Monday, September 15, 2014

TMBBQ Fest 2014

This is the second consecutive year and third all-time that I have gone to the +Texas Monthly BBQ Fest. There are 25 joints at this year's event, and the two place I have yet to try are The Granary ’Cue and Brew and Cranky Frank’s Barbeque Company. They are both on my radar. I need to make a BBQ trip to San Antonio, and I am sure my wife would not mind a wine trip to Fredericksburg that includes a visit to Cranky Frank's. I have eaten at or tried the rest at last year's event. I am not sure why I even go anymore. It is probably because I am a BBQ fanatic/nut and will jump at a chance to eat some of the best barbecue in the world all at one location.

I volunteered this year to get a complimentary ticket into the festival. The two hours flew by as I was checking in guests. I was meeting up with my wife and some friends after my shift ended. The dynamics of going as a group is completely different than going by yourself. I would have probably wanted to try way more, but today, I was going to relax, enjoy myself, drink a few beers, and eat some great barbecue. We were going to hit a lot of the top spots.

Killen’s Barbecue - This was our first stop, and the line was relatively short. I actually kept an eye on their line all day. This should have been one of the busier tents, but it was not. Ronnie Killen cooked a ton of barbecue. Our trays included a piece of the beef rib, brisket, and pork rib. Everything was excellent. I wish Pearland was a suburb of Austin.

Pecan Lodge - Because we had to wait for a little bit, I was disappointed that all we got was brisket. Sure their brisket is great, but how about some sausage?

Snow’s BBQ - One of the longer lines netted you the Texas trinity. I ate all of the pork rib, sausage, and brisket if that means anything. I was supposed to be pacing myself. It always great to see pitmaster Tootsie doing her thing. She is the gem of barbecue.

The Granary ’Cue and Brew - Their dinner menu is very eclectic, but they still serve traditional BBQ for lunch. They had some smoked pork belly at their booth. I was a not a fan which is hard because I love pork belly. It was chewy, and the rub did not help it out. I am still going to make a trip to San Antonio soon.

Opie’s Barbecue - No baby back ribs? Bummed. The brisket and sausage were good. The tater tot casserole was a good change of pace.

Cranky Frank’s Barbeque Company - I thought the brisket and pork butt was all right. It is not fair for me to judge them completely at an event like this.

La Barbecue - This was the second longest line, but I got a chance to do a little bit of socializing. I probably should have jumped around and hit up a few other spots in the meantime. I got hooked up when I got to the stand. I basically had a three meat plate (brisket, hot guts, and beef rib) in my hand. Everything was fantastic. A line is always warranted anytime John Lewis is manning the smoker.

Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que (Llano) - The sausage, pork rib, and brisket were all cooked nicely. Remember they do it high and fast. The rubs were really salty though.

Louie Mueller Barbecue - I need to make a trip back to Taylor. The beef rib, sausage, and brisket were on point. Nothing needs barbecue sauce from here, but I love the sweet jalapeño sauce. I need to buy that stuff by the gallon.

Miller’s Smokehouse - We were slowing down at this point, but it was not going to stop me to grab some meat from Miller's. The brisket and sausage were tasty. Heed my advice and stop in Belton sometime soon.

Franklin Barbecue - No surprise this was the longest line at the event. It was longer than previous years. The line might have been longer than the one to get in. This was going to be our last stop because we were running out of time. We ended up waiting for about 50 minutes for a pile of brisket, pulled pork, and turkey. Everything was juicy and tender. Aaron Franklin was the front greeting and taking pictures. What a genuine guy!

The other BBQ joints that were there, but we did not make it around to sample:

Black’s Barbecue
Buzzie’s Bar-B-QCity Meat Market
Cousin’s Bar-B-Q
Hatfield’s BBQ
Hays Co. Bar-B-Que and Catering
Hutchins BBQ
Lamberts Downtown Barbecue
Lockhart Smokehouse
Pody’s BBQ
Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew
Two Bros. BBQ Market
Tyler’s Barbeque

It was the Super Bowl of Texas BBQ. It was better than the Super Bowl because it was not all hype. TMBBQ put on an excellent event. It was organized, and the weather worked out. It was overcast and cool which is rare for September in Austin. I was afraid with the festival being moved up a month that it was going to be blazing hot. Not this year. Killen's and La Barbecue were my favorites from the event. VIP tickets might be worth the price because trying to eat all 25 places might not be possible in three hours. The lines and crowd were longer and bigger this year. Barbecue is just a hot commodity right now, and I love it. So many great places to try and eat at. 

Until next time, happy smoking...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Southside Market & Barbeque

After hitting up Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse, we went to Southside Market & Barbeque. Southside Market is apparently the oldest barbecue joint in Texas. They started out as a meat market back in 1882. The building is huge, and there were a lot of people there eating when we got there. Both dining rooms were almost full. There were two lines to order from so you can get your BBQ fix fast and efficiently. I saw a salad on the menu and was perplexed. Who is going to order salad from a BBQ restaurant? Not me. The chopped beef baked potato did look good tough.

I was feeling full already, but I still went for my usual. I ordered moist brisket, pork rib, and sausage. I added a pork baby back rib, and my wife got some blackberry cobbler. Brisket, brisket, brisket. It was the star of the show. Killer. I enjoyed every bite I took. It was so tender and smoky. The bark was bursting with flavor. The St. Louis style pork rib was just okay. It was dry and boring. Good smoke though. The back baby "rib" was better. I used quotations because the rib was so small. It was like eating a mini pork chop. It was juicy and had a nice smoke flavor. The all-beef sausage was good, but I think prefer Meyer's more. It was fattier, but Meyer's tasted better. The grit and pop were on point though. Nothing really needed BBQ sauce, but the bold sauce was awesome. It was sweet and spicy.

When I return back to Elgin, Southside Market & Barbeque will be my go-to. I want some of the brisket right now. I checked out the meat market before we left and bought some fresh breakfast sausage. They are opening another location in Bastrop this fall. I skipped out on the jalapeño cheddar sausage this time. I was too full. Smart decision. They even make milkshakes here. Ice cream always sounds so good with barbecue. What is in store for next year's trip? Not sure. Maybe San Antonio? Grade: B

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 1212 Hwy 290, Elgin, TX 78621
Phone: (512) 281-4650

Monday, September 1, 2014

Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse

Last year we did a group BBQ trip to Lockhart. We went to Kreuz Market, Smitty's Market, and Black's Barbecue. Most of the group was gassed after the first two stops. I could have probably gone to a fourth. This year I wanted to go somewhere people could pace themselves better. Elgin came to mind with their two joints, Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse and Southside Market & Barbeque. I had never been to either so it was the ideal trip. We left Round Rock for Elgin before 11 am so we could beat the lunch crowd. The drive to Elgin was not bad at all. I have not taken 290 in that direction ever. I normally take 71 or 183 when I am headed towards Houston.

When we got there, there was no line at all. Perfect timing. I ordered a slice of moist brisket, one pork rib, a half link of the beef sausage, and two links of the pork sausage for my wife and I to share. We also got an order of macaroni and cheese that I forgot to try. The brisket was not good at all. It was liking eating roast beef. It was chewy with a lot of unrendered fat along the edges. It needed to stay in the smoker longer. It was also missing a well-developed bark. The smoke was fine though. The pork rib was quite good. It had a deep smoke and was very tender. The rub gave it a nice texture. I could have eaten a few more, but I needed to pace myself. A link of the beef sausage was huge so we went with half of a link. I enjoyed the coarse grit and the snap from the casing. It was definitely a meaty sausage, but I wanted a little bit more of fat. Other than that, the sausage was tasty. The pork sausage was boring. It was fatty and did not have a lot of flavor. It was not as smoky as I wanted it to be. The honey mesquite BBQ sauce had a nice sweet flavor.

I thought Meyer's was so-so. Everyone on the trip shared similar opinions. I should have also tried some of jalapeño and cheese sausage. They are only served on the weekends. The beef sausage was the winner here. Meyer's also has a meat market on site. Our next stop was Southside Market & Barbeque. Grade: C

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 188 Hwy 290, Elgin, TX 78621
Phone: (512) 281-3331

Monday, August 25, 2014

TMBBQ Road Trip - Hill Country

+Texas Monthly puts on a barbecue bus tour that take you to a few BBQ joints in a day. I recently had the opportunity to go on one. On this trip, the stops were Opie's Barbecue in Spicewood, Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, and La Barbecue in Austin. Our tour guide for this adventure is none other than Texas Monthly's BBQ editor, Daniel Vaughn. I sometimes envy his job.

We left Austin for Opie's at 10 am. It is about an hour drive to Spicewood. I am a big fan of Opie's. Fellow blogger Lisa Rawlinson of Full and Content was also on the trip so we shared some of the food. It was all about pacing ourselves. We got the baby back ribs, moist brisket, jalapeño sausage, pork chop, butter beans, tatertot casserole, and spicy corn. The baby back ribs are money here. They are sweet, spicy, juicy, tender, and smoky. I could live off these. The tatertot casserole was other highlight of the meal. It was unique and nothing like I had before. Here is a profile of Pitmaster Seth Glaser posted by a fellow BBQ blogger not long ago.

What is this? It is a wood contraption that feeds the mesquite wood into the Oyler smoker. What an innovative idea! It limits the need to wake up in the middle of the night to load logs into the smoker.

Cooper's was 45 minutes from Spicewood. It gave our digestive system some time to do its thing. When we got there, brisket, sausage, ribs, chicken, and pork chop with sides of beans and potato salad were waiting for us. The pork chop is all I can think about. It is nicely seasoned and tasted wonderful. They cook it high and fast so the cut of pork stays super juicy.

On the way back to Austin, I noticed there were a lot of dead trees. The drought is a lot worse than I imagined. Sad. I was definitely getting full, and a quick pit stop at It's All Good Bar-B-Q did not help. We picked up a to-go order of brisket, pork ribs, and turkey. They used to have a trailer in Austin but moved before I got a chance to try them. The rub on brisket was very different. It tasted like a sweet soy sauce?

An hour and a half later, we finally made it to La Barbecue. I have never eaten here this late. It is always sold-out by this time on a Saturday. There were trays of meat for us. The heaping piles of brisket, pork ribs, and hot guts covered the trays. Everything on it was excellent. All of it. I even enjoyed the lean slices of brisket. I actually tried their sides for the first time. The coleslaw and potato were fresh and delicious. Pitmaster John Lewis is one of my favorite people in barbecue. He is down to earth and friendly.

I had a great time on the trip. I was stuffed with barbecue and beer. My wife and I went to see OneRepublic that evening as well. Probably not the best idea. Texas Monthly puts on a lot of great barbecue events. This is one of them. It was well organized and had a lot of value. Their golden child is the TMBBQ Festival which will be held in the middle of next month. They also have done a 'Cue Court. I have missed on getting tickets to previous Behind the Pit Dinners where they will hold an intimate dinner with the pitmaster at that respective BBQ joint. TMBBQ have done other bus tours in the past. They have gone to Snow's BBQ in Lexington, Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, and Franklin Barbecue in Austin on one trip. The Houston trip included Corkscrew BBQ (on my list to try), Gatlin's BBQ, Virgie's Bar-B-Que, and Killen's Barbecue. Is The Metroplex next?

Until next time, happy smoking...