Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Where to Eat BBQ Frito Pie in Austin

I have been eating a lot of barbecue Frito pies lately. 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 are five good options in Austin:

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. Of course I had to add sausage and a pork rib to make my own Texas Trinity of Frito pie.
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...

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Beast

Amber and I were exploring Europe for the first time. We had already been to London and parts of Switzerland. I actually ate some barbecue from Brisket and Southern BBQ & Bar in Zurich, Switzerland. Paris was our last stop before heading stateside. I first heard about a Texas BBQ joint in Paris, France from J.C. Reid in this Houston Chronicle article. I was looking forward to the visit to The Beast. This was my BBQ pick for this trip. Thomas Abramowicz is the owner. He was at the 2015 Hou BBQ Festival, but our paths never crossed that day. Read the TMBBQ interview with Thomas to read about his story. While we were in London, I also saw that the Washington Post wrote a piece on The Beast. I was hoping the wait was not going to be crazy because of the article.

Thomas learned the craft of Texas BBQ from Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue. He also spent some time with Wes Jurena of Pappa Charlies Barbeque. That is a great group of mentors. Thomas even got his smoker built in Mesquite, TX from J&R and shipped almost 5000 miles. I was going to "meat" up with fellow American, Jamin, of Pigskin Pursuit. He recently relocated there from Dallas. When we arrived at the restaurant, there was plenty of seating available. The menu is setup like your typical Texas BBQ joint. Meats by the pound and a few side options. Amber ordered a brisket sandwich, Jamin got the Big Boy (a beef rib, a side, and a drink) with some jalapeño and cheese sausage, and I went with moist brisket, baby back pork ribs, and sides of macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes with gravy.

My mouth was in for a treat when I bit into the tender, juicy brisket rubbed with black pepper and salt. It tasted like home. The French oak gave the meat a nice mild smoke without being overpowering. The pork rib was really meaty and easy to bite into. The seasoning was on the sweeter side, but I felt like the rub was muted. The pork ribs needed more pop. I sampled some of Jamin's beef rib and sausage. The influences from the Mueller clan are obviously there with the black pepper heavy crust on the beef rib. There was a good balance of tenderness, smokiness, and richness. The sausage had a good snap and flavor. I wanted more cheese and heat from the jalapeño though. The mac and cheese and mashed potatoes were delicious. When I was eating them, I would assume I was in Paris, TX not Paris, France.
Thomas Abramowicz and the impressive bourbon wall
The Beast. Texas BBQ. Paris, France. Who would have thought this combination would work? It definitely does. If you are ever in Paris and missing home, visiting The Beast will help. You do not even need to be missing home to come by. Want a superb meal in Paris? Go to The Beast. Good BBQ. Good drinks. Win-win. The place was packed when we were leaving. People were waiting for tables. Thomas and crew have something great going. I felt sluggish after the meal. I was not used to eating so much meat. It was time to return back to the states. Back to eating barbecue a few times a week... Grade: N/A
J&R rotisserie smoker

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 27 Rue Meslay, 75003 Paris, France
Phone: +33 7 81 02 99 77 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thebeastparis/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thebeastparis

Monday, February 8, 2016

Chinese BBQ

What is Chinese BBQ?

It does not meet the definitions of Texas BBQ for sure. All the meats are roasted. Some much longer than others. The three types of meat I love are BBQ pork, roasted pork, and roasted duck. The BBQ pork aka char siu is red, sticky, and sweet. Typically the cut of pork is shoulder or loin. When my sister and I were growing up, our mom would often make char sui in the oven at home. Roasted duck (sometimes called Peking duck) was my favorite growing up. The meat is fatty and rich. I can probably eat half of a duck and a few bowls of rice by myself. I am more of a fan of the roasted pork now. It is essentially pork belly with less fat and a skin of a crackling together. If done right, the results are spectacular.

I grew up eating Chinese BBQ in Cleveland, OH. There were a couple of places that did it in town. We had cousins that lived in Toronto, Canada so we would visit them a couple of times a year. The drive was not that bad at all. Under five hours. The Chinatown in Toronto is one of bigger ones that I have been to. I remember on every trip, we would come back with a few roasted ducks and some roasted pork. When growing up in Katy, we go to Chinatown in Houston almost every weekend. We get our BBQ fix there. Houston's Chinatown is humongous. Some of the street signs even have Chinese characters on them.

There are three places in Austin that does Chinese BBQ. Here are my thoughts for each one.

Din Ho Chinese BBQ

This was the first place I ever ate at in Austin. It was when my parents drove me to Austin for a campus visit at UT. I ate here every chance I had in college. The char siu was dry on this visit. The duck was juicy and had a lot of flavor. Outstanding. The roasted pork was salty, and the skin was not as crispy as I would like it to be.

Ho Ho Chinese B.B.Q.

I did not know this place existed for a long time. I would go here frequently if it was closer to me. The char siu here was moist and soft. Nice flavor. The duck was juicy and had a lot of meat on the bone. Out of bounds. That is how I describe the roasted pork here. The meat is tender and flavorful. The skin is nice and crispy. If I bought a slab of pork from Ho Ho, I can finish it in two days. No lies.

First Chinese BBQ

It is located in the Chinatown shopping center. When I go shopping at MT Supermarket in Chinatown, I would often go to First Chinese and order some of the meats to-go for future meals. The Char Siu was sweet and candy-like on this day. The meat was a little chewy though. The duck was rich and fatty. Solid. The roasted pork was nice and tender. The skin was crispy. It looked like the skin was separated from the meat and then were both chopped. Weird.

Overall, each place has their strong point. The roasted pork at Ho Ho is wonderful. The roasted duck is superb at Din Ho. Din Ho was my go to and then it was replaced by First Chinese. Ho Ho is now on top. I am not sure Austin could support a fourth Chinese BBQ location right now. Maybe someday, preferably in South Austin. Who knows?

Until next time, happy smoking...

Din Ho Chinese BBQ
Address: 8557 Research Blvd #116, Austin, TX 78758
Phone: (512) 832-8788

Ho Ho Chinese B.B.Q.
Address: 13000 N IH 35, Austin, TX 78753
Phone: (512) 339-9088

First Chinese BBQ
Address: 10901 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753
Phone: (512) 835-8889

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Brisket Southern BBQ & Bar

One day, Amber was browsing Tumblr when she saw roundtrip tickets from NYC/JFK to London for under 500 bucks. We did not have any plans to go to Europe at that point but that all changed in 30 minutes. The Smoking Ho is going international! I am only allowed one BBQ stop per trip. I picked The Beast in Paris which you can read about next time. Our friends, who used to live in Austin, that live in Bern, Switzerland chose the place for us to eat at dinner. They selected a barbecue restaurant in Zurich. Yes! A loophole. I told the husband months ago about it. Planting the seed... They picked us up at airport after our flight landed from London, and we headed straight to Brisket Southern BBQ & Bar. Parking is located above the restaurant which we missed (we paid for public parking). The interior space of the restaurant was very dimly lit and had a refine feel to it.

Shiner Bock was on the drink menu so I had to get one. A little piece of home 5,000 miles away. There were quite a few choices on the dinner menu. I wanted to order The Holy Trinity at the very least, but they were out of the beef sausage. There was a minimum order of two people per platter. I thought this was weird. I wanted to try everything so I felt a little constricted. The guys ordered the Lone Star which came with brisket, pulled pork, and pork belly. The ladies got a platter that came with brisket, pork ribs, and shredded chicken. We got two orders of the macaroni and cheese, sweet potato and pumpkin gratin, and BBQ beans as sides on the platters.

The meats are smoked using peach and pear woods. The coffee and black pepper brisket was surprisingly good. It was tender and had enough smoke to my liking. The meat had a good flavor. The pork ribs were really thick and meaty but also really fatty. I am not sure where they got the cut from. I feel like the butcher left on too much of the belly. It tasted fine but with the extra fat, it was too rich for my taste. The pulled pork came heavy sauced. I liked it okay, but the meat did not have a chance to shine through. A sloppy mess. Similar to eating chopped beef. The shredded chicken was very different. It reminded me of fajita meat. The texture and taste was not what I was expecting. The pork belly was great. It was tasty and smoky. If I was not so full, I would have eaten all of it. Disclaimer: I was not used to eating this much meat since we left the states. I enjoyed the macaroni and cheese and the sweet potato and pumpkin gratin. The BBQ beans were just meh.

Brisket Southern BBQ & Bar had some strengths and weaknesses. The strengths outweighed the weaknesses here. If you are an ex-pat living in Switzerland or traveling through Zurich, make a stop here. The brisket lived up to its namesake. I was in a meat coma after we left. It has been a while since that has happened. Grade: N/A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: Pfingstweidstrasse 6, 8005 Zürich, Switzerland
Phone: +41 44 241 20 20
Website: http://www.brisket.ch/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brisket.bbq.ch/