Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2017 Where to Eat BBQ Frito Pie in Austin

I remember loving Frito pie when I was a child. There is nothing fancy to them (chili, cheese, and Fritos), but they are very comforting to eat. I like my chili without beans by the way. Frito pies are also a good change of pace from the typical brisket, ribs, and sausage you find at BBQ joints. Here is this year's updated list with now seven tasty options in Austin:

Kerlin BBQ - $5
1700 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702 | 11 AM-till sold out Thurs-Sun
The best deal in barbecue. Period. Five bucks for a tasty and fulfilling meal? Yes. The ingredients are just chopped beef, cheese, onions, and jalapeños. It is a special and not always on the menu. Call ahead. I never understood why Kerlin flies under the radar. While you there, get some of the ribs and kolaches. If not, you might want to reassess your priorities.
EastSide Tavern - $10
1510 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702 | 11 AM-10 PM Su-Th, 11 AM-11 PM FSa
Although I have not written about Eastside Tavern, it does not mean that I am not a fan. I am. Indoor seating, open later, and good drinks. The Frito pie is on the appetizers menu but eats like a meal. It comes loaded with chopped beef, salsa verde, pico, and queso in a big ass cast iron skillet. Crispy and flavorful.
Micklethwait Craft Meats - $8
1309 Rosewood Ave, Austin, TX 78702 | 11 AM-till sold out Tue-Sun
This Frito pie was the reason why I thought about doing this guide. I got a lot of attention on social media for my picture of it. It is super tasty and comes with brisket, chili, cheddar, cilantro, escabeche, red onion, & crema. Great combination of flavors and textures. I like that they use a slice of brisket instead of chopping it up.
La Barbecue - $9
1906 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702 | 11 AM-till sold out Wed-Sun
The wait is always 30+ minutes here. When you get to the front, you feel like you need to order more. It took a lot of willpower for me on this day just to get the Frito pie. It comes with chopped beef, Southwest black bean salad, cheese, jalapeños, and pickled red onions. Yum. I wanted to add my own twist to it, but they were sold out of most of the meats that day.
Lambert's Downtown Barbecue - $16, $8 during happy hour
401 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701 | 11 AM-2:30PM, 5:30-10 PM daily
Fancy Frito pie. That is what it is. It is not cheap but is packed with a ton of flavor. The chopped beef, fresh pico, goat cheese, and Lambert's queso play well together. It is obvious that there was a lot of thought put into this dish. It is a bargain at happy hour. I could eat one every day at that price point.
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew - $9
6610 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78757 | 11 AM-9 PM SuTWTh, 11 AM-10 PM FSa
In my opinion, this is the closet one to being a traditional Frito pie. It has chopped beef, cheese, jalapeños, and onions. I added some of the Switch sausage for an extra kick. The portion is huge so you get more bang for the buck. I could not finish it all. Shocker.
Bert's BBQ - $6.95 regular, $8.95 large
907 W 24th St, Austin, TX 78705 | 7 AM-3 PM M-S & 3563 Far West Blvd #109, Austin, TX 78731 | 11 AM-8 PM M-F, 11 AM-7 PM Sat
I ate at the MLK location back in college before the building burned down. The one by campus now is within eyesight of Freedmen's Bar. I ordered the large size, and it was a good portion. It was loaded with chopped beef, beans, and BBQ sauce. It cost 60 cents extra for cheese though. You can buy frozen ones for later as well.
Until next time, happy smoking...

2017 Guide to Bánh Mì (Austin)

Bánh mì is a Vietnamese sandwich that is served on French bread. You will find it filled with all kinds of protein like grilled pork, pâté, fried eggs, tofu, meatballs, and head cheese. It is normally dressed with cucumber slices, cilantro, jalapeños, and pickled carrots and daikon with Vietnamese mayonnaise. There has been a lot of movement on the bánh mì scene in Austin this year. Ng BMT, one of my favorites, closed. Lulu B's has also shut its doors. Dang Bánh Mì changed their concept and is now Dang Kitchen. Fresh Off the Truck moved into a brick and mortar and goes by Dragonbeard Kitchen. A few more also joined the scene. Go check out Smoked Salt & Pepper for the other Vietnamese offerings around town. The updated bánh mì guide for this year:

The B's Kitchen
5000 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX 78756 | 11 AM-3 PM M, 11 AM-7 PM Tu-W, 11 AM-9 PM Th-Sa

Baguette House
10901 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753 | 8:30 AM-7 PM daily
Although the thịt nướng (grilled pork) is money here, there are a lot of great options on the menu. They use a French baguette so there is less bread with more crunch. Add a pâté chaud and a Vietnamese iced coffee to your order, and you will thank me later.
The Bee Grocery
1001 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 | 7 AM-12 AM M-Sat, 8 AM-10 PM Sun

BONBOn Bánh mì
8557 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78758 | 9 AM-6 PM Sun, Tue-Sat

Bun Belly
5001 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 78751 11 AM-2:30 PM, 5:30-10 PM daily
Bun Belly was on my list of places I needed to try. Doing the guide was a good opportunity to stop in. I ordered the BMT Classic - Banh Mi Thit which comes with pork liver pate, Vietnamese ham (pork roll), and pork belly. It had a good flavor from the meat. The only thing that was missing was mayo. It would have brought the sandwich together better. Keep in mind bánh mì is only available for lunch here.
Elizabeth Street Cafe
1501 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704 | 8 AM-10:30 PM daily
Upscale Vietnamese cuisine? Sure, why not. The breakfast bánh mì changed my mind. The sandwich comes stuffed with jalapeño fried eggs, crispy pork belly, avocado, mint, house-made mayo, sambal, and cilantro. A tasty mouthful. The House Specialty (chicken liver mousse, pork pâté, and roasted pork) below is a solid choice. 10 bucks though? My parents would frown on me for spending that on bánh mì.
Dragonbeard Kitchen
8201 Cross Park Dr, Austin, TX 78754 | 7 AM-3 PM Mon-Thu, 11 AM-7 PM Fri-Sat

Hea Café
500 E Ben White Blvd # 200, Austin, TX 78704 | 10 AM-9 PM daily

Heo Eatery
6214 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78752 | 11 AM–3 PM, 5:30–9PM daily
There is a new kid on the block. Their bánh mì offerings are not very traditional but sound delicious. Lemongrass beef, turmeric fish, duck confit and pork belly (shown below). The sandwiches are served with tater tots. It is not your average side, but it works. Do not forget to order a bao.

Lily's Sandwich
10901 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753 | 9 AM-9 PM daily
LiIy's is my favorite spot in Austin for xíu mại (Vietnamese meatballs). At $3.70, it is the one of the cheapest in town as well. I have yet to try the other things on the menu that are not bánh mì. That tells you something.
Pho Please
1920 E Riverside Dr, Austin, TX 78741 | 11 AM-11 PM daily
They just opened up recently. I ordered the grilled pork belly and added a fried egg of course. The sandwich is huge. It was a foot long! I thought I was at Subway for a second. I made a mistake of ordering the grilled pork spring rolls. It was almost too much food to eat. It is another good option for me for lunch; being only a few miles from my office.
Pho Thaison
Multiple locations | Various hours - Check their website for details

Pho Van

8557 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78758 | 10:30 AM-9 PM daily
I wonder now that Ng BMT is in the same parking lot, if Pho Van's bánh mì business would suffer. This was the first place in Austin where I had pho when I was a freshman at UT. I went away from my normal order and got the grilled chicken banh mi here. It had a good flavor and texture. The rest of the sandwich brought everything together.
Saigon Le Vendeur
2404 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702 | 11 AM-7PM Mon-Fri, 11 AM-5PM Sat
Saigon Le Vendeur is close to my work so I go here frequently. It is my new favorite and the winner of our bánh mì tasting. I am always stuffed when I am done eating there. I tried the spicy chicken recently. Nice heat and good, fresh flavors. Their specials look intriguing and amazing. Curry ramen. Say no more...
Tâm Deli & Cafe
8222 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753 | 10 AM-8 PM Wed-Mon
If there was THE bánh mì place in town, a lot of people would pick Tâm's. It is a solid pick. I ordered the combination sandwich that came with Vietnamese ham, pâté, and roasted chicken. I thought it was an odd choice for the third meat though. The pickled carrots were grated instead of being julienned which takes away some of the crunchiness. The rest of the menu is really strong and has a lot of options. Besides the classics, the bánh cuốn (steamed rice rolls) hits the spot every time.
Thanh Nhi
9200 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753 | 10 AM-9 PM daily
In my humble opinion, Thanh Nhi is underrated in the Vietnamese food scene. I have never had a bad item from their extensive menu. I got the xíu mại (pork meatball) on this visit, and it was good. All of their bánh mì cost $3.99 which is a great deal. When you go, order some nem nuong rolls. It is better than your traditional spring rolls.
Van's Banh Mi
1356 W 45th St, Austin, TX 78756 | 11 AM-9 PM Mon-Sat

Ya Ya Café
3706 Guadalupe Street, Suite B, Austin, TX 78705 | 11 AM-10:30 PM Tue-Sat

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Sausage Kings of Austin 2017

There are so many cool food events that Austin can host on any given night. Last Thursday, Amber and I attended the 2nd Annual The Sausage Kings of Austin put on 365 Things Austin at St Elmo Brewing Company. We had a good time and enjoyed some tasty brews and bites. My photo recap of the event:
Dampf- Hefeweizen-style beer. One of my new favorite brews
Salt and Time - Beer battered kielbasa
Frank - Angus stout boudin balls with pimento beer cheese
Easy Tiger - Green chili, Chico pale ale-smoked pork sausage with cheddar & bacon
Banger's - "Smoaked" sausage : Lockhart-style BBQ beef sausage smoked with post oak
Banger's : Sausage with baked beans & honey lime slaw
Leroy & Lewis : Beef & broccoli boudin and arroz con pollo
Micklethwait : Carl Kölsch beer brat with gouda cheese
Micklethwait : Carl Kölsch beer brat with gouda cheese
Soursop : Northern Thai grilled pork sausage with mustard, aioli, relish & onions
La Barbecue : Chipotle sausage
I was not surprised that so many BBQ joints were represented at this event. Evan Leroy (formerly of Freedmen's) is opening his BBQ truck, Leroy & Lewis, next month so that is exciting news. Micklethwait took home third place, and La Barbecue won it all. Soursop finished in second place.

Until next time, happy smoking...

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2M Smokehouse (First Impression)

Amber and I love the brisket tamales that we got from the Smoke Shack BBQ last year. We wanted some more this year so we made the trek to San Antonio. I had to include one more barbecue stop, right? 2M Smokehouse opened in San Antonio on December 3rd. We were out of the country and could not make the grand opening. Pitmaster Esaul Ramos and high school buddy Joe Melig have been doing Saturday pop-ups while the building was being finished. Does the name Esaul Ramos sound familiar? It should be. He was the head man at La Barbecue for over a year and trained under John Lewis before that.
It was cold that morning, and when we arrived, there were only four people in front of us. Esaul greeted when we got to the counter and was slicing all of the meats. Amber got the brisket tacos with pico on homemade tortillas. I ordered the two meat plate of moist brisket and pork ribs with potato salad and chicharroni macaroni. I also added a link of the pork and Oaxaca cheese sausage. The brisket was cooked perfectly. Tender and juicy. It was definitely one of the better briskets I have had. The smoke and flavor rounded out the brisket nicely. The rub had some Spanish influences with salt, pepper, garlic, and cumin. While eating pork ribs, I was disappointed that I did not get more. They were really good. Not as saucy as La, the sweet meat pulled away from the bone without a struggle. Although I prefer a beefier sausage, the pork and Oaxaca cheese sausage was outstanding. It had a nice flavor assisted by cilantro and Serrano peppers. The snappy casing could barely hold in the gritty pork. It was almost too cheesy if that is possible.

Amber's taco was really f-ing tasty. Brisket, homemade pico on a homemade tortilla? Simple but satisfying. You also get tortillas instead of the standard white bread if you order a meal. The homemade pickled nopalitos (cactus)/Serranos/bell peppers, onions, and cucumber were great compliments and helped cleanse the palate for the next bite. The macaroni and cheese with chicharrones was wonderful. The pork rind added a crunchy texture to it, and the Oaxaca cheese acted like a glue to hold the bite together. My only complaint from the meal is the potato salad. Compared to the rest of the meal, it was boring and bland.
I love that so many new places hit the floor running now. 2M Smokehouse's ;BBQ game is already elevated and could only get better. They have only been open for 15 days when we dropped in. That is win-win for all of us. As more word gets out, the line will only grow. Get there early and be patient. The 2M gang might want to start investing in another 1,000 gallon Austin Smoke Works smoker to keep up with demand. I am already looking forward to my next visit and trying out the rest of the menu.
Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 2731 S WW White Rd, San Antonio, TX 78222

Monday, November 21, 2016

Hou BBQ Throwdown 2016

Saint Arnold Brewery
Amber and I are going to Europe so we dropped our dogs off with her family in Lubbock this weekend. The Hou BBQ Throwdown was being held on Sunday so we only spent 14 hours in Lubbock. I had an excellent time last year, and I was not going to miss this year's event. All the participants elevated their BBQ fusion game this year. The competition was fierce, and with each new bite, you were in store for something wonderful and/or unique. Everyone who attended the Throwdown went home as winners.
The calm before the rush
Blood Bros. BBQ - Gochujang Beef Belly Burnt Ends

Gochujang Beef Belly Burnt Ends w/ Korean salad and pickled onions
Brooks’ Place BBQ - Brisket and boudin stuffed bell peppers w/ a beef oxtails twist
Brisket and boudin stuffed bell peppers w/ a beef oxtails twist
The Brisket House - Beef rib ala Veracruz

Cubed beef rib, Veracruz sauce, served over rice and pico de gallo
Corkscrew BBQ - Smoked chile mac-n-cheese

Creamy cheddar mac-n-cheese, smoked hatch green chile with pepper crusted prime beef rib
Feges BBQ - Beef belly burnt ends, pimento cheese grits, braised greens, bourbon cane syrup, pickled red onions, and chives
Beef belly burnt ends, pimento cheese grits, braised greens, bourbon cane syrup, pickled red onions, and chives
Killen's STQ - short rib tamale, smoked beef ravioli, and smoked short rib umami
Short rib tamale, pork belly and brisket chile de arbol con carne, queso fresco, and micro cilantro
Smoked beef short rib ravioli, port demi cream, parmesan, and fall black truffle
Smoked short rib umami
Midtown Barbeque - Smoked prime rib with chimichurri sauce
Smoked prime rib with chimichurri sauce
Pappa Charlies Barbeque - Short rib vindaloo with paneer queso
Short rib vindaloo with paneer queso
The Pit Room - Chopped brisket taco with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and salsa roja
Chopped brisket taco with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and salsa roja
Pizzitola’s Bar-B-Cue - Pulled pork & waffles
Smoked jalapeño, cheddar and green onion waffle with pulled pork, pit-candied pecans and sweet pork sauce
Ray's BBQ Shack - Muddy Waters sausage
Seafood sausage with shrimp, crawfish, crab meat, and pork
Roegel’s Barbecue Co - Smoked pork belly with surf and turf boudin
Smoked pork belly with surf and turf boudin
Tejas Chocolate Craftory - Santo braised smoked pork cheeks tostada
Santo braised smoked pork cheeks, pinto whip, avocado verde cue sauce, pickled red onion, and cilantro on a crisp corn tortilla
Tin Roof BBQ - Smoked tomahawk prime rib
Smoked tomahawk prime rib with Back Pew milk stout Au Jus and horseradish cream

A judge digging in
Judges table
Judges: Eric Sandler, Pat Sharpe, Wayne Mueller, Lily Jang, and Robert J. Lerma
Judges' Choice : Killen's STQ
People's Choice : Feges BBQ
"The tray"
Until next time, happy smoking...