Monday, August 18, 2014

Hays County BBQ (Updated)

It was early in my blog's existence that I visited Hays County BBQ. I did not give them a fair shakedown. Here was the review. I was not doing it right back then because I did not try the pork ribs. It was time to go back and fix that.

Hays County BBQ had moved since my last visit. They are now on the access road of IH-35 across another BBQ joint, Fuschak's Pit Bar-B-Q. This should help them get more traffic. Pay attention because you might miss it though. Their new location could be confused as a trailer on a used car lot. That is because a car dealership used to be at this location. Hays CO BBQ also now have a back patio where they will have live music. +Amber McGee and I had a busy Saturday planned, but we still had time to get some good barbecue.

The owners' son, Aaron Hernandez, is one of the pitmasters now. He is only 20! When I was his age, I was stupid and partying it up in college. On this visit, we ordered a quarter pound of moist brisket and pork ribs, ring of the regular sausage and of the jalapeño and cheese, and a half chicken. Once we got to the table I realized we had gotten lean brisket. I was so excited and hungry that I did not really think about it when I saw them cutting the slices. It looked like the brisket had been out for a while. The lean pieces were looking dry and tasted dry. They were cutting a fresh brisket when we were sitting down. Doh! The slices of brisket were still good though. The smoke kissed meat had a nice bark. The ribs were tasty. They were tender and meaty. The rub and smoke gave it a good flavor.

Getting served homemade sausage is always the right thing. It shows that specific BBQ joint cares about the quality of their product. The regular sausage was solid. It was meaty and beefier but also a little drier. I wish it had a little bit more fat. The casing did have a good snap. If you get sausage here, go with the jalapeño and cheese. It is the star here. It was rich and had a nice spicy aftertaste. Amber wanted some chicken so I was able to taste some of hers. They balanced the smokiness and moisture of the chicken nicely. The rub and the skin was a delight to eat.

This visit did not change my opinion of Hays County BBQ. They are still a quality barbecue joint. My only beef with them is they charge for pickles and onion. I think 99% of the places I visit give this away for free. I was given a tour of the pits and was intrigued by a new smoker they are working on. I stared at it for a while grasping the idea. They are going to modify it and add two fireboxes and another smoke stack. I am excited to see what happens with it. Grade: B

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 1612 S Interstate 35, San Marcos, TX 78666

Monday, August 11, 2014

Zimmerhanzel's BBQ

I am slowly starting to run out of "good" barbecue joints to check out in Austin. That means I need to start taking more road trips. I keep finding myself referencing the +Texas Monthly's Top 50 list to find some BBQ restaurants to try. It is a pretty good guide to follow. This time we were going to meet up with a friend at Zimmerhanzel's BBQ in Smithville who was on the way to Houston. My wife and I used to drive through here when we would visit my parents in Katy. When we pass through the area, all we ever saw was the hospital along the highway. As we were looking for Zimmerhanzel's, we realize there was more to the city. It has the feel of a small Texas town where everyone knows one another. The movie Hope Floats was actually shot here in Smithville.

The first I think I noticed was the affordable prices. I ordered a two-meat plate with moist brisket and sliced pork roast. They were out of pork ribs. Someone had come in and ordered all of them up. Bummer. Amber got a slice of moist brisket and sausage. I also ordered a half chicken in case we did not get full. The plate came with sides of beans, coleslaw, and macaroni salad. The brisket was solid. It was tender and nicely smoked with a good bark. It had flavor, but the fat was overly rendered so it was a touch dry. The sliced pork tasted good along the edges because of the fat, but it was dry in the middle. I needed sauce to eat the inner pieces. The all-beef homemade sausage was the star here. It is possibly one of my favorites. The snap from the casing and the coarse grit hit the spot. The peppery blend was heavy on fat. We ordered two extra sausages to-go because they were just that good. However the chicken was not. It was really dry, and my wife refused to eat it. I did enjoy the skin because of the tasty rub. There was nothing of note about the beans and coleslaw. I did like the macaroni salad. It was like eating a mustardy potato salad, but instead of potatoes, there were macaroni elbows. Our meal was under 20 bucks including the two extra links of sausage. That is pretty cheap.

Did you know that the owners tried to close Zimmerhanzel's BBQ once? The public outcry kept it from happening. The next time we are going through Smithville, we are going to stop back in. Just remember to bring cash because they do not take credit cards. We just walked across the street to the grocery store to get some. I have to try some of the pork ribs when we come back. Of course we would also load up on their sausage. It travels pretty well. Grade: B-

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 307 Royston St, Smithville, TX 78957
Phone: (512) 237-4244

Monday, August 4, 2014

Killen's Barbecue

My radar has been locked on Killen's Barbecue for a long time now. I keep wanting to go, but I could not justify a three-hour drive. My wife wanted to go check out the Soto exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts so we had a reason now to make the drive to Houston. At first, Ronnie Killen did only barbecue pop-ups on the weekends. He also owns a highly regarded steakhouse (Killen's Steakhouse) that he was busy with. The lines at his pop-ups were long, and he would run out of food. So Ronnie took it to the next level and opened a brick and mortar earlier this year in February.

I had trouble sleeping the night before. I was so excited. We left the house at 6:30 in the morning. It took us under three hours to get to Pearland. When we got there, the parking lot was empty. It looked like we were going to be first in line. They use a ticket system at Killen's. You draw a number and that is your spot in line. You do not have to stand in a line for hours in the heat before opening. There were some picnic tables in front that we hung out at before the restaurant in the shade. It was the perfect summer morning to grab barbecue. The temperatures were cool, and the skies were filled with clouds. We drank some of the free beer and had to only wait an hour and a half. Someone had pulled a ticket before us and had left for a little bit. We ended up being second in line when the line formed right before opening. Inside the restaurant, there was an ample amount of seating.

I walked around the building before opening and took a picture of their new Klose smoker. Ronnie told me that they were still getting used to it. They are using it primarily for pork ribs. Killen's also has a reverse flow pit. Instead of having air flow from the firebox through the cooking chamber and out the chimney, the air flows under the cooking chamber, reverses back over the cooking surface and comes out of a chimney on the same side of the firebox. The temperatures are better regulated plus the smoke is cleaner. An Oyler rotisserie smoker is also on premise.

We kept everything simple and ordered all of the meats on the menu. Some of our friends were meeting us so I ordered for them as well. They got a beef rib so I did not have to order one. I was going to steal some bites though. I have had Ronnie's beef rib at an event called Live Fire. He gave me a WHOLE beef rib. It was delicious. We got the six-meat plate with an extra link of sausage! I have never seen a five let alone six-meat plate being offered. Our plate also came with side of macaroni and cheese and cream corn. I will breakdown the meat in order:

1. The moist prime brisket was superb. It is a top five brisket in my book, and one of the best I have had in a while. The tenderness and the smokiness were downright excellent. It had a nice bark and was plain ol' tasty.
2. I wished I had gotten my own beef rib. It was phenomenal. The peppery crust played well with the smoke forming a magical bond. It was like eating meat candy. It was decadent and great.
3. The turkey was easily the best I have ever had. It was perfect. Most of the turkeys out there are boring and lifeless. This one packed some flavor with the rub. The turkey was juicy and had me thinking about ordering some from here for Thanksgiving.
4. Do not get me wrong. The bone in-pork belly was fantastic, but it had too much going on. It was essentially a sparerib with bacon attached it. It was meaty, fatty, sloppy, and rich all at the same time. I think smoking the pork belly separately would have been better. I would still order it next time.
5. The pulled pork was outstanding. There was a sweet sauce in it already, but the flavors of the meat were not washed out. It had just the right amount of smoke. I could eat it all day.
6. I almost forgot about the pork spareribs in the pile of meat. They were tender, and the meat was coming off the bone. Good rub and smoke.
7. The weakest link of the group was the sausage. Pun intended. It did have a good coarse grit and nice pop from the casing. I thought it was too fatty and kind of boring. It felt it could have use more beef in it.

The macaroni and cheese and cream corn were wonderful. Macaroni and cheese was cheesy and was good at breaking up the meat monotony. I think the cream corn was better than Rudy's. Three barbecue sauces were available to bring more spice to the table. A coffee based, Texas style, and mustard based. I liked all of them.

I have tried Gatlin's BBQ and Virgie's Bar-B-Que on a previous trip to the Houston area. There is a new sheriff in town. It is called Killen's Barbecue. Actually they could be the new sheriff in the state. The barbecue is awesome, and the line is not five hours long. You can hang out drinking a brew without getting pounded by the Texas sun. Although the focus is on meats, the sides were not forgotten. Everything is on point even though Killen's is fairly new. They also have chicken, but it was not available this day. Next time. The drive was totally worth it. The drive home was not because I wanted more. Grade: A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 3613 E Broadway St, Pearland, TX 77581
Phone: (281) 485-2272

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wilhite's Bar-B-Que

I drive by Wilhite's Bar-B-Que almost every day on the way to and from work. I take an alternate route to avoid the heavy traffic on IH-35 during rush hour. I had no idea it existed until I read something about it from Brisketman. It is also kind of hidden because it shares space with a gas station. I took a long lunch on this day to explore Wilhite's. When I got there, I knew why I have been missing it when I drive by. The sign was small, and the location was odd. I would have never guess that a barbecue restaurant was located right there.

The first thing I noticed was the prices. Everything was relatively cheap. I got the three-meat plate with two sides and drink for under 10 bucks. The order came with moist brisket, pork ribs, sausage, beans, potato salad and sweet tea. The brisket was really fatty. It was sitting in a pool of grease on the plate. It was heavy on the salt but tender with a good texture. The smoke was nice but not as deep as I was looking for. The pork ribs were solid. They had a good flavor, and the meat came off nicely from the bone with some resistance. The sausage was an all-beef one that came from Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse. For being a beef sausage it had a nice fat content. The snap and grit was ideal. The sides seemed like they came from the store. Nothing to write home about. I also tried some of the chicken (not pictured) as well. I could not eat it because the breast meat was so dry.

I get why some people like Wilhite's Bar-B-Que. It is quick, easy, and cheap. You get a lot of food for less than 10 dollars. I could not finish everything off my plate. I was so full. You could easily miss this place if you blink as you drive by. It is tucked away next to a Valero gas station. I could see myself picking up some decent 'cue on the way home one day from here. They even have all you can eat catfish on Fridays. What is there not to like? Grade C+

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 4903 Farm to Market Road 1327, Creedmoor, TX 78610
Phone: (512) 243-2703

Monday, July 21, 2014

Terry Black's Barbecue

Do not confuse this place with Black's Barbecue in Lockhart. Brothers Mark and Mike Black were going to use the name Black's Barbecue Austin, but Uncle Kent was not having any part of it. Kent Black, who manages the one in Lockhart, did not want to create any confusion for customers. To make things even more confusing/interesting, the owners of Black's are opening a location in Austin on Guadalupe. The brothers ended up naming the place after their father in his honor. Now that I got the family drama out of the way, let's talk about Terry Black's Barbecue. They have been open for over two weeks. I have been anxious to try them out, but I fought off the urges. I gave them a little bit of time to work out any kinks.

Terry Black's does have a great location. They are located downtown which makes them a great lunch spot to meet up. Traffic getting there was a nightmare for me, but that is Austin for you on a Friday. When I arrived there to meet some friends for lunch, the parking lot was full. I wanted to meet after one in the afternoon to hopefully avoid the lunch crowd. Inside, the lines were relatively short. There were three chopping blocks so the line moved at a good pace. Everything on the menu was competitively priced. I order two slices of moist brisket, one pork rib, and a ring of the regular sausage.

The Certified Angus Beef brisket was good. It was cooked perfectly. It was tender with a nice bark, and the fat was rendered well. Although it was good, I felt like it was missing something. More smoke and more flavor? The pork rib was tasty. It came off the bone without any effort and had a sweet glaze on it. The rib was cooked a little too long which made it a slightly dry for my preference. Terry Black's makes two types of sausage in-house. Regular and jalapeño. The grit was coarse just the way it should be, and the fat content was ideal. It tasted fine, but the casing was hard and crunchy. Some of the meat was sticking to the casing. It was like the sausage had a candy shell coating. It was either cooked too long or too high or both? I tried both barbecue sauces they had. I liked both of them, but I prefer the mustard-based spicy sauce more.

I am excited about Terry Black's Barbecue. Sure I was not blown away from the barbecue, but they are still relatively new. It is possible that their huge smokers are not well-seasoned yet. Though the barbecue is good, but they do show a lot of promise of being even better. They serve quality barbecue right in the heart of the city inside an air-conditioned building. I know I do not enjoy eating barbecue outside when it is 100 degrees in the blazing sun. This is the ideal place for me to take out of town guests too. Central, indoors, good Texas barbecue, short wait, and parking. Grade: B

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 1003 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Phone: (512) 394-5899

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Man behind the Smoke : Evan LeRoy

I am going to try something new with the blog. I have never considered myself a writer. I kind of want to stretch out my writing legs a little bit. Please let know what you think of this piece. If this works out, I might try to do something similar frequently.

When most people go to a restaurant, they look for good service and good food. They do not care how everything else works. This also applies to barbecue joints as well. Many pitmasters put their livelihood into the smoked meats they serve to you. They spend all night prepping and tending the fires. It is often a thankless job. I am going to try to shine some light on some of these pitmasters with a series called "The Man behind the Smoke." It will not be limited to just males. I just happened to call it this because the field is dominated by men. There are only a few handfuls of their counterparts out there.
The first spotlight belongs to Evan LeRoy of Freedmen's Bar.

If you have never tried the barbecue from Freedmen's, shame on you. Get in the car and drive there now. If I could describe it in a simple manner, I would say it is awesomely delicious. I am a big fan of the brisket and pork belly because they are both succulent and phenomenal. They are two of my favorite meats to get in Austin if that means anything. Evan has been at Freedmen's since the opening. He actually stumbled upon the job while looking for supplies on Craigslist. I would venture to say this has been the ideal match.

Born in 1986, Evan LeRoy has spent most of his life in Austin. He attended St. Michael's Catholic Academy where he also played soccer and lacrosse. His career aspiration was to get into the film industry so he wanted to attend college in the Southern California area. Things did not work out the way there were supposed to. When it came down to it, he had a choice of staying in Austin to attend UT or leave home and go to Florida State University. I think most kids would elect to leave home to get away from their parental units.

At FSU, Evan majored in English and envisioned that he would be a writer someday. During his time in Florida, he met two people that would impact his life. He met Diego Abreu while working at a fish restaurant. Diego is now the sous chef at Freedmen's. The other person Evan met is now the most important person in his life. He met his wife Lindsey when they were both writing for the school newspaper. The couple recently got married. Congratulations!

After graduating from college, LeRoy headed back to Austin. His goal was to become a food writer. To hone on his skills, he furthered his education at Le Cordon Bleu. His love for food started right around the time when TV food shows started to become popular, especially Good Eats. “Alton Brown is a personal culinary hero of mine. Love the way he makes culinary education so entertaining,” Evan adds. During his time in culinary school, he also worked at Hudson's on the Bend.

With Lindsey in New York City for an internship, Evan made the move to the Big Apple. He worked at a couple of restaurants and experienced culture shock. Although everything was not going to plan, Evan learned a lot from the whole ordeal. He eventually landed a gig at Hill Country Barbecue. “I worked my way up. I started on the line and then became a cook. I was promoted to pitmaster when the prior one quit during a health inspection,” Evan says. He was there for a year but knew he had to make his way back to Texas to chase his dreams. On a trip to North Carolina one time, Evan tried the barbecue there and hated it. He thought it was dry and bland. He definitely belongs in Texas.

After landing back in Austin, LeRoy actually worked at Lambert's Downtown Barbecue for three days. Differences in food philosophy led to a quick exit. LeRoy managed a Torchy's as he was laying down the footwork for his own food truck. The ultimate goal for him is to own his own restaurant. While gathering supplies for his own food truck, he came across upon the posting for Freedmen's. Freedmen's Bar has been in existence for about a year and a half now. Directed by their pitmaster's ideals, a lot of the food is made from scratch. The barbecue sauce takes two days to make. I am enamored with the pulled pork sauce. I like that are Asian inspirations behind the sauce. The sauce consists of apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, and fish sauce.

Around 5 pm the evening before, natural choice briskets and pork butts are loaded into the smoker and smoked for about 12 hours. A simple salt and pepper rub envelops the meat. The bottoms of the meats are covered with foil right before the restaurant is closed. This process makes sense because the meat will not dry out as fast but still absorb all that post oak smoke. Once the brisket and butts are removed in the morning, the pork ribs go in. After about four hours in the smoker, barbecue sauce and jalapeño jelly are layered on to the ribs and then wrapped in foil. The resulting products simply amaze me. The mouthwatering meats taste smoky and tender. They also produce their own sausage in house. Not many places in Austin do that. No meat scares Evan. He has mastered smoking quail, duck, prime rib, and lamb ribs to name a few.

To help with flexibility, Freedmen's just procured a second smoker. Even on their busiest day, which is Friday, no line is to be found. That is good thing because LeRoy hates lines. Who wants to wait in line for barbecue? He also despises brunch. “It is a quick turnaround for the wait staff and bartenders. Who wants to deal with hung-over and hungry crowd,” Evan says. He would rather cook his own meal. If I had skills like him, I would probably think the same way.

When it comes down to preference, LeRoy chooses his brisket fatty. I could not agree with him more. Some of his favorite barbecue places in town are La Barbecue, Micklethwait Craft Meats, and Valentina's Tex-Mex BBQ. “I am jealous of Valentina's. When I was planning to open up my own truck, I wanted to do barbecue and homemade tortillas,” Evan says. If you are putting out good food, you have his respect. He does love some tacos. For someone growing up in Austin, tacos have to be a staple in their diet. He also enjoys a good pasta dish. For the most part, he just loves food and likes to try new and different restaurants.

In his free time, Evan cherishes his time with his wife and their dog, Star. He sees them having a couple of kids down the road. Lindsey is in the restaurant public relations field. On the weekends, you might see them hanging out with friends and drinking some local craft brews. They are die-hard Seminoles football fans. For whatever reason, LeRoy also cheers for the Dallas Cowboys. He saves himself by saying he does not agree with the way that Jerry Jones runs the team. Bruce Springsteen is Evan’s favorite musician, and he thinks it would be awesome to meet him someday. While LeRoy was still in NYC, Springsteen actually stopped in for dinner at the restaurant where he was working, but Evan was polite and gave The Boss his privacy.

Evan LeRoy lives life with no regrets. He would not switch places with anyone in the world. He is never satisfied in his work, and his drive and determination is a good indicator of his character. Even when he is not at the restaurant during business hours, nervousness and anxiety sets in. LeRoy wants the barbecue to be on point all the time because Freedmen's and his reputation are on the line. He has no understanding why some places do not try to smoke the best barbecue. Life is too short to eat mediocre barbecue. Everyday Evan strives to make Freedmen's Bar a top destination for some of the best BBQ in the state. I am excited to see what Evan LeRoy brings to the table next.

Until next time, happy smoking...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Underwood's Bar-B-Q

+Amber McGee and I have been driving through Brownwood for over 10 years now. We go through it on the way to Lubbock every time. We see the billboards for Underwood's Bar-B-Q miles out as we head into Brownwood going both directions. Hot Rolls. Cobbler. We actually stopped in once, and for some reason, we changed our mind and left. When we pass through Brownwood, it is not during lunch or dinner time. On this day we left Lubbock early so we could make it to Underwood's around noon.

When we got there, the parking lot was crowded. We had failed to beat the church crowd. The line was out the door. I am used to seeing lines at BBQ joints so it did not faze me it all. I forgot to take a picture of the menu when I was in line. Sorry. The restaurant is set up like a cafeteria. You order your protein and then grab everything else you need after. There was no brisket on the menu?! I was thoroughly perplexed that a barbecue restaurant in the state of Texas that did not have brisket on their menu. They had sliced beef on the menu which they call beef steak. The "steak" came from the shoulder of the cow. I ordered the beef steak and half rib slab combo dinner. I also added a link of the German-style sausage. Amber got the fried chicken. Included with the dinner were unlimited sides, rolls, cobbler, and drinks. The beef steak was cooked in barbecue sauce. It was tender and tasted like I was eating chopped beef but was also dry. I am not sure this piece of meat touched a smoker. I thought I saw some grill marks on it though. The ribs were not half of a rib slab. It was three ribs. They were also cooked in sauce. These for sure were done in the oven. They were tender and juicy but bland. The sausage was okay. It was really fatty and rich with a nice pop. I got a side of potato salad, corn, beans, and coleslaw. They were all forgettable. I would venture to say some of it came from a can. I tried some my wife's fried chicken. It was the best thing there. It was crispy and juicy. The hot rolls were pretty decent. I am not a sweets type of guy so I skipped out on the cobbler.

Underwood's Bar-B-Q fails as a Texas barbecue joint. No brisket at a barbecue restaurant in the state of Texas. Bah humbug. The sliced beef option on their menu online threw me off. I assumed it was brisket. Boy I was wrong. Underwood's is the Furr's of barbecue. A cafeteria style diner serving tasteless food. There was a sign outside saying it was "The Best Eatin' in Town." I hope that is not correct. After driving past here for the last decade without eating, I wish the streak had continued. Grade: F

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 404 W Commerce St, Brownwood, TX 76801
Phone: (325) 646-1776

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Shack BBQ

+Amber McGee and I were heading back to Lubbock for her brother's wedding. The last time we were there, we hit up J & M Bar-B-Q & Catering. That did not turn out well. I still have some friends living in the LBK, and they mentioned that there was a new barbecue joint in town. The Shack BBQ had just opened up in March. It is located on the northwest side of town. We went to check it out to see if we can add this to our Lubbock rotation. When we got there, the parking lot was empty. That was odd because it was during lunch time. People in Lubbock love to dine out it seems.

When we got there, I was disappointed to find out they only had ribs on Sundays.  I ordered the two-meat plate with an extra meat. I got moist brisket, pulled pork, and jalapeño cheese sausage with a side of macaroni and cheese and loaded potato salad. The brisket was super solid. It was tender and flavorful. It had good smoke from the pecan, but it was missing a more developed bark. That being said, I was sad after eating the last bite because there was not anymore left. The brisket reminded me of the one from Brown's Bar-B-Que. Very similar. The pulled pork was definitely good. It was juicy, and the sweet rub gave it a nice taste. The owner said they use a very similar rub on the pork ribs as well. The sausage was not bad. They procured them from the meat market located on the campus of Texas Tech. Did you know that the meat market helps fund scholarship? The sausage was not as spicy as I would like. I probably should have ordered the german style one. The homemade sides were excellent. The macaroni and cheese was creamy and cheesy. The loaded potato salad hit the spot and was fantastic. They also make four barbecue sauces in house. I enjoyed them all, but I prefer the extreme and sweet because of the spiciness and sweetness respectively.

The Shack BBQ has to be one of the best in the Hub City. It is good to see that Lubbock now has a reliable BBQ joint besides Rudy's. Hopefully word travels out faster about this place. It seems like they would be one of those places that should sell out of food frequently. But then again, people in Lubbock love their chain restaurants. Kyle Farris and his fiancée Kelly run the restaurant by themselves and supply it with local products. I will definitely go back when I am in town again to try the ribs. They are adding another smoker to boost ribs production. Grade: B

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 2309 N Frankford Ave Lubbock, TX 79416
Phone: (806) 747-1810

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fitties BBQ

+Amber McGee and I had plans to go hiking at Bastrop State Park on this particular Sunday. The park was kind of disappointing. The wildfires that rip through the city a few years ago did a number on the park. I would imagine that the park used to be beautiful. I was looking for some barbecue to try in the area afterwards. I wanted to try Zimmerhanzel's BBQ in Smithville which was only about 15 minutes away, but they are closed on Sundays. I found a place that was a good compromise for us because they also served burgers and breakfast tacos in addition to barbecue. Fitties BBQ was the name and was located west on the outskirts of Bastrop.

We ordered a breakfast taco with sausage, egg and cheese and cheeseburger plus a three-meat plate that was not on the menu. I got moist brisket, pork ribs, and homemade sausage with dirty rice and coleslaw on the side. When we got the order, the smoked meat was swimming in the barbecue sauce pool. I did find a few bites of each meat without sauce. The brisket was lean. The lady at the counter heard me ask for moist because she yelled across the way saying I wanted extra fatty. I do not understand how some places cannot understand a simple request. The lean cut I got was chewy. It was not smoked long enough to render that fat. It was like eating a well-done steak. It did have good smoke though. The brisket was just okay. The pork ribs were a little better. They were overcooked and dry however. It did have some nice smoke, and the flavors were solid. The sausage was the winner. It had a nice pop and texture. It was sure tasty. The sausage could also have stayed in the smoker a little longer to bathe in the smoke and heat. It was grayish in the middle. The coleslaw was chopped finely, and it was crispy and refreshing. The dirty rice was really good. The cheeseburger was sad. You can tell that they used a frozen beef patty for it. The breakfast tacos were huge and pretty good. Everyone sitting around us had ordered them.

The barbecue was just okay at Fitties BBQ. They seem to get a lot of business. They are located on a busy stretch along Highway 71. Order the sauce on the side. The sauce was overwhelming at the end. It is not a bad sauce, but there was just too much of it. I felt disgusting after I ate. I could not finish all of the meats which tell you something. I was feeding the leftover meat to a stray cat. Excuse me if the pictures are not great. There are a few other BBQ joints in Bastrop if you want to give them a shot. If I were you, I would probably drive into Austin. Grade: C

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 1376 Texas 71, Bastrop, TX 78602
Phone: (512) 303-6808


Monday, June 16, 2014

La Barbecue (Updated)

My blog is now one year old! I have counted that I have eaten barbecue at least 78 times in the last 52 weeks, but I have not gained a pound of weight. You can now find the blog at an easier address - You can still find me on Twitter @TheSmokingHo, facebook at, and Instagram @TheSmokingHo.

Now that my blog is a year old, I can do updated reviews. I wanted to force myself to keep trying new places, and I will still keep on doing that. If I can, I will continue to post a new entry every Monday. I have done a couple of reviews that I have regretted the manner in how I did them. This includes the one I did of La Barbecue. I did not give La Barbecue a fair shake. It was rainy so I could not get any good pictures. The rain affected the whole experience. I have been back numerous times, and I was going to make this visit count. There has been a lot of buzz about them lately. The Austin American-Statesman named it the best barbecue place in town. After my visit, Fed Man Walking wrote that La Barbecue was also the best in Austin. The line on this Wednesday was definitely longer than what I have experienced in the past. Although I got there when La BBQ opened, I waited about an hour before I got to the counter.

When I got to front, I saw that pitmaster John Lewis was cutting the meat. I have had the pleasure in the past to talk to him. He is a nice dude. They always give you a bite of the brisket when you are ordering at the window. That one bite can make you weak at the knees. I ordered my usual Holy Trinity of Texas barbecue (brisket, pork ribs, and sausage). I actually got both cuts of brisket this time. The moist and lean were both phenomenal. Lewis does stray from the normal salt and pepper rub. He also uses mustard and pickle juice?! The deepness of the post oak smoke combined with his rub makes you see stars when you are eating the brisket. It is like you are having an out of body experience where you are hovering above your body watching yourself eat it. Both cuts are so juicy and flavorful that I might have to keep ordering the lean when I come back again.

The sublime experience does not end at the brisket. The pork ribs were quite excellent. They were on the saucier side but still tasted great. The tender meat was barely hanging on to the bone. The smoke and the glaze create this wonderful awakening for your taste buds. Last time I gave the sausage AKA hot guts no justice. I was definitely hating on it. I blame it on the rain. It is one of the best all beef sausages out there. Normally beef sausages are drier, but John did a good job mixing the different ingredients together. Having a good fat ratio also helps. The snappy casing could barely hold in the gritty mixture. The spice was nice too.

La Barbecue never ever disappoints. I have never had a time when I went that I thought that it was just "good." It always freaking awesome. When you are there next time, consider getting the El Sancho "loco" style. It is a sandwich filled with chopped beef, pulled pork, and sliced hot link with pickled red onions. So basically a three-meat between two buns. I have also had the beef rib in the past. It is definitely a heavyweight in this town. Grade: A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 900 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, Texas 78702
Phone: (512) 605-9696