as made several 'best' lists in the last few years, including David Rosengarten's. From Houston, take the Calder/Harrison exit and circle under IH 10. Call me when you hit Beaumont, I'm about 6 blocks from Willie's. Sauce is a little sweet- is served on the side -they'll ask- and the carrot souffle and dirty rice are both super. We usually get chicken and ribs. They also have a buffet (all you can eat)for about $14.00 or so. Crawfish in season

Stop Family Violence

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My apologies if my little rant came across as "cutting her slack".  That was not intended.  My main point is that I don't feel Barbecue of any sort should be expected to adhere to a certain formula that someone has in their head.  Obviously there are formulas and traditions, there isn't just one .  What makes it an awesome regional cuisine is the variation, which obviously makes it hard to compare 'apples to apples', especially when a style can vary so much even within its own region.

I don't think dry and overcooked is a legitimate variation, just as oversalted steak from any steakhouse is not. Legitimate variations I can think of are: rubs, the vinegar dip Cooper's uses, and the content of the sausage.

On a purely objective level, anyone tasting what I had at Snow's would say it is inferior to a juicy, properly smoked sample from any of the other Texas Monthly top five.

I do not have some sort of bizarre standard for barbecue in my head, otherwise it would be a strange coincidence that the rest of the Texas Monthly top five and many of the other posts on this board coincide with my own ratings.

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