Monday, April 14, 2014

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que (Llano)

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano was the next stop on the list after leaving Opie's Barbecue. +Amber McGee and I have eaten at the Cooper's in New Braunfels a few times. One time we order 70 bucks worth of barbecue for the two of us! Ordering the smoked prime rib added up pretty fast. The Cooper's in Llano was included on the +Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ list again. When I got there, the serving pit was located outside of the building under a roof. You can see the other smoking pits when you walk up. Everything here is smoked direct over mesquite coals.

I was not very hungry when I ordered, but I still went for it. I got moist brisket, pork ribs, sausage, and a pork chop. The moist brisket could have been trimmed better before it hit the smoker. It was really fatty and a little salty but still tasty. The fat could have been rendered better, and the brisket could have used more smoke. That is a consequence for cooking it direct. Hot and fast. It was better than I thought it would be. The pork ribs were also salty but solid. The tip of the rib was really dry and chewy. I wanted a center rib, but the guy cutting was trying to get rid of an end piece. It had a good flavor nonetheless. The sausage had a nice pop from the casing and was really good. The grit was a tad fine for me but had a good fat ratio. The thick pork chop is what Cooper's is known for. It was the highlight of the meal. The "big chop" was delicious. It was perfectly seasoned and was moist and juicy. It had enough smoke where it would not become overbearing. Do not skip out on the free pinto beans that you can have. They are really good. I could not finish all of the brisket and pork chop, but I had some good leftovers for the next few days.

I am a fan of Cooper's. They have a few locations all over Texas. They are about to open a new location in downtown Austin. My first visit at the Llano location did not disappoint. It is definitely a drive from Austin. If you are ever out in that area, make sure you stop in and get some 'cue. I forgot to order the beef ribs this time. I will remember to order it next time. Grade: B

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 604 W Young St, Llano, TX 78643
Phone: (325) 247-5713

Monday, April 7, 2014

Opie's Barbecue

+Amber McGee and her friend were going on a bachelorette trip which meant I was on my own for the weekend. Yes! This would be a good opportunity for me to hit up a few BBQ joints over the weekend. I had a list of places that I could visit for the first time. The first stop for the weekend was Opie's Barbecue. I have tried their meats at a few barbecue festivals, and my reactions have always been positive. They are located west of Austin in Spicewood which is about 30 miles away. They are also on the +Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ list. Good enough for me to visit.

The first thing you see when you walk through the front door is a huge meat case. All the smoked meats are presented in front of you. I went with moist brisket, pork spareribs, baby back ribs, and regular sausage. The brisket was like butter. It melted in your mouth. It was tender and smoky. They used an electric knife to cut it, but a butter knife would have been the better utensil to use. It had a great bark that came from mesquite wood and was one of the better briskets I have had. I was not expecting to eat a brisket of that quality. The sausage was heavy on pepper and had a good snap. Their house blend was tasty, but the grit was on the fine side. The pork spareribs were solid. They were tender and juicy with a good amount of smoke. The baby back ribs were the winner here. They had a sweet saucy glaze and were delicious. I could have eaten a whole rack if I did not have another stop to go. You have to order by half rack, but you have to get it. Opie's even gives you free pinto beans as a side. They were good but nothing special.

Opie's Barbecue is really not that far from Austin and worth the visit. The anticipation grows during the drive, but once you take your first bite, you knew you made the right choice. Everything was good if not great. I will try the pork chop, pulled pork, and jalapeño sausage when I am there again. On the way out, I heard someone complaining about there being a line. There were about eight people in line. Spoiled. My next stop for the day was Cooper's Old Time Bar-B-Que. Grade: A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 9504 Texas 71, Spicewood, TX 78669
Phone: (830) 693-8660

Monday, March 31, 2014

Smokey Mo's Bar-B-Q (Whitestone)

I have known about Smokey Mo's Bar-B-Q for over seven years now. I always see or hear their commercials. Now that I think about it, not many other BBQ joints advertise on the airwaves. Maybe Rudy's? Believe it or not, PoK-E-Jo's used to be one of my favorites back in my undergraduate days. Why? They had good sides, and barbecue was still new to me. I assumed PoK-E-Jo's and Smokey Mo's were similar because of their names so I never really bothered to try Smokey Mo's. That is kind of ignorant for me to think that so I am here to atone for it. Smokey Mo's has never been convenient for me to eat there. I was in Round Rock one day so I was semi-close to one. I decided to hit up the original location. Did you know they have 11 locations? I would have guessed they had a few places but not that many.

When I walked in the door, I saw the Southern Pride smoker and was disappointed already. I rarely see a gas smoker put out great meat. I ordered the three meat plate with moist brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. I got sides of potato salad and coleslaw. The brisket had no bark. It was trimmed off. The brisket was not bad at all. The fat was not rendered all the way and smoke was absent though. There were pieces of the bark on my plate. It was good and had nice flavors. If the brisket was kept together, it might have been solid. The ribs were good but a little dry. The glaze had a nice flavor, and the smoke was surprisingly noticeable. The sausage was a special blend made for them. It was heavy on black pepper, but I liked the way it tasted. The potato salad was eggy but not bad. The coleslaw was crisp and heavy on mayonnaise.

Smokey Mo's is a local chain that puts out okay barbecue. They meet the minimum bar for Texas barbecue in my opinion. Smokey Mo's may not be for me, but I could see it working out for others. I saw a lot of families eating there, and also there were a lot of take-out orders. The prices were affordable as well. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Grade: C-

Until next time, happy smoking....

Address: 100 E Whitestone Blvd #158, Cedar Park, TX 78613
Phone: (512) 528-0500

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sam's BBQ

I have been to Sam's BBQ a few years ago when I first started to work for Progressive Insurance. I remembered that was everything I got was just okay. This was before the barbecue scene exploded in Austin. A couple of summers ago, Sam's was involved in a scandal where they were caught buying stolen meat. They were shut down for a little bit of time because of the scandal. If they are trying cut corners with their main products, where else could they be cutting corners from?

Sharing barbecue is the best way to try more items on the menu. Duh. +Lisa Rawlinson from Full and Content was my eating partner today. We each ordered two meat plates and a half of a chicken. We got moist brisket, sausage, pork ribs, and mutton with sides of potato salad and beans. The brisket was mushy and bland. It was obviously cooked high and fast for a little too long. The ribs were falling off the bone and dry. They were boring with no flavor. The sausage was a commercial type made for them down the street. It was tasty but really fatty. What is mutton? I had to look it up before our visit. Mutton is sheep. The cut we got looked like a pork rib. It tasted very gamey. It was dry and just not good. Good thing we got the chicken based on a recommendation because it was the winner. It was tender and juicy actually had some flavor. Apparently the chicken is cooked differently every time. Strange huh? We did not eat all of the meat and had a lot of leftovers. I ate all of the beans and potato salad if it means anything. The sides were just okay.

I did not have a whole lot of expectations in this visit to Sam's BBQ. Good thing I did not. I really wanted to get some good barbecue, but after leaving Sam's, my hankering was even stronger. There are better choices on the eastside. It seems like Sam's does not put any effort into their barbecue. If they do not care, why should I care to visit? They are open late though. Sam's slogan is shared by another BBQ joint in Austin. I am not so sure that "You don't need no teeth to eat my beef!" is a good thing. Grade: D

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 2000 E 12th St, Austin, TX 78702
Phone: (512) 478-0378


Monday, March 17, 2014

Uncle Billy's Brew & Que

Restaurants with a great location in my opinion do not always serve the greatest food. Uncle Billy's Brew & Que is one of those places. They are located at a prime location off of Barton Springs Road. A lot of foot traffic comes through the area. It is a great place to go hang out and drink. They have a nice patio outside where they sometimes have live music. They also brew their own beer on site.

You order everything by a quarter of a pound except the ribs and sausage here. I like ordering my meat by the slices. I ordered a quarter pound of moist brisket, one pork rib, and a link of sausage. The brisket I got was a lean cut and was really dry. It had good smoke but was completely boring. I asked if they had run of moist, but the waiter said they still had some and brought it to me. The moist was a little bit better. It could have used more rub and for the fat to be rendered better. The rib also had good smoke but was lackluster in flavor as well. It was tender and juicy. The sausage was a commercial sausage that tasted like it was from a grocery store. I needed sauce to make this meal decent. The peppercorn BBQ sauce was good. It was smoky and a little spicy. I also order a beer with my meal. I got one of the house beers, Lager 9, and it was smooth.

I just do not get Uncle Billy's. I am surprised they are still open sometimes. The food has never been good. Their barbecue is just meh. Uncle Billy's best thing might be their queso. They apparently have beef ribs on special, and I might want to try the pulled pork someday. Probably not anytime soon. Grade: C-

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 1530 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Phone: (512) 476-0100

Monday, March 10, 2014

Iron Works BBQ

During SXSW, there are long lines that extend to the end of the block at most quality barbecue joints. Iron Works BBQ is not immune to this either. They were my favorite barbecue joint in college. The delicious beef ribs probably skewed my opinion back then. Iron Works is located right by the convention center and numerous hotels in an old iron work shop. People who are in town visiting or for work can walk over to Iron Works. I do not know if that is a good or bad thing. Apparently this week during SX, they have smoked tofu. If I was not out of town, I might try it on this meatless Monday.

I got the sampler plate which came with three meats and a side of beans and potato salad. I added a beef rib to the meal. The brisket was smoky but dry. It did not have a lot going on for it. There was not enough flavor and almost roast beef like. The baby back ribs were solid. It had good smoke and a sweet glaze. I only ate one of them because I did not want to get overly full. The sausage was good. It had a nice grit and fat content. The sausage had a peppery flavor and was little spicy. They could have filled the sausage better because the casing was loose. The first time beef ribs were introduced to me was at Iron Works. I remembered it being one of the best things I have ever had. On this trip, they were good but not in the league of others out there. It had a sweet glaze like the pork rib. They did not have a lot of meat on them. These were beef back ribs instead of the beef short ribs you might get at other places. I guess they get this cut so it would be easier to smoke and would be cheaper as well. The ribs were smoky but could have stayed in the smoker a little bit longer. They were a little bit chewier and hard to bite off the bone. The beans and potato salad were forgettable.

Iron Works BBQ is average Texas barbecue. It seems like a touristy destination. The Salt Lick and them. A lot of celebrities have visited Iron Works over the years. I wish more of them were like Jimmy Kimmel. With all of the good barbecue in this area, I would skip Iron Works unless you wanted some barbecue for dinner. They are also closed on Sundays. Grade: C

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 100 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701
Phone: (512) 478-4855

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

#SXSW Barbecue Guide

SXSW. It is one of my favorite events of the year. SXSW is a film, interactive, and music festival/conference that spans two weekends. People from all over the country and world come and spend time in Austin. One thing I hope is that they do not miss out on the great barbecue located here. I am going to try to make it easy for you if you were one of them. Here are my ten barbecue joints choices. I will throw in an extra for free. Click on the name for a full review.

1. Franklin Barbecue (900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702) - Yes there will be a line. A very long line. It is worth the wait to get some of the best barbecue in the United States. I have no words and explanation for the brisket. Aaron uses salt, pepper, and oak smoke. There has to be more. Cows from Mars? Trees from Mordor? It is just so damn good. It might one of the best things that you will ever put in your mouth. The pork ribs are delicious and are almost falling off the bone. Franklin also now serves beef ribs which sadly I have yet to try. Get the Tipsy Texan while you are it. It is sandwich that has chopped beef and sausage with some coleslaw. A great combination that is messy but tasty.

2. La Barbecue (1200 E 6th St, Austin, Texas 78702) - Phenomenal brisket? Check. Great pork ribs? Check. Superb sausage? Check. You cannot go wrong here. Will there be a line? Of course there will be because you are talking about an outstanding BBQ joint. Do not forget to get a beef rib. I am pretty sure anything John Lewis touches turns into gold. There is also another great sandwich here. El Sancho. Get it loco style. You are looking at a three meat plate between two buns. Brisket, pulled pork, hot guts. A sandwich bordering on being magical and crazy. You will not regret it.

3. Micklethwait Craft Meats (1309 Rosewood Ave, Austin, TX 78702) - I had trouble pronouncing the name at first. That is probably the only thing wrong with this BBQ joint. The 'th" is silent in case you were wondering. I am a fan of all their smoked meats. Put on your running shoes and run here so you can beat the line. Tom has turned sausage making into an art/craft. The types of sausage smoked vary day to day. Lamb chorizo, kielbasa, and pork belly andouille to name a few. His beef rib was also crowned the best in Austin recently by the Austin Chronicle. The homemade bread is also fabulous. I do not like grits, but their cheesy grits have converted me.

4. John Mueller Meat Co (2500 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702) - Can you say pepper? Pepper and smoke can make beautiful music together. The power of the peppery bark on the brisket and beef rib will make you sing. The pepper meddles with the meat and forms this crispy bond that produces a lot of flavor. Beef ribs when smoked right are downright amazing. Get the sausage while you are at it. Do not lollygag too long by taking pictures because John might get onto you.

5. Kerlin BBQ (1700 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702) - There is a new BBQ player in town. Bill and his wife are out to take your money and in return will satisfy your hunger. Order everything off the menu and you will thank me. If you are reading this not on a Friday, I am sorry. You probably missed out on the beef rib special. The pecan smoke works well with the meat. The pork ribs are so tender and smoky. The sausage is one of my favorite. Great grit and fat content with a snappy casing.

6. Freedmen's Bar (2402 San Gabriel St, Austin, TX 78705) - We have finally stepped out of East Austin. Barbecue can be fine food. The brisket here is luscious. The crust with the tender smoky meat will make you think that you have sinned. Yes it is that good. You will think you are cheating on bacon if you get the pork belly here. It is rich, meaty, and succulent. Even after day drinking all day, explore their cocktail menu. You will enjoy the finer things in life. They are open into the night. There is also a church close by.

7. Lambert's Downtown Barbecue (401 W 2nd St, Austin, Texas 78701) - Fancy barbecue? Sure it is, but does it matter? Their brisket is excellent. Slap your mother good (I do not condone violence). Their menu comprises more than just barbecue. Their baked mac and cheese is stellar. Try their appetizers. They also have happy hour specials. Order a few drinks. Do not miss out on their brunch. I would recommend making a reservation just in case.

8. Valentina's Tex-Mex BBQ (600 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701) - Smoked meats in a tortilla? It is a smart idea. You can walk and eat at the same time. You might want to sit-down here though because the pure awesomeness might make you knees buckle. The brisket is great in a taco with guacamole, sandwich or by itself. Pray that they will have their pork ribs on special. I would hate my life if I missed out on those. The in-house made tortillas are not meant to be thrown at a football game. These are meant for good eating. The trailer has late hours and is tucked behind a bar. What more could you ask for?

9. Blue Ox BBQ (1505 Town Creek Dr, Austin, TX 78741) - A perfect pit stop to get a second wind. They share space with a coffee shop so load up on some caffeine and quality 'cue. The coffee rubbed pork tenderloin is fantastic. The pork ribs are on par as well. On Sundays, they have all you can eat pancakes. Pancakes and brisket? Sign me up! Another place that stays open later.

10. Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew (6610 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78757) - We are talking about a no fuss barbecue joint. The BBQ is solid all the way around. They are open for dinner and serve local draft beers. The beef ribs and sausage are the highlights here. Not a bad place to wind down for the evening. You never know, you might run into Matthew McConaughey here.

The Salt Lick BBQ (18300 FM 1826, Driftwood, TX 78619) - I had to include this. Sure it is a tourist destination, but there is a reason why. Great atmosphere, scenic drive, BYOB, and good barbecue. Get everyone at your table to do the family style. It is all you can eat barbecue. I probably had you at all you can eat. You will leave with your belly full with a smile on your face. Do not skip out on the cobbler. Cash only.


Until next time, happy smoking...

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lambert's Downtown Barbecue

Fancy Barbecue? I would consider Lambert's Downtown Barbecue as fancy barbecue. Freedmen's Bar and them. This is where you look for quality service with a sophisticated cocktail in hand. There is nothing wrong with that by any means. Good barbecue is good barbecue no matter where you eat it. +Amber McGee and I have gone here before to celebrate an anniversary so it is not an everyday restaurant for us. Lambert's is located in the historical Schneider Brothers building downtown. Their barbecue is good enough to make it on the +Texas Monthly Top 50 list. Some people believe they do no belong because they use a gas smoker. I cannot fault them for that because of the space they have. I have not had good BBQ in a month so I was excited for this visit.

We went to brunch this time. I am an all you can eat brunch type of guy on the weekend. Just eat one big meal and make it through the rest of the day without eating. I can put away a lot of food. Surprised? Lambert's used to have all you can eat brunch on the weekend, but that has stopped recently. Sad face. I ordered the three meat plate with two sides. The meats I got were the brown sugar & coffee rubbed natural brisket, the maple and coriander crusted natural pork ribs, and the homemade jalapeño hot link. Yeah that is a mouthful. Although the moist brisket was cut with the grain, it was fantastic. It was tender and smoky, and the fat was well rendered. The bark was a little sweet so it was like meat candy. I wish got a bigger portion of brisket because I could have eaten a couple of pounds. No joke. The pork ribs were good and tender. It was not as smoky as I would like it to be. The glaze was sweet, but the flavor was a little off. The homemade sausage was decent. It had a heavy grit and good fat ratio. It was spicy and had a nice snap from the casing, but the flavor was a little boring. Instead of two sides, I got a large order of baked macaroni and cheese. It was really good, but it might be too cheesy. Is it that possible? Amber got the brisket hash. It was pretty tasty.

Lambert's Downtown Barbecue is great plain and simple. Sure it is fancy and on the pricier side, but sometimes I feel they are a little underrated. I want to try the beef rib and pulled pork next time I go. Lambert's also serves more than just barbecue which is good for my wife. Burgers, sandwiches and steaks. The menu does vary by the time of the day. They also have a live music space located upstairs. Is everything worth it? Yes. Grade: B+

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 401 W 2nd St, Austin, Texas 78701
Phone: (512) 494-1500


Monday, February 24, 2014

Ruby’s BBQ

I have been trying to think of my first experience of Texas barbecue. It has to be eating at Ruby's BBQ freshman year of college. I was definitely a late bloomer when it comes to barbecue. I have been trying to make up for lost time of late. I have only eaten at Ruby's twice and both times, I did not like it. I cannot remember why to save my life. This was over 10 years ago mind you.

When it is cold outside, barbecue sounds fantastic. It was still below freezing when I headed out to lunch. I ordered the three meat plate with moist brisket, pork spareribs, and sausage. It came with creamy coleslaw and macaroni and cheese as sides. The brisket was good and tender. Although the oak smoke did do a good job, I wish the brisket had more flavor though. There was not enough salt, and too much fat was trimmed away. The spareribs were on special so I was able to get them right then. If not, you have to wait 20 minutes for them. I guess they normally serve baby back ribs. The ribs were smoky and had a deep red hue like Chinese barbecue. I have noticed that brick pits sometimes do that. The ribs could have use more flavor and were little dry. The sausage was from Elgin which was good of course. The creamy coleslaw was really good. It tasted fresh and was crisp. The macaroni and cheese was different from what you normally get from other places. They use a spiral pasta and was not as cheesy as I would like it to be.

Ruby's BBQ is solid. You get in and out pretty fast. It is no fuss barbecue. I might have to go back and try the baby back ribs and/or pulled pork. I definitely enjoyed Ruby's more now than I did 10 years ago. Ruby's BBQ just celebrated their 25th anniversary. That is a testament to their product especially when they are located by campus. The "Drag" has evolved over the years. Grade: B-

Until next time, happy smoking...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew

The movie Dazed and Confused was filmed around the Austin area back in the early 90's. The pool hall where Matthew McConaughey's character hangs out at is where Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew is located. The first time I went to Stiles Switch I wore a Franklin Barbecue. The owner saw me and said he had to change that so he hooked me up with a free shirt. The pitmaster, Lance Kirkpatrick, used to work at Louie Mueller Barbecue. With that kind of expertise, you would think Stiles Switch would have decent to good barbecue. Let's find out.

Today I ordered a slice of moist brisket, one pork and beef rib, and a link of sausage. I thought the brisket was kind of dry. The flavor was good, but I felt like something was missing. The pork rib was decent. It was tender but not falling off the bone. It could have used a little bit more smoke. The beef rib was good. Coming from someone who used to work at Louie Mueller, I did not expect anything less. It had a peppery bark going for it. There were three different sausages, and I went with the Switch Original. They had an all-beef one and also a jalapeño cheese one. The Switch Original had a good grit, snap, and fat content. It was good, but it was spicy! You have now been warned. I have also tried the macaroni and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw, and beans in prior visits. They were all good.

At Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, all the meats were solid. I tried the chicken before, and it was tasty. Poultry is one thing I do not order often. Stiles Switch is open for dinner and has a lot of local beers on draft. It is a great place to meet friends for dinner. They are one of very few joints open all day serving up some good 'cue. They are also have a spot on the +Texas Monthly's Top 50 List.  "All right, all right, all right" Grade: B

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 6610 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78757
Phone: (512) 380-9199