Prause Meat Market

The second stop on my trip to the Houston BBQ Festival was at Prause Meat Market. This joint lives in the small town of La Grange, TX. La Grange was hoppin’ when I was there; flower market, traffic, tons of small town commerce. It was pretty neat.

Prause was also pretty busy. I waited in line about 20 minutes along with quite a few other people. I later came to find out that there were two funerals and whenever there are funerals, Prause gets busy.

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Moist and lean brisket, sausage and country style pork rib.
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Sausages cooking in the pit. This room smelled heavenly.
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Brick pits built in 1953.
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Cutters working hard. There was a decent sized line during my visit.

Actually, I had the chance to spend a minute with the owner and found out some interesting stories. Apparently his grandfather started another BBQ joint and during the depression ran it on credit. That business eventually failed. Then in 1953 his father and uncle, who had just returned from the war, started Prause Meat Market at the current location. They’ve been using the same sausage recipe for generations, but the exact style originates from 1953.

While in line, I got to snoop on the folks in front of me to see what they were ordering. Most people were ordering sausage. Once again, a gentlemen in front of me had a huge sausage order. I believe his was 25 links and 3lbs of brisket.

When it was my turn, I got the standard 1 slice of lean, 1 slice of moist, and 1 sausage. Prause doesn’t cook pork ribs, but they do make country style ribs so I ordered them, too.

The first bite I had was the lean brisket.  It was really dry, so I had to put it down. A smart pit boss once told me that you always cook brisket for the lean.

Next up was the moist brisket. The moist had great flavor and lots of smoke, but the texture just wasn’t there for me. Also, the fat needed a bit more rendering. With a few tweaks this brisket could be really great. Unfortunately, it just didn’t do it for me.

I knew that I had to have that sausage. Folks, the half pork, half beef sausage was great. Excellent smoke flavor, perfect amount of juice explosion when you bite into it. What caught my attention was the casing. I kid you not, it was the best casing of any sausage ever. When it popped it made this glorious sound and had the perfect texture. I loved it.

The only thing I really wanted to see more of was black pepper. That would have added a depth to the flavor and instantly positioned this sausage among my favorites.

The country style pork rib was not my cup of tea. It was tough and generally flavorless. Honestly, I think they should just ditch them and focus more on the brisket or consider adding in pork ribs.

I definitely think Prause Meat Market should be on every BBQ aficionado’s list. My recommendation would be to go light on the brisket and focus on the sausage. In fact, you may just want to order all sausage because of how great it is.

Zimmerhanzel’s Bar-B-Que

My Houston BBQ Festival weekend started early. It was 9:30am and I was 6th in line at Zimmerhanzel’s in Smithville, TX. There was a slight scent of post oak in the room and the three blessed meat cutters were hard at work.

The gentlemen in front of me ordered 40 links of sausage. This was a good omen, if you ask me. Nobody orders 10lbs of bad sausage.

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Sausage (one of my favorites), brisket and pork rib from Zimmerhanzel’s.

I was up and ready to go with my order:

  • 1 slice of lean, 1 slice of moist
  • 1 sausage link
  • 1 pork rib

That’s my standard order when I go on a muti-joint BBQ trip. And most people will be quite surprised to learn that I rarely eat all of it. However, Zimmerhanzel’s proved to be an exception.

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Three pits in a pavilion. Trifecta of winning.
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The main pit at Zimmerhanzel’s. Greatness comes from within.
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Zimmerhanzel’s kitchen.

I started with the brisket. The fat was rendered really well and the texture was like slightly firm pot roast. It held together well and had a fantastic smoke ring.

My first bite was of the lean. In my opinion, if you nail the lean you are truly a pit master. And Zimmerhanzel’s nailed it. Perfect smokey flavor, amazing texture, melted in my mouth.

Next up was the moist brisket. As expected, it was great. Tons of smoke, excellent fat and incredible texture. I wanted to eat this by the car load.

I had to go with the sausage as my next item. As I took my first bite, time slowed down. The snap of the casing. The slight squirt of rendered fat into my mouth. The burn of the black pepper. My God.

The sausage was so good, so perfect, that my only criticism is that if it had slightly more smoke, it would be the best sausage I’ve ever had. Yes, it was amazing. Yes, it is worth driving to Zimmerhanzel’s just to eat the sausage.

Last, but absolutely not least, was the pork rib. Folks, this is what I think of when I think of a classic Texas style pork rib. The texture was slightly firm but came easily off the bone. Lots of black pepper. Wow. This rib is amazing. Simple and perfect.

I did taste the sauce, but folks, I just don’t care about sauce at a place that serves meat like this.

No matter where I go, I love to check out the pits. The folks at Zimmerhanzel’s let me in the back to capture a few pictures.

In total there are 4 pits on the grounds. The main pit is indoor and is always full of sausage and brisket. Outside, there is a small pavilion with three more pits. On Saturdays, they run another pit outside to accomodate the hundreds of pounds of handmade sausage, brisket, pork ribs, chicken and pork butt they sell.

The other two pits are only used when it gets really busy. I’m assuming that means a catering gig.

My first stop on the way to Houston BBQ Festival was quite incredible. I absolutely cannot wait to return and show off one of my new favorite joints to my fellow BBQ lovers.

HouBBQ Weekend 2013

It should be obvious by now that I love barbecue. But on the weekend of March 23 I’ll be taking it to a whole new level. I’ve been to festivals before and I’ve been on barbecue tours. However this will be my first time spending three days eating and writing about barbecue. No other distractions.

Here’s the line up for Saturday, 3/23

Here’s a map of the trip.

Of course, on 3/24 I’ll be at the Houston BBQ Festival sampling tons of BBQ all day long. I can’t wait to see if Houston can serve up anything even remotely close to what Austin/Central Texas is doing. I’ve been to Gatlin’s, so I know there’s definitely hope.

Finally, on Monday the 25th I’ll be hitting a few more joints on my way back to Austin. Here’s that line up:

And here’s a map for this leg of the trip.

If you add up all the different joints I’ll be eating at during HouBBQ, that will put me at TWENTY ONE for the weekend. Damn, that’s a lot of eatin’!

Drop me a line in the comments if you’ll be at HouBBQ or connect with me on twitter.

Four Places To Eat Right Now

It’s late and you’re starving. Where should you go eat? Even if you’ve lived in Austin for years that’s a tough question.

Here’s my (short) list of late night joints where you’re guaranteed a win.

  • 24 Dinermap – 24 has everything you want in a diner. Except better than all the others. I’d go with a bacon Gorgonzola or bacon avocado burger. If you want something sinfully delicious, try the chicken and waffles. Want breakfast food? Get 2 fried eggs, a side of veggie sausage and a side of real sausage. Oh, and drink some coffee. Hell. Drink all the coffee.
  • La Mexicanamap – In the mood for Mexican food? One of the only 24 hour taco joints in town is on S 1st and is chock full of greatness. I enjoy the barbacoa and carnitas tacos. Skip the quesadilla here. It admittedly sucks. However, definitely eat up all the Mexican baked goods you can. Everything is made in house and it is awesome. I love the pink cookies and anything with frosting.
  • Magnolia Cafemap – There are two Magnolia Cafe locations in Austin, but for some reason I swear the Lake Austin location is better. I love the omelets, particularly the T Rex. The migas are also very good here. If you’re in the mood for TexMex, try an enchilada or quesadilla: they’re all packed with flavor and are guaranteed to hit the spot. But let’s face it: the best thing here are the pancakes. I love the gingerbread, but the default buttermilk are great, too.
  • Kerbey Lanemap – There are a couple Kerbey Lanes in town but the South location is nice and new. I always end up with a hamburger or an enchilada. This is yet another great place for migas. If you’re looking for something sweeter, get the French toast platter. Oh, and drink plenty of coffee here as its a little weaker than other diners in Austin.

10 Restaurants Away from SXSW Crowds

Every Austinite gets burned out on SXSW crowds at some point. It just isn’t possible to go hard for 20 days in a row. As much as we all love free booze and alt party girls, one can only take so much.

So when you’re ready to dodge the crowds and get some peace, use my list of 10 places to dodge all the SXSW insanity.

Note: these are in no particular order. Also, I’ve selected restaurants in the middle to lower price range. Without booze, two people can eat at every place on this list for under $30 and be totally satiated.

  • Satellite Bistromap – Way down south in the suburbs of Circle C — shutter — sits a fantastic little bistro and bar. I’ve been a few times now and I have to say I really enjoy this place. Go for brunch on Sunday and enjoy the tasteful live music while enjoying some eggs benedict. I had the Flying Saucer which is vegetarian (gasp!) and I also sampled the burger special which had caramelized onions, blue cheese and was cooked to perfection. The scalloped potatoes were to die for. I could have eaten a whole meal of them. If you go for dinner, I surprisingly enjoyed the scallops (though, they could have had a little more crust), any of the burgers and if you want all veg, the chefs veggies are just a giant plate of vegetables cooked in white miso. And they rock.
  • Red’s Porchmap – Red’s (as locals call it) is one of my go tos in the event that I can’t make a decision about what to eat and I just want some damn good food and a pint (or three) of some local brews. The “Porch” part of the name stems from the fact they have a massive porch on the second level that looks out over the Barton Creek Greenbelt. My favorite meal here is the Smokehouse Chicken. Pay an extra $1 and get the spinach casserole. You won’t be sorry. I also love the burgers. The manimal and black & blue are fine burgers, but I’ll just take a bacon and cheddar. If you want to go a little southern, have some pot roast or chicken fried steak.
  • Baker Street Pubmap – You’re probably wondering what a chain restaurant is doing on my list. Well, Baker Street is a fun place to drink and has a great patio. They also have open mic nights where both talented and maladroit musicians come to show their skills (or lack thereof). The menu isn’t nearly as exciting as the local/draft beer selection (currently 36 on tap). At some point, you’ll want to offset all the beer with some food. Go with a burger, fish taco or you can eat my staple: chopped cobb with extra chicken. Baker Street isn’t fancy, but the crowd is cool, you can bring your dog and the beer is cold.
  • Azul Tequilamap – This is one of my very favorite Mexican establishments in town and is also on the Fed Man 55. If you like mole (say moh-lay), you absolutely must get it here. I think it’s the best in town by a landslide. I also really enjoy the cochinita pibil, but my favorite dish (aside from the mole) is the Pescado Al Mojo De Ajo. It’s a huge slab of fish with lots of garlic and butter. Yes, please! For a side dish definitely get the refried beans. They could be the best in Austin. Try out the queso flameado or the queso compuesto if you have a queso hankering. And don’t forget to drink some tequila. I like Tres Generaciones Resposado. It’s a reasonable price and quite good.
  • Bone Daddy’smap – Bone Daddy’s is a small Texas only chain that is basically bar food you can get at any old place. However, there is one menu item here that is outstanding: chicken wings. You’re probably asking yourself “what makes theirs better than anywhere else?” They are smoked and grilled and served whole. I’m telling you right now they are probably the best in town. The beer selection here is acceptable, but nothing to write home about. Did I mention the servers are all beautiful Texas gals? You’re welcome.
  • Workhorse Barmap – Workhorse is a relaxed little place on North Loop that always has an excellent local beer selection, many times pouring special brews from in and around Central Texas. The menu is incredibly simple which makes ordering easy. To start, I’d absolutely go with the White Wings. Chicken, bacon and jalapenos cuddled up and drenched in wing sauce. It’s really tasty. You don’t have to get the hamburger, but I absolutely would and I’d add cheddar. For your side get the sweet potato fries and don’t look back.
  • Tarkamap 1, map 2 – Tarka is kind of like the Qdoba or Chipotle of Indian food. Fast, fresh and very good every single time. Without a doubt the two best things on the menu are the korma (I always get lamb and my wife gets double veggie) and the mirch masala (again, I always get lamb). Their korma is different than others I’ve had with more pureed cashew. Trust me, this is a good thing.
  • Jack Allen’smap – If you can make it to Jack Allen’s for Sunday brunch, you have won. It is a massive and affordably priced buffet with everything you can imagine. For starters (so, not the buffet) I like the bacon wrapped quail, layered queso, beef rib quesadilla and blue crab gratin. For entrees, I love the green chile cheeseburger. But, if you’re burgered out (which can happen in Austin) try the ruby trout, the chorizo stuffed pork tenderloin, fish tacos or if you want a real artery clogger go for the chicken fried beef rib. I don’t eat chicken fried stuff, but if that’s your thing you will absolutely love it.
  • Hopdoddymap – You want Hopdoddy but you don’t want to deal with South Congress? I don’t blame you. South Congress is a tourist hell on the weekends. But I’ve got good news: there is another. Hopdoddy North has all the same awesome, is slightly bigger, and even though it will still have a line, the line moves faster in my experience. I really don’t think I need to recommend anything specific because you literally cannot order anything bad off the menu. One piece of advice: if you get the chili cheese fries, get extra chili cheese or you may end up fighting over it.
  • Drink.Wellmap – Drink.Well is a pub. That means you order your food at the bar and come back to the bar to pick it up. There are no servers. All tables first come, first serve. They have a of really nice cocktails here. I tend to order Old Fashioneds at cocktail bars and the one I had here was pretty tasty. There’s also plenty of beer, wine and spirits. Your alcohol lust should be easily satiated. For food, I’d go with the burger for sure. Add bacon, pulled pork and a fried egg if you need some extra calories. If you’re looking for something lighter, try the Ratatouille on Rye. If you want something even lighter, just eat a handful of nuts and drink more booze.

Where To Eat For SXSW

There are a ton of articles and blog posts out there with recommendations on where to eat in Austin for SXSW. Not a single one of them is right.

So, as a public service I’m going to divulge my list for SXSWers.

BBQ

If you’re looking for great barbecue you’re in the right city. Austin is barbecue rich. But, barbecue is not created equally. Some popular BBQ joints in Austin flat out suck. Here’ are my top BBQ joints in Austin.

  • la Barbecuemap – This is my favorite place in Austin right now. Everything on the menu is money. You just can’t go wrong. Get a slice of lean and a slice of moist brisket. If you love pork, get a pork rib and a bit of pulled pork slathered with tangy sauce. They make their own hot guts (that’s Texan for sausage) that is spicy and wonderful. If you want the full experience, order a slice of lean brisket, a slice of moist brisket, a pork rib, quarter pound of pulled pork, one link, and a beef rib. Eat every bite and bask in the glory of some of the best BBQ in the world.
  • Stiles Switchmap – Stiles Switch is an indoor joint a bit north of downtown and absolutely worth the drive. I suggest the moist brisket, as the lean can get a little dry. The beef rib here is delicious so definitely sample that. Also, they have a hot link that I think is one of the best around. Did I mention they have an awesome selection of beer on tap? So basically, you get great ‘cue and great beer. You can’t go wrong with that.
  • John Mueller Meat Co – map – This is a new joint but the pit boss is a seasoned pro (and a surly sumbish). When I think John Mueller I think beef rib. Always a thick, crackling bark and lots of black pepper. For the brisket I’d definitely go for the moist. The cooking style renders the lean a bit dry. And you absolutely must get a sausage, maybe even two. I also advise you to order and then get the hell out of the way. Mueller isn’t much on talking. But that’s why we love him.
  • Mickelthwait Craft Meats – map – Tucked into a tiny trailer, Mickelthwait is putting out some solid ‘cue. I’d go with the moist brisket as the lean can be a tad dry. And you absolutely must have one of the sausages. He’s always got something different and tasty. Also, you may want to go a little later in the day because the brisket isn’t always ready during lunch.
  • Lambertsmap – Some folks hate on Lamberts because it is a nice restaurant and not your typical barbecue joint. Well, to hell with those people. I find their brisket to be hit and miss. When ordering the brisket, request moist pieces with plenty of bark. If what they bring you is too dry, tell them and they’ll fix it. The sausage is very tasty and the pork rib, although a tad too sweet sometimes, is still very good. Order the crispy boar ribs if you want something new. Also, anything and everything off the grill (steaks, etc) is money and will be cooked perfectly.

What About Franklin Barbecue?

Franklin is good but it doesn’t make my list because the lines are too long. I think it is a complete waste of time. John Lewis, the former pit boss at Franklin Barbecue, is now at la Barbecue (see above). His brisket is better than Franklin, he makes the hot guts in house and he has a beef rib to die for. Looking at this objectively, why would I wait 2 hours for Franklin when I can have something better in 15 minutes?

Not BBQ

  • East Side Kingmap – There are a few different locations for East Side King, but my favorite is definitely the one at Liberty bar. Literally everything on the menu is stellar. Pork belly buns are fantastic, fried beets are a must and fried brussel sprouts are always in my order. Liberty Bar is pretty awesome, too. Tons of East Austinites in their hipster garb, drinking their tall boys of PBR or Lone Star. To continue the party, head down the street to The White Horse and catch some live music and enjoy the Texas National Past Time: drinking beer.
  • Hopdoddymap – Home of some of the best burgers you’ll ever eat, Hopdoddy is a guaranteed win. The Llano Poblano is great but the Greek is the show stopper. Definitely grab some chili cheese fries and do yourself a favor by ordering some extra chili cheese. It will get consumed. Also, don’t be scared by the line. It moves fast and they have a great system for making sure everyone is served.
  • Freddie’smap – Freddie’s makes the list because it has a bad ass South Austin vibe. The burgers are always on point but the onion rings and sweet potato fries will steal the show. I also enjoy the pork chops quite a bit. Don’t forget to order your Jack and Coke.
  • Elizabeth Street Cafemap – Elizabeth St Cafe is a wonderful Vietnamese and French restaurant. Start with the escargot and carpaccio. Be sure to soak up all the remaining butter from the escargot with some bread. Your main meal can go a few ways: pho, banh mi, or one of the special dishes. If you go with pho, I recommend the flank steak and beef skewer (30B), chicken thigh and cilantro chicken meatballs (32B) and the cauliflower white miso (34B). Always add a soft boiled egg. You can thank me later. If you choose banh mi, you have to try the House Specialty (20). If you really want some mouth sex and you’ve got a big appetite, do the Singapore Noodles from the Specialties list. Be sure to try some of their drinks, too. The Director is a great choice if you want some punch. I would go with a bottle of the Cabernet Franc. It’s the cheapest wine on the menu but it is very tasty.
  • Swaymap – Right next door to Elizabeth St Cafe and across from la Barbecue is Sway, one of Austin’s newest additions. I’ve only been here once (it’s really new), but holy hell was it good. Go with the satay to start. If you have a big appetite and a few people, get more than one. The food here is served in slightly larger than individual portions but is intended to be shared. Each person should order a dish but plan on sharing. I loved the Son in Law (pork shoulder with a deep fried egg). We also ordered the Jungle Curry (tri tip in a spicy sauce) and it was awesome. The most unique aspect of the meal was the green peppercorns that came with the Jungle curry. Pick them off and eat ’em. Mind (and taste buds) blown. I imagine you can’t order anything bad at Sway.
  • Lenoirmap – You definitely need a reservation for Lenoir so plan ahead. Austin’s number one food critic, Mike Sutter, thinks Lenoir is the best restaurant in Austin. There has definitely been some heated debate about that choice, but I second his pick. Lenoir is prix fixe ($35/person) and you choose three dishes from different categories. The menu changes all the time and always reflects what is currently fresh. I can’t really recommend a specific dish since the menu constantly changes, but you cannot go wrong here. Just eat everything. My only suggestion is to order a whole bottle of wine.
  • East Side Showroommap – In the heart of East Austin, amongst the hordes of hipsters lies East Side Showroom. A pre-prohibition/speakeasy vibe is what’s going on here and it rocks. For drinks, I’d absolutely get the Old Fashioned. Then I’d get 3 more. For food, it’s all about the pork belly. Their pork belly is like glass on the top and soft and supple on the bottom (queue euphemism). I also enjoy the beef heart tartare and you can’t go wrong with the burger. Stick around after you eat, have a few more drinks, watch the hipsters pour in and enjoy some of the always awesome live music. If you go during happy hour you might hear some old jazz being played from a phonograph. I like to call that person DJ Edison.
  • Justine’s Brasseriemap – Justine’s is way out east but is worth the drive. This is yet another restaurant where you can’t go wrong. My personal favorites are Steak Frites and Steak Tartare. They have fish specials from time to time that I also really enjoy. If you are picky, get the Royale with Cheese and you’ll be in burger heaven. I always get an order of the escargot. They are exceptional here.
  • La Traviatamap – There isn’t much decent Italian food in Austin but thankfully we have La Traviata. You absolutely must get the carbonara. It’s one of the best dishes I’ve had at any restaurant. To start, you really have to get the beef carpaccio with the fried raddichio and a bottle of wine. You may want to make a reservation as it gets a bit busy on sometimes. If you want to take your significant other, request the table in the front by the window. You’ll be getting more than food if you take that advice.
  • Swift’s Atticmap – Swift’s Attic sits atop my favorite bar in Austin, the Elephant Room. Here’s how you play this: go to the Elephant room first, listen to some jazz and have a few cocktails. If you want to be classy, go with a dirty martini. After you’ve worked up an appetite, go upstairs to Swift’s Attic. They’re open fairly late and the plates are small so you’ll need to order a few. I’d say 3 plates for every 2 people, depending on which plates you order. I’ve picked out my favorites: blistered shishitos, whole sardine, brussel sprout salad, baby octopus, duck wings, pork cheeks and the always reliable steak frites (this is a bigger plate). Be sure to try a cocktail or order one of the draft beers (they always have a nice selection).

Southside Market

Imagine this: you had just been to a barbecue joint considered to be one of the Top 5 in all of Texas. You left somewhat disappointed. Then, on the way home you see a sign (a very well done one at that) advertising Southside Market as the place that started barbecue in Texas.

Mmmhmm. Started bbq in Texas? We’ll see about that, fellas. And I’ll be the judge.

Britt (my wife) and I had just been to Snow’s BBQ over in Lexington, TX where we had a wonderful experience but only mediocre ‘cue. I’m still convinced that we experienced a fluke, but that’s not what this is about. You see, I was harboring a bit of disappointment in my soul. The kind that only brisket, post oak and butcher paper can cure. So after seeing a sign that proclaimed Southside Market the place that birthed barbecue in Texas, I knew where I was heading next.

Southside Market Building

After a couple missed turns we finally got into the parking lot. Something stuck out to me right away: this place was freaking huge. HUGE. No seriously, it dwarfs all other joints I’ve ever seen.

Since I’m not a native Texan, I’m not familiar with the sausage from Elgin, TX. And apparently, it is some legendary sausage.

There are two places in Elgin: Meyers and Southside Market. They’re basically right down the road from each other, so choosing could be difficult. However, it was easy for me: one was open and one wasn’t (also the whole “started Texas barbecue” thing had my interest).

Britt and I walked in at about 10am and as you can imagine, there weren’t many people. I suppose most sane people don’t require an early morning brisket fix.

There were two massive seating areas that could seat many hundreds of people, two lines to order food and, for the real go-getters, a massive butcher shop where one could purchase any and all of the meat served in the restaurant. Southside Market is basically a barbecue enthusiast’s amusement park, full of everything that will make a grown man obsessed with barbecue squeal.

Enough buildup, let’s talk about the bbq.

Brisket with sexy smoke ring

During this trip I chose a very limited tasting. I picked up a couple of slices of both lean and moist along with a 4 inch section of their famous sausage.

The brisket was freaking fantastic! It had an absolutely beautiful smoke ring, perfect moisture content, the bark was crisp and it was exploding with that incredible post oak flavor that I adore. As soon as that brisket hit my mouth, I knew it instantly made its way on to my top bbq list. I really loved this brisket.

Now, the sausage was a new experience. It. Was. Amazing. It had a nice, snappy casing, massive beefy flavor and was almost an inch and a half in diameter. I really, really liked liked the Southside Market sausage.

I should also mention that I tasted the sauce, but I didn’t like it at all. It was very sweet and just tasted like sugar. However, I also tasted the hot sauce and it was flat out awesome. It was spicy, vinegary and downright delicious.

If you can believe it, I haven’t even come to the best part of the story.

After tasting such excellent barbecue, I had to check out the operation. So, I went up and asked to see where all the magic went down.

I was greeted by the manager, Tom, and he gave me a tour of the smoke room. And friends, it was devine.

Since it was early on Saturday there was a lot of preparation going on and I got to see it all.

Brick smokers where the sausage is finished

First, let me give you some stats about Southside Market:

  • On a typical Saturday, Southside Market goes through 120 briskets, nearly 1500lbs of sausage and about 1,500 guest checks, which means about 3,000 people.
  • In one weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) Southside Market goes though over 4,000lbs of sausage.
  • Southside Market has a portable smoking unit that is capable of producing about 50% of what they can make at the restaurant.
  • Southside Market produces (in the manufacturing facility behind the restaurant) over 2,000,000lbs of sausage each year.

Southside Market is no joke.

Tom was an awesome tour guide. He opened the pits and showed off the ribs, chicken and pork steaks. The briskets were bathing in post oak within the dark, cavernous high volume smokers.

The sausage, he explained, only takes about 40 minutes to smoke, so they were sitting in their containers on the sausage side of the room. Yes, you heard me right. There are four pits dedicated to smoking sausage. And, in fact, one employee’s job is devoted almost entirely to smoking sausage day in and day out. God bless that man.

Massive sausage links

Then I saw the mobile rig. Wow. It was basically a highly customized trailer that folded out to reveal all sorts of different smoking areas. And actually, to accomodate weekend demand, they were using part of that trailer.

Southside Market is an absolute must for the barbecue lover. The fact that Southside Market isn’t on the Texas Monthly Top 50 is a mockery. Southside is, without a doubt, one of the top bbq joints in Texas.

I will be back for more. Southside Market: you are now on my top bbq list.

Snow’s BBQ

Check out my new article on Snow’s!

On a chilly Saturday morning in January, I begrudgingly woke up at 6:30am to begin a morning trip to Snow’s. I was meeting Chris (my cousin and co-worker) and a bunch of other people there to eat ‘cue and generally socialize. Britt (my wife) was not terribly happy about waking up at the crack of dawn to go eat barbecue, but that turned around after I poured a cup of coffee down her throat.

For those of you who don’t know about Snow’s, it is only open on Saturdays from 8am to about 12pm. You heard me right: 4 hours per week. That’s all the time you have to enjoy this mystical barbecue. Snow’s was also ranked in the Top 5 over at Texas Monthly and was declared “Best BBQ in Texas” in 2008.

Snow’s BBQ Building

Snow’s is in Lexington, TX (about 55 miles from me) and it takes about an hour +/- 15 minutes to get there. Fortunately, you have to drive through Elgin, Texas home of the “hot gut” which is, in fact, a sausage and not a form of diarrhea.

Excreta aside, the trip out to Snow’s was pretty cool. We got on the road at 7am (we were supposed to leave at 6:30 but my alarm got set for 5:45pm). The sun was just beginning to show over the eastern horizon as we pulled on to the highway and the small, colored bits of light seeped out from the sky and painted the frosted grass.

Snow’s is the kind of place that time will never infringe upon. You can’t see it on Google street view and the satellite picture just looks like a barn. The restaurant building is half a dozen picnic tables stuffed in an old red building, just up the street from the Lexington Livestock Commission (which was lively while we were there). The employees inside were just a few older ladies and a cute college age girl.

Outside was where the action happened: 4 or 5 pits, 2 big smokers and stack upon stack of post oak. Only three people run that operation, tending to sausage, pork ribs, chicken and (of course) brisket. They’ll watch over their beloved barbecue for 16-18 hours without taking a break and watch as person after person just smiles while they shove as much ‘cue down their gullet as they can while still seeming remotely civilized.

Ok, by now you know the story. But how was the ‘cue? Did it stack up?

First let’s talk about the brisket. It had a decent bark, excellent smoke ring, very sweet smoke flavor and was tender. I’m not sure if it was just the brisket that I received my piece from, but the fat was not rendered and the meat had dried out a fair bit. This brisket was only ok in my opinion, more along the lines of my experience at City Market. Well, no it was definitely better than City Market.

Meat counter – sausage and pork ribs

I also happened to pick up some pork ribs. They definitely had that great post oak flavor I want. They happen to cut me an end piece (which I DEARLY love) that had some nice hardened bits for me to crunch on. The meat was tender and easily came off the bone. Again though, I wasn’t blown away or anything. They were good but not great. Kind of left me shrugging…

Finally I tasted the jalapeno sausage. YES! Now this was great! Awesome kick to it, wonderful casing that snapped as I crunched into it. Excellent smokiness and texture. Oh YES! I am a glutton for heat (go figure) and this was nice and spicy. So much so that Britt couldn’t even eat her bite. So I did. And everyone else was forced to volunteer their bites to me, also.

Overall, my favorite thing by far was the jalapeno sausage. The brisket that I tasted honestly didn’t even begin to touch my favorite over at JMueller.

Meat counter – brisket

However, the experience that you get at Snow’s is unparalleled. They let us get up into the pit area and snap a ton of pictures. In fact, I’m sure that I’ll be adding more as time goes on and my friends send me the pics they took.

The question you may now be asking is: Will I return? Yes. I will. I want to give it another shot. I want to go out to the pit and say “listen, slice me off a fresh piece of the best brisket you have. Blow my mind.” I believe that Snow’s probably has better brisket than I tasted. Maybe they don’t and the emotion of it all just wants that to be the case.

No matter what, this whole experience should be proof positive that I am the right person to decide who has the best brisket on earth. No matter what happens, no matter how emotional of an experience I have at a bbq joint, I will always be completely objective about the quality and taste of the meats.

Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew

It was 6pm on a Tuesday and I had just realized something: I hadn’t a single bite of barbecue all day. Obviously that wasn’t going to work. And the sad thing was that my favorite joint, JMueller BBQ, was closed.

What’s a guy to do?

I started thinking about my options, then I remembered a name I had heard recently: Stiles Switch. Where had I heard that name? Hmm.

Awesome painted sign outside
Awesome painted sign outside.

While doing research one day, I ran across a forum board somewhere that mentioned some controversy surrounding a recent restaurant opening in Austin. Apparently, the current pit master at Stiles Switch is a former employee of Louie Mueller Barbecue and somewhere along the way he allegedly named dropped his former employer. They got mad and shit themselves. Or sent a letter. I don’t know.

Anyway, I looked up Stiles Switch and saw that they are open until pretty late. So I yelled at Chris (my cousin and co-worker) to get it together and let’s go get some ‘cue.

Stiles Switch is located on North Lamar in the Violet Crown shopping center. In fact, it is located in a famous building. Remember the pool hall from Dazed and Confused? That’s the building it’s located in. Kinda cool, I think.

Their mascot is a pig in a coat, tipping his hat. Good day to you, too, sir. I shall now consume your flesh.

Excellent, peppery brisket.

The exterior is slick, with some nice font work on the signage, big metal doors and tall windows so thou canst behold the wonders of post oak, beef, and beer contained within.

While Chris and I were outside being nosy and taking pictures, Shane Stiles (the owner) came out to see what we were doing and say hello. We chatted for 1.2 seconds before the bbq urge took over and we had to run in and get our fix.

The interior is awesome: plenty of tables, a few high tops, and in the back is the long bar where bbq and brew are obtained. Definitely one of the nicer joints in town, without a doubt.

For this barbecue tasting, we ordered brisket, beef ribs and pork ribs.

These beef ribs freaking rock.

First of all, the brisket was very good. Nice peppery bark, very tender, smokey and a very pretty smoke ring. The fat was sweet and yummy. This is undoubtedly some of the best brisket in town. Very “Mueller-esque”.

The beef ribs were also excellent. They were a little less fatty than others I’ve had, which I actually really liked a lot. They had that nice, peppery bark and tons of beefy flavor. These are not those phony beef ribs you get at second rate joints. These are the real deal.

The pork ribs departed completely from the Louie Mueller style of barbecue. And I gotta say, they were better. Tender, smokey and fall off the bone. Y’all can’t get much better ribs than this in Austin. I highly recommend.

Fall off the bone pork ribs.

Lastly, let’s discuss the sauce. It was kind of a sweeter, Kansas City style sauce but, it was pretty good. I’ll probably go without next time. I tend to prefer a very thin sauce if it’s tomato based, but I really like mustard and vinegar sauces the most. (That may not go over well with the purists here in Texas)

Overall, my experience at Stiles Switch was top notch. If you’re in Austin, it is a must for the barbecue and beer lover.

Next time I go, I’d love to see the smoker and get some face time with Lance Kirkpatrick just to hear about his technique and so on. He obviously knows what he’s doing.