Monday, November 25, 2013

Cafe Mueller at HEB

Amber and I were going to grab some Vietnamese food for dinner, but it seems like all the restaurants in that genre close at 9 pm. We live in Kyle so we were looking for a new place to try in Austin at this point. We have had heard good things about the cafe at the new HEB in the Mueller development. Some of our friends have gone as far as saying it is the best barbecue they have ever had. What?!  Whole Food does decent barbecue, but how about HEB? It had opened recently. The cafe at Central Market is pretty good, but Central Market is a step up from HEB. I was not sure what I was getting myself into.

Amber ordered a Cuban sandwich, and I got the three meat plate. I got the usual hat trick of moist brisket, pork ribs, and sausage with sides of potato salad and creamed corn. I bit into the brisket and was surprised. What is this? Good brisket from a grocery store? The bark was nice with a good smoke ring. The brisket was tender and tasty. I feel like the brisket could have been even better if I went there much earlier in the day. I bite into the ribs and was even more confused. Good ribs from a grocery store? They had a nice sweet glaze and smoky. The meat resisted a little bit coming off the bone but still tender. I bit into the all-beef sausage and was brought back to earth. It was just okay. It was very meaty and did not have enough fat content. The grit and casing was ideal though. The creamed corn was okay and not to be confused with the kind you would find at Rudy's. The potato salad was creamy and yummy. As you can see there is a lot of food on the plate, and I could not finish it off.

It was a pleasantly good dining experience. The prices are very reasonable here. You are not just limited to barbecue. They have pasta, sandwiches, pizza, Asian, and the list goes on. There is so much going on here. They have various Texas brews on draft as well. There are flaws for me to review Cafe Mueller after one visit, but their Q is definitely legit nonetheless. Considering my first visit was surprisingly good, I will definitely be back to make sure this is no fluke. Grade: B+

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 1801 E 51st St, Austin, TX 78723
Phone: (512) 474-2199


Monday, November 18, 2013

Bowie BBQ at Whole Foods

I am a fan of the Whole Foods. They have all kinds of prepared food for people on the run. I can definitely eat my way through the store. I wish they offered an all you can eat option. Whole Foods even smoke their own barbecue on site called Bowie BBQ. You can smell it instantly when you pull into the parking garage at the headquarters location downtown Austin. The only disadvantage would be it does get really busy in the store, and parking can be a pain.

There is a menu, but you are really not limited to it. You walk around the store and pick up anything else you want. Brisket sandwich and clam chowder? Sure why not? I ordered my usual of moist brisket, pork ribs and sausage this day. The pricing is very good, and it also came with sides of potato salad and macaroni and cheese. There was a lot of food on my plate. The brisket was tender but dry. It was smoky, but the bark was boring. It needed more rub and fat. The ribs had a nice sweet glaze with the meat coming off the bone. It was good, tender, and smoky. The sausage made in house did not have a lot of smoke going on. It was a jalapeno pork sausage with a nice snap to the casing. I really liked the sausage a lot. It had a good flavor with a little bit of spiciness to it. The potato salad was bland. It was mustard based with bits of egg in it. The macaroni and cheese was really cheesy, and they used penne pasta. Of course I still liked it. Bowie does not have any bread, but they gave me a bun that they used on their sandwiches. This is one of the rare occurrences where I was not able to eat everything

While your wife is shopping or you need to grab a few groceries and also need a bite, you cannot go wrong with Bowie BBQ. If you were blindfolded, you would never guess this barbecue came from a grocery store. I have had the pulled pork sandwich in the past, and it is quite tasty. Amber McGee loves the chicken salad where they use smoked chicken in it. If you go out with people who do not want barbecue (obviously there is something wrong with these types of people), they can grab something else in the store. Grade: B-

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 525 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
Phone: (512) 542-2200

Monday, November 11, 2013

Live Oak Barbecue (closed)

About two years ago, some friends and I wanted some Franklin Barbecue for lunch. It was around 10 am, but the line was pretty long already. The one of the employees said we would probably not get any brisket. It was time for plan B. Another one of our friends had tried a new place called Live Oak Barbecue close by. He thought it was borderline terrible. I remember when I tried it the first time, I thought it was good. It was time for me to jog my memory. I was able to get there from work and back within 45 minutes so it was ideal for me to go there today.

The prices were very affordable. I ordered a two meat plate with moist brisket and ribs and potato salad and beans as the sides. I also added a link of sausage. The brisket itself was tender. What ruined it was the bark. It had a bitter terrible taste to it. Possibly due to too much smoke? The pork ribs were good. They were tender and smoky. They had a good flavor to  them. The sausage was the highlight of the meal. It had a great casing with snap, and the flavor was great. The fat content and grit was ideal. It was rich and meaty.

This place can be good. It is hard for me to come back when I know there are better options within a mile of Live Oak. They have Saturday specials where they smoke other cuts of meat sometimes even exotic. Grade: B-

Until next time, happy smoking...

Monday, November 4, 2013

TMBBQ Fest 2013

So the New York marathon was this weekend. One of my friends ran his first marathon in it. Congratulations Juan! I had my own marathon on Sunday as well.

I used to think Christmas only came twice a year, the start of the Longhorn football season and obvious the real Christmas. Well you know how this football season started out for us Longhorns. This weekend was the Texas Monthly's Barbecue Festival. This is their fourth year to put it on. I went to it the second year and was drunk off of meat at the end. I started to feel delirious, and some of the meats just did not taste right at the end. The last thing I tried was Franklin's lean brisket, and it was still excellent (you guys should know by now I am not a lean brisket type of guy). This event might be my third Christmas of the year.

I put in a little training in before the event. I ate a lot of veggies on Friday and had a Chinese buffet for lunch on Saturday. On Sunday morning, I just ate a banana to get my metabolism going. I wanted to maximize my stomach space. I met up with Lisa from the blog Full and Content and Tom of Micklethwait Craft Meats to start the festival off. I had a plan of attack for this year. I was going to skip places I have been to and try everything else. This was going to be a marathon not a sprint. I am just going to recap what I ate at the event and not treat this as a review.

The place I really wanted to try most was Pecan Lodge. They were one of the top barbecue restaurants in the state. The wait here can be just as long as Franklin. I just have not had a reason to go to Dallas as of late. They were the first stop on my list. The brisket was excellent with a great crust. The sausage was good and flavorful. Based on this small sample size, I have to go to Dallas soon. They also apparently have an awesome beef rib. Later when I walked by, they had run out of everything. That makes sense.

Tyler’s Barbeque (Amarillo) was next. The brisket was good and so were the ribs. It had a nice sweet glaze.

We hit up Lockhart Smokehouse (Dallas) next. We were jumping from one line to the next. This was faster that I wanted to go. I was going to have to ditch my eating buddies. Remember, this was 26.2 miles we are talking about and not a 5K. I had to pace myself. The brisket was okay. It was a little chewy and had an interesting rub on it. Not picture was the baby back that I got. It was really good.

At mile/stop 4 was Hutchins BBQ (McKinney). The brisket was good and smoky. The pulled pork was a little salty, but it was still tasty and full of flavor.

Opie’s Barbecue (Spicewood) is pretty close to Austin. I was thinking about doing a road trip there soon. The brisket was smoky and good. The turkey was moist and tender. The jalapeño cheese was spicy but okay.

I thought the ribs at Pody’s BBQ (Pecos) were really good. It had a sweet glaze. The brisket was just okay.

Hatfield’s BBQ (Rockport) did a good job with their brisket and sausage. The sausage casing had a nice pop. The ribs were a little bit too saucy though.

I started to slow down before I got to Miller’s Smokehouse (Belton). Their brisket was really good. It was tender and smoky. The sausage had a nice snap to it.

I was excited about Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue (Tyler). Their ribs were excellent. Yes they were saucy, but it worked out just right. The sausage was just okay.

Buzzie’s Bar-B-Q (Kerrville) smoked good sausage and ribs. The brisket was just a little boring.

I hit the wall at City Meat Market (Giddings). This happens to me around mile 20 or so during my race. This becomes a true test of your character. Do you fight back or just barely finish? Everything I tasted here felt blah to me. The brisket, ribs, and sausage were just okay. This is probably not a true reflection of their barbecue, and I do apologize for that.

I fought on to Austin’s BBQ and Catering (Eagle Lake). Their brisket and sausage were good. This was also the first time at the event that I had barbecue sauce. It was already in the bowl when I got it. I had to grab some lemonade after this to see if I had anything left in tank.

Cousin’s Bar-B-Q (Fort Worth) was the final stop of the joints that I have never been to. Their brisket was really good. I want some more when I think about it. Their sausage was just okay. Not only do I need to make it to Dallas, I probably need to plan some kind of metroplex barbecue road trip. Who is in?

I was starting to see the arbitrary finish line when I headed to La Barbecue (Austin). I was surprised to see John Lewis (pitmaster) slicing up brisket. The last time I saw him slicing brisket was when he was still working at Franklin. The brisket was superb as usual. I felt like I was done eating and could not even muster up some energy to pick up the sausage.

I walked around a little bit, snapped some shots, and talked to people. When I was walking by the Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor) booth, I saw that he had brought the sweet jalapeño barbecue sauce. I knew I had to try it with his beef ribs. It was the perfect combination! His tender, peppery, and smoky ribs with the sweet and spicy sauce was the perfect way to end the day on a high note. I was done! My time was just under two hours.

Here are the other barbecue joints I have eaten at and did not get a chance to sample at the festival.

Black’s Barbecue (Lockhart)
Franklin Barbecue (Austin)- The obligatory image of the line at Franklin booth. Even at the festival, there was a long line. Aaron Franklin did have to pull out the sold out sign later. They apparently went through 1600 pounds of meat.

Hays Co. Bar-B-Que and Catering (San Marcos)
Lamberts Downtown Barbecue (Austin)

Snow’s BBQ (Lexington)
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew (Austin)

When I was leaving the event, I was so full. I was thinking to myself "why do I always do this to myself?" I have the same thoughts go through my head when I am running a marathon. "This is stupid. Why I am doing it?" But the very next morning after the race, I am ready to run another one. As I write this post today, I am hungry for some more brisket. Go figure. As when I was leaving the festival, I saw my eating buddies, Lisa and Tom. They had made it to about 10 places. I would say I reached my goal with this barbecue marathon.

Thanks to Daniel Vaughn and Texas Monthly for getting me into the event. And yes, I did run seven miles Sunday morning.

Until next time, happy smoking...