Monday, July 20, 2015

TMBBQ Behind the Pit Dinner - Franklin Barbecue

No line outside of Franklin Barbecue

Sometimes I feel like an advocate for Texas Monthly BBQ. I have blogged numerous times about their events. They do curate some cool ass stuff. I had an opportunity recently to attend the TMBBQ Behind the Pit Dinner at Franklin Barbecue. It was sponsored by 44 Farms, Yeti Coolers, and Lonestar Beer.

The event itself was very intimate. There were no more than 60 people present. You did not have to wait in line for hours upon hours to order your food. The meats were sliced by owner/pitmaster Aaron Franklin at the counter and brought out to the tables. You should watch the BBQsnob's Instgram video of Aaron slicing brisket. It is mesmerizing.

Aaron slicing a 44 Farm brisket
Aaron cutting some 44 Farm beef ribs

Brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, and sausage were served at the event. Aaron normally smokes Creekstone products at his restaurant. For the event, he used the beef from 44 Farms. He had some challenges with the meat (smaller briskets with less of a point), but the results were still the same. Spectacular. The brisket did taste more beefy. The beef ribs were heavenly as well. They were tender, had a nice amount of smoke, and rich in flavor. Remember you can only get beef ribs on Saturdays. I do not think I will ever have the time to wait in line on a Saturday for one of those.

Pile O' Meat
We are not here for this...

There was a Q&A session with Texas Monthly BBQ editor Daniel Vaughn and Aaron. I learned that one of Aaron's guilty pleasures is eating tacos from Taco Bell.

Daniel Vaughn and Aaron Franklin

We also got a tour of the smokehouse. It was blazing hot in there. The summer heat and the fires in the smokers are a bad combination. I only lasted for a brief moment; just long enough to take some shots.

View of the Capitol
The Man, The Myth, The Legend

If you ever get a chance to get into TMBBQ Behind the Pit Dinner, do it. It is really an awesome experience. The atmosphere is a lot more chill than normal. Eat great BBQ. Check. Drink a few beers and relax. Check. A chance to win a Yeti. Check. Tickets are limited so pay attention to the TMBBQ website for dates and details. Join their club to get early access to the tickets. Everyone attending the event will enjoy it. Well, unless you are a vegetarian... 

Stack of Post Oak

Until next time, happy smoking...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Evie Mae's Pit Barbecue

Amber and I were going to Lubbock for July 4th weekend. It was a great chance to shoot off fireworks because I cannot do so in our neighborhood. The Shack BBQ has been our go-to barbecue joint in my wife's hometown. A few of months ago when one of Amber's friend said that Evie Mae's Pit Barbecue is Texas Monthly's Top 50 worthy, I totally dismissed that statement. I said to myself, "People in Lubbock do not know good barbecue." Back in April, I was in Lubbock for less than 24 hours, and they were not open on the weekends. Terrible timing. When Daniel Vaughn visited, he had lots of good things to say about it. I knew it was time to stop by Evie Mae's the next time we rolled through the LBK. We were coming into town for a birthday celebration and a funeral. I made sure that we got there a day early.

Old Menu. The menu has since changed.

Husband and wife duo, Arnis and Mallory, opened the BBQ trailer back in February of this year in Wolfforth. Wolfforth is about five miles outside of the Lubbock city limits. Nothing is far in Lubbock. The two knew each other while growing up in New Mexico, right on the Texas border. They started a landscaping business in Tucson, Arizona after Arnis attended landscape design school there. Arnis took up smoking meat as a hobby and ended up building a reverse flow smoker on a trailer. It ended up turning into a one day a week gig out of a little trailer. The right opportunity came along, and they sold their landscaping business. Most of their family is Lubbock or just across the border in New Mexico. They upgraded their trailer, decided to do barbecue full time, and got back to Texas as fast as they could. Evie Mae's is named after their daughter.

Some of the best BBQ around.

Amber, her brother, Zach, and I shared a two-meat plate of brisket and sausage and a pork rib plate. We ordered sides of green chile cheese grits, smoked beans, potato salad, and cornbread. One bite into the brisket and I was impressed. The apple and oak wood slow danced with the brisket for over 10 hours, and the results were superb. The meat was tender and smoky, and the fat was rendered perfectly. The salt and pepper rub gave the brisket enough flavor. This brisket rivals some of the good ones in Texas. When I was eating, I actually thought it reminded me of La Barbecue's with less rub. The meaty pork ribs were great. They were juicy and soft with a little resistance. The meat was kissed with a nice amount of smoke, and their BBQ sauce gave it a touch of sweetness. The pork sausage was a custom blend made for them. It had New Mexico influences with green chiles carrying the majority of the spice. It was good and had enough fat without being overly greasy. The grit gave it a nice texture, and the casing was snappy. The end pieces of brisket on the plates were divine. A little piece of heaven on earth. #meatcandy

Mallory loves to cook so she is in charge of that side of the business. Everything was made from scratch. The green chile cheese grits reminded me of Micklethwait's. They were creamy and rich. My wife and I do not like grits, but we enjoyed them. The potato salad was pretty standard. The smoked beans were out of this world. They sit in the smoker for five hours under the beef ribs. They had a nice balance of spiciness and sweetness with a huge depth of flavor. The cornbread would make any granny proud. They were moist and fantastic. I ate the last bite, and my wife was disappointed it was all gone. Mallory says she wants to open a bakery someday. I would be excited to visit if that ever goes into fruition.

I am already asking my wife when we are going back to Lubbock. I lived there for two and half years while Amber was in law school and did not have the best experience. That tells you something about the BBQ that Evie Mae's is putting out. I do regret not trying the turkey, pulled pork, and the beef ribs. Next time for sure. There was more than enough food for the three of us. They are now open Thursday through Saturday so you can get your barbecue fix on the weekend. Evie Mae's Pit Barbecue is also a perfect destination for those who are on road trips. The indoor seating to get out of the extreme West Texas weather is an added bonus. Grade: A-

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 717 U.S. 82, Wolfforth, TX 79382
Phone: (806) 782-2281

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Killen's Barbecue Revisited

It has been almost a year since I have been to Killen's Barbecue in Pearland. I have had them since at the TMBBQ Fest, the pop-up in Austin, and the HouBBQ Festival. Still not enough times for me though. Amber and I were going to Houston for a wedding so a stop at Killen's was in order. I met some of the Houston BBQ folks (Michael, Bryan, Scott, and Andrew) there.

The Food Network recently announced Killen's as the number 2 spot for BBQ in America. That Saturday on social media, there were pictures of hordes of people waiting. The line wrapped around the parking lot. I got there a little bit before 9 AM on Sunday and was second line. That is not bad at all. Taking a number and hanging out is a plus here. Standing around in a line is no fun. Killen's did not have free beer today because they were so busy the day before.

One reason I wanted to go on Sunday was for the fried chicken special. It is only available on Sundays. I have been craving fried chicken of late, and every time I see Ronnie Killen put up a picture, my mouth waters. Fried chicken with an added bonus of superb barbecue? Count me in. We ordered a fried chicken plate, beef rib plate, and quarter pound of bone-in pork belly, moist brisket, and the jalapeño sausage. We got sides of beans, macaroni and cheese, creamed corn, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Amber added some banana pudding to the order.

I am not a fried chicken expert, but it was pretty damn good. It was crispy and had a ton of flavor. You get four pieces of chicken which is a lot of food. I want to see a place out there that smokes their chicken first and then fries it. That would be awesome. The mashed potatoes were creamy and delicious. The creamed corn is gold here. It is rich and wonderful. I could probably eat a gallon of it. No joke. The beef rib plate is one of the better deals out there. For sixteen bucks, you get a good-sized rib with two sides. The beef rib was on-point today. Crusty, tender, and smoky. We basically tried all of the meats at table, and they were all great. I tried the jalapeño sausage for the first time. It was good, but I prefer the new regular blend of brisket, pork belly, and bacon better. Smoked chicken was also a special on this Sunday, but none of us ordered it. Next time for sure.

Killen's Barbecue has not disappointed me. From the smoked meats, to the sides, and to the desserts, they deserve their high regards. Ronnie and his crew are firing on all cylinders and delivers on their motto, "The Best Barbecue, Period!" I think the trip here just for the fried chicken is worth it. The excellent BBQ is gravy at that point. This is one of my all-time favorite places from top to bottom. Houston barbecue keeps getting better and better, and Killen's is leading the way.

Until next time, happy smoking...

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

Southside Market & Barbeque (Bastrop)

My favorite BBQ joint in Elgin is Southside Market & Barbeque. Their brisket, baby back ribs, and sausage are worth the stop. They opened a second location in Bastrop last fall. I have not had a chance to stop in. We normally go to Houston on 183 instead of 71 through Bastrop so we never pass by. The Bastrop location is only 25 miles from my office so it is not that far. I have to work some Saturdays and wanted some good barbecue for lunch this day. Southside Market it was.

The menu at the Bastrop location resembled the one in Elgin. I ordered moist brisket, pork spareribs, and the original sausage. I wish there was a Texas trinity combo plate though. It would have been a better value than ordering by the weight. I also added some baby back ribs and sausage slammers. When I order moist brisket, I expect slices from the point or slices where the point is attached to the flat. Sometimes I end up getting slices from the flat under the point. That is not really fatty/moist brisket. That is what I got here. The brisket had a nice smoke to it and was tender. The flavor was good, but the fat was overly rendered so the slices were on the drier side. The spareribs were fine. The smoke was on-point, but the meat was a little chewy and dry for my taste. Southside Market makes their all-beef sausage in Elgin but smoke them in Bastrop. The sausage was great. It had a nice grit and snappy casing with a good amount of fat. The baby back ribs were juicy and had an excellent smokiness to it. They were quite tasty. The star of the meal was the sausage slammer. It is composed of jalapeño and cheese inside of breakfast pan sausage with bacon wrapped around the outside and then smoked. Wow. The bites were delectable, but I had to stop myself from eating all three of them.

I think the sausage slammers might be worth the trip alone to Southside Market. Everything else is gravy. It is unless than 30 minutes away from me for lunch so I can swing by every once in a while when I have time to take a long lunch. I want to explore the other parts of the menu like the baked potato, jalapeño cheese sausage, beef ribs, chicken and pork steak. I will be back. Grade: B-

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 534 Hwy 71 W, Bastrop, TX 78602
Phone: (512) 575-9037

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ironwood Barbecue

National Brisket Day is celebrated on May 28th. I technically celebrate it every day, but I am not going to pass on a chance to eat brisket (like I need a reason). Blue OX BBQ occupied space with The Buzz Mill for a few years. They have now moved (location pending), and Ironwood Barbecue has taken its place. The climate has been wet in Austin so eating at food trailers has not been easy. Because Ironwood shares common space with The Buzz Mill, there is a covered patio to avoid the elements. It was pouring rain when I got there, but the weather cleared up after I finished my meal.

I ordered the sampler plate with moist brisket and spareribs with sides of creamy coleslaw and roasted green chili mac and cheese. I also added a little bit of the Dublin country ribs. Beer can chicken was the only other meat on the menu. The brisket was tender and smoky and not bad at all. They could have done a better job trimming and cutting the meat. A well-trimmed brisket results in a better product. The slice I received varied between a half inch thick and an inch thick. The flavor was underwhelming and could have used a little bit more rub. The pork ribs were falling off the bone but had an off-putting sour taste. It only had a trace of smoke, and without the pink in meat, I would have guessed it was cooked in an oven. The Dublin country ribs were unique and different. It is not a true rib with a bone, but sliced pork shoulder that is rubbed and covered in a Dr. Pepper sauce. It was dry and chewy but was also tasty, saucy, and sweet. I did not finish the bland coleslaw. The macaroni and cheese disappeared rather quickly though.

Blue OX BBQ was a solid stop for barbecue. I feel like The Buzz Mill downgraded when they switched to Ironwood Barbecue. Maybe Ironwood is early in its existence and has not hit its groove. Or it could just be another forgettable joint among the many heavy hitters in Austin. Grade: C

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 1505 Town Creek Dr, Austin, TX 78741 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Brisket House

I wanted to do something nice for my wife's birthday so I planned a trip to New Orleans. Amber had never been, and I went when I was in high school. Not the same experience if you went with your parents. I try to include at least one visit to a BBQ joint when I am out of town, but I did not plan very well though. I found out that The Joint was closed on Sundays on that Sunday. Oops. I guess we will have to return back to NOLA. To salvage the trip for missing out on BBQ, I wanted to make a barbecue stop while driving through Houston. The Brisket House was one of the closest places off of IH-10. I had their samples at the Houston Barbecue Festival a few weeks back and wanted the full experience. They are located in a nice part of H-Town and within a strip mall.

When I walked in saw a Southern Pride smoker, I immediately questioned my choice. I then remembered reading that the gas was used only to regulate the temperature of the wood fire in a TMBBQ review. There was a stack of pecan and oak logs by the door. I ordered the three meat plate that came with moist brisket, pork ribs, and jalapeño sausage. I also got sides of coleslaw and macaroni and cheese. You would think a place that is named The Brisket House would have good brisket, right? Well it did. Under the jet black soft exterior, the meat was tender and flavorful. The fat was rendered a bit much so it was a little dry. But by no means was it a brisket that I was going to kick out of bed. The pork ribs were moist and smoky. The bone was struggling to hold on to the meat. The sausage was solid and had a nice kick from the jalapeño. The mixture was tasty, and the casing was snappy. My wife tasted the macaroni and cheese first and said it was bad. She was trying to trick me and have all of it to herself. Shame on her. The coleslaw was fresh and crisp and a good complement. I ate everything off the plate. Well everything but the bones.

Do not judge a book by its cover. When you pull into the parking lot, you wonder how could there be good barbecue here. There is so put your car in park and go inside. You see a gas smoker? Just go ahead and order. The Brisket House is open into the evening so the hours are convenient. I met owner Wayne Kammerl while I was there. Nice guy. He and his staff are doing good stuff. The Houston BBQ scene has a lot of quality restaurants now. Driving back to Austin in a meat coma was the only bad decision I made that day. Grade: B

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 5775 Woodway Dr, Houston, TX 77057
Phone: (281) 888-0331

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

AJ's Ranch Road Grill

I know my wife Amber gets tired of us eating so much barbecue. I try my best to accommodate her when I can. Happy wife, happy life, right? AJ's Ranch Road Grill is a restaurant located in San Marcos that serves mostly BBQ items but also has a few other non-BBQ items. When we pulled up to the joint on a Sunday, I could not detect a whiff of smoke. I know we were in trouble.

Amber ordered the burger, and I got the Hungry Man's Combo. It came with 1/4 lb. brisket, 1/4 lb. sausage, and 1/4 lb. pork ribs. The plate came with two sides so I chose fries and macaroni and cheese. While we were waiting for our food, I had a bad feeling. When I got my plate, my fears were confirmed. The smoked meats were reheated. AJ's must smoke their meats some other day. The marbled brisket was dry and chewy. It was like eating a flavorless well-done steak. The pork rib was okay. The meat required some effort to come off the bone. It was smoky, but other than that it was boring. The sausage was decent. It tasted fine but was super greasy. The highlight of the meal was the sides. That is not positive sign if you are a BBQ restaurant. Amber was also not a fan of her burger.

AJ's Ranch Road Grill is open till 3 AM in the morning. If you are drunk and hungry, bad food can still taste fine. That is coming from my experiences. Outside, the sign said that they had Tex-Mex as well. The Tex-Mex items were BBQ tacos and quesadillas. I am no expert, but I am pretty sure that is not Tex-Mex. Hays County BBQ is still the place to go to in San Marcos. Grade: D

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 205 Moore St, San Marcos, TX 78666
Phone: (512) 667-6212