When Britt (my wife) and I moved to Austin this past September we noticed a big blank spot on South First, just a few blocks north of our house. Then a sign came up that said JMueller BBQ. Every time I drove by, I’d pull into the lot and yell “Where the hell is it?!”
Finally I used my internet sleuthing skills to find out JMueller BBQ was slated to open soon. At the time, I wasn’t very familiar with the Mueller name so I did a little research.
John Mueller is the grandson of the legendary Louie Mueller who started Louie Mueller Barbecue up in Taylor, TX. Of course, I’ve been to Louie Mueller, but that’s a story for another day.
One day, I hope to get the full details of John Mueller’s barbecue history, but for now here’s what I know:
John worked at Louie Mueller for 15ish (so I’ve heard) years before coming to Austin to open a joint on Manor (pronounced “may-nor”) in East Austin. That lasted from 2001-2006. On JMueller’s website, it says that the “business shuttered amongst a tornado of controversy” and then John “disappeared”.
I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I can tell you one thing: I must know the story. I’m sure John will tell me one day. Whether he’ll let me share it is something else.
I also know that John employed Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue for a while. He also sold Aaron the smoker from his Manor joint that closed.
Anyway, in early October JMueller BBQ opened for business. That day, I was the second person in line to taste his magical brisket. I was hooked.
I’ve been to JMueller multiple times but I want to write this story/review based on my most recent experience. See, JMueller just changed their hours to Wednesday-Sunday and closed Monday and Tuesday. So Chris, Britt, some other friends and myself decided to get some Sunday ‘cue.
I knew about how many people would be eating with me later, so I placed the order before we got there. How far ahead is a closely guarded secret
I got 1lb of moist, 1lb of lean, 2 beef ribs, a pork chop, one pork sausage and one beef sausage. When we actually got there later we added potato salad, chipotle slaw and yellow squash.
First let’s talk about the brisket. On my Top BBQ page, I say that I won’t declare one place my favorite. That’s bullshit and I’m changing it.
Chris will argue with me about this, but I’m just gonna say it: John Mueller has the best brisket I’ve ever tasted.
His brisket has a pepper bark that is unparalleled and a smoke ring that is just glorious. The only way I can describe the bark is that it is brisket candy. It’s sweet, crunchy, melts the second it hits your mouth, very peppery. It is the definition of perfection.
I know all the old school Central Texas folks and other barbecue eaters may say that Lockhart or elsewhere has the best brisket. They’re wrong. I refuse to believe that their palates are as refined as mine. Granted, I still need to go to Snow’s out in Lexington, TX but if Kreuz, Black’s, Smitty’s, Chisholm Trail, Louie Mueller, Franklin, City Market and others are definitely not as good as JMueller, I can’t imagine that Snow’s will be better.
Now let’s talk about the beef rib. Dear. God. You can’t imagine. They were huge, fell off the bone, had John’s signature pepper bark, massive amount of smoke flavor. Just really damn good. This beef rib shames all others. I LOVE it.
Both sausages were perfectly spiced, moist but not oily, excellent smoke. John Mueller makes some great sausages. In fact, they are some of my favorites. The casing pops like a firecracker when you bite into it. It just doesn’t get any better.
The pork chop was moist and smoky and really tasty. In fact, the brisket, beef rib and pork chop are absolutely my favorite things at JMueller. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sausages. But few establishments are capable of producing a perfect, tender pork chop.
Let’s not forget the sauce. Anyone who has ever been to Louie Mueller can see the similarity, but John has taken it to a whole new level. This is definitely my favorite Texas-style sauce. Big chunks of onion, plenty of pepper and spice. Just heavenly.
Finally, we’ve got the sides: mustard potato salad, chipotle coleslaw and yellow squash. All very good, but the squash definitely won. The squash was cheesy and just plain yummy. The squash pieces could have been a little more al dente, but let’s be honest: I wasn’t there for sides. They were requested by others in the group
If you’re keeping track, you’ll notice there is something missing from my list: pork ribs. There’s a reason for that and I’ll have to get into it another time.
JMueller, to me, is barbecue. Everything about JMueller makes me happy: the location, the trailer set up with all outdoor seating, obviously the food, the employees.
My limited interactions with John have been great. He seems like a “to the point” kind of guy. John tries to move his line as fast as possible which means you won’t have any 2 hour waits here. He also loves his regulars and always sees us off with a “See ya next week!” Jokes on him. I’ll be back in 3 days.
If you are in Austin and have time for just one barbecue joint, it must be JMueller. Nothing else compares. Forget Stubb’s, Iron Works and the like. Go straight to JMueller and never look back.
Check out the rest of my pictures below.