Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

'ROOTS AND RIBS....YearlyKos has changed its name to Netroots Nation and, more importantly, will be held next year in Austin, Texas. I think maybe I'll rouse myself to actually attend this time instead of inventing some feeble excuse to stay home. After all, in addition to the convention itself being a show worth attending, Austin is only a half hour drive from Lockhart, the barbecue capital of Texas (and, therefore, they would say, the world). That's enough to tip me over the edge.

Next step: finding a congenial set of fellow NNers who are willing to blow off the midday sessions and drive to Lockhart for lunch each day. Plenty of time for that, though: the convention runs July 17-20. Early bird registration is here.

Kevin Drum 12:22 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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any town/ state that pefers beef ribs to pork ribs isn't wirthy of that designation.

Posted by: j on November 27, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

You must go to Smitty's, not just for the transcendent ribs, but for the experience of the place. It's well worth the ~30 mile drive to Lockhart. It may, in fact, be worth the drive from California.

Posted by: mj on November 27, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Beef ribs? Oy vey.

Posted by: Lux on November 27, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I was in Austin for about 36hrs for business and made it to a rib place. They were the best I have ever had by far. It was like eating pure beef jerky. So good..

Posted by: Chris on November 27, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK


You need to do a political bbq tour:

Rudy's has the best St. Louis Ribs in town. Eat them while saying 9-11 five times fast.

Cooper's in Llano is worth the drive and it's W's favorite spot. Say what you will about his presidential chops, the man knows bbq.

Mueller's on Manor ("may-nor") has a smoked pork chop. Fan-freaking-tastic, but you have to get there early. When they sell out of that day's meat, they just close the doors. Ok, that's not really political, except that maybe we can all agree that it's good.

Posted by: daniel on November 27, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

The place to go in Austin (well, just outside Austin) is the Salt Lick. Best bbq around.

Posted by: SMurph on November 27, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, Texas in July. Why does that sound so unattractive?

Posted by: gummitch on November 27, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

July in Austin? Yikes!

Posted by: EmmaAnne on November 27, 2007 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Go to the Salt LICK.

Posted by: jlp on November 27, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Now you did it, Kevin. You will probably get enough suggestions/criticisms to generate a 6-month itinerary covering most of North America.

Posted by: anon on November 27, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

While it's certainly healthy to get the Kos brand off of the meeting so he isn't the target of all the venom, I have a lot of trouble supporting anything that has the word "Nation" attached to it.

Posted by: howie on November 27, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Austin is know more for its music and partying [6th street] than BBQ. Head to Lockhart, Tx. if you want BBQ.

Posted by: Ya Know... on November 27, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

ahhh, change. had a relative born in Lockhart in 1900. i didn't know it was known for anything now. she left in early adulthood. told me how she used to identify the majority of the men in town marching in the regular kkk rallies by their shoes.

Netroots eating bbq in Lockhart. who'd a thunk it?

Posted by: Trypticon on November 27, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, BTW, if its July you probably want to jump in Lake Travis or Barton Springs or the Schlitterban [waterpark] in nearby New Braunfels.

Posted by: Ya Know... on November 27, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Salt Lick is fantastic. But beware, it's BYOB because it's in a dry county and it only accepts cash. Go with friends and order the family style meal. They keep brining meat until your belt snaps. Yum!!!!!

Posted by: daniel on November 27, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I was in Kansas City over Thanksgiving and got to enjoy some awesome Gates barbeque. Beef AND pork. YUM-YUM! I think Gates and Rosedale are the best K.C. BBQ joints - not a big fan of Arthur Bryants, although it is the most well-known. L'il Jakes Eat-It-and-Beat-It is also good.

I think the Daily Kos meeting needs to get a little more edgy and hold some fun events like burning George W. Bush in effigy and a mock crucifixion of Pat Robertson, for example.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 27, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kreutz's Market in Lockhart, Kevin. That's the place you want. You need a road trip buddy? I'll be down from Dallas.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 27, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Mueller's on Manor Rd. is out of business, but the original in Taylor (a 45-minute drive from Austin) is still around.

A worthy in-town Austin BBQ place is Ruby's (note: different from Rudy's) located at 29th and Guadalupe.

But, yes, you should get out to Lockhart a couple of times.

Posted by: McCord on November 27, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

It's been more than a few years, but Black's Barbeque used to be THE place. . . , and they ship, Kevin.

Posted by: indykat on November 27, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

If Lockhart seems eerily familiar, it's because it was fictional Blaine, MO in "Waiting for Guffman". I'd probably enjoy a visit.

Posted by: Jim on November 27, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

One of the more memorable quotes from Counterpunch: "Dave warns that Cockburn 'will observe a steady decline in the quality of the bbq as he travels west. In Texas they will feed him saddle leather with ketchup on it.'"

But, hell, what do I know? I'm right in the middle of a bowl of vegetarian chili. And I read Counterpunch, to boot.

Posted by: godoggo on November 27, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

McCord, you have it correct. Louis Mueller's in Taylor is just east of Round Rock, so eat BBQ and catch an Express Game at the Dell Diamond afterwards. While waiting you get treated to the incredible brisket ends that are a lifetime supply of carcinogens but worth it.

Ruby's at the north end of the Drag is small and funky but wonderful as well. You also get treated to a Gore thank you note and a David Lee Roth drawn cartoon, not to mention the autographs under glass.

Years ago I pointed the IBM'ers I was working with at Art's Rib House on South Lamar. It was a major hit. The baby backs are great and they have music in the evenings. It's been a while but they used to have great soups at lunch. The garlic soup drew a crowd.

And for more upscale but reasonably priced dining try Castle Hill on W. 5th. It's across from what's left of the Treaty Oak and around the corner from Waterloo Records. Waterloo has to rank up there with the best of the independent record stores, and is chock full 'o Texas' and Austin's finest ear candy.

Posted by: Nat on November 27, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I have to second the mention of Rudy's. Fantastic food, including some unusual offerings like turkey. And they sell ice-cold beer by the bottle. Which will be a necessity in July.

Posted by: Matt Sandwich on November 27, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, Texas in July. Why does that sound so unattractive?

Posted by: gummitch on November 27, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Texas in any month sounds pretty unattractive. Anyway, in that this is "Washington Monthly" how about Johnny's Boys ribs right here in DC?

Posted by: Pat on November 27, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Aww Heck Kevin, if you're in Austin, you don't have to drive to Lockhart. Just go to the County Line BBQ off FM 2222. Excellent bbq.

Posted by: ckelly on November 27, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Listen to John Edwards. The best BBQ is pulled pork shoulder with vinegar sauce. North Carolina style. Yum.

Posted by: do on November 27, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Okay Kevin, as a YearlyKos veteran, I'm up for it especially for good BBQ. Just none of this silly "cat blogging" while you are there.

Posted by: Ed in Montana on November 27, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin will "beef blog" whilst eating Lockhart barbecue. Side note: do NOT order Lone Star; it's all myth, Kevin. If you want a Texas beer to go with, it's Shiner Bock.

As for pork barbecue, no, I'll take St. Louis or Kansas City styles over North Carolina. Vinegar sauce? That's what you put on fish in fishandchips.

Pat, please... first of all, Texas ain't quite so "red," in metropolitan areas, as people think. For example, here in the Dallas area, every countywide elected officeholder in Dallas County but one commissioner and one state district judge is a Democrat.

As for climate, yes, it's hot. But Austin is far enough away from the Gulf that it's not too damned humid. And, the Hill Country and Cross Timbers look great right about now, with the many different varieties of red oaks in fall color.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 27, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

All of the above suggestions are great (though County Line has dropped a few pegs in my book.) But you're forgetting that the sausage/hot link capital is Elgin, a mere 30 minutes east of town on 290. Imagine a sausage whose casing is there merely for show, that as you bite into it, it utters, "Alas, I yield!" Your mouth fills with such meaty goodness, (what kind of meat? Don't know. Don't ask, don't tell.) that afterwards you can merely stare at the brown paper before you with the same nostalgia as for that girl in college who got away.

Hell with next July. I'm road-tripping tonight.

Posted by: yocoolz on November 27, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

"But Austin is far enough away from the Gulf that it's not too damned humid"

Dallas humidity in July will melt your spine, and Austin is closer to the Gulf by a couple hundred miles. Texas summers are almost worse than Arizona summers.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on November 27, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

the salt lick is terrific, but if you don't make it there, you eat at the salt lick closer to home at the red rock casino outside vegas. even that's worth the trip.

Posted by: Miles on November 27, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Lockhart has some pretty good barbecue but so does Elgin and Taylor and Llano... The music can be pretty good, too. Enjoy.

Posted by: TexasEx on November 27, 2007 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Make sure it's the Salt Lick in Driftwood, not the antiseptic suburban version on 360 (Capital of Texas Highway).

And Rudy's is OK, but eating at a gas station may not be the ambiance some folks are interested in.

Posted by: Cheney's Third Nipple on November 27, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'll throw my 2 barbecue cents in for the Salt Lick in Driftwood. Some fantastic barbecue, and quite possibly the best blackberry cobbler I have ever had in my life. Yes, it's BYOB, but just stop at the convenience store you pass on the way out there to grab your six pack of Shiner Bock. No need to bring cash, though, as they have an ATM on premise.

Rudy's has several locations around Austin, and is not too bad either. Ruby's on Guadalupe is OK, but I didn't think it was the best.

There's also Stubbs (with live music as well), Iron Works, and Artz. I don't consider Bill Miller a real bbq joint - looks more like a bbq version of Grandy's.

Posted by: Bill on November 27, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Bill's got it right--the Salt Lick's pretty good, and a couple of cold Shiners make it better. I'd spend a lunch hour or two in New Braunfels, though--sausage heaven.

And as for brisket, keep driving till you hit Little Rock; I've found better here than I ever could in Texas. And the local beer's not bad, either.

Posted by: dware on November 27, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

If you're headed to Lockhart, then Black's and Smitty's are the places to go. Do yourself a favor and avoid Kreuz's. Kreuz's used to be in the Smitty's building but then a family feud split up the business. The Kreuz folks then built a HUGE barn like structure a few blocks away and it seems to cater more to motor homes and tourists than serious BBQ lovers these days.

Just a little further down the road is the Luling City Market. It's worth the extra ten or fifteen minutes to go there and eat very good BBQ with the locals.

The Salt Lick is excellent (go to the one in Driftwood) and while they can also cater to motor homes, they do BBQ right. I personally think this is the best all-around BBQ in the area. All of their meats - sausage, brisket, pork ribs - are of consistently high quality. Some other places may do individual meats better (although they probably don't) but the Salt Lick puts it all together. It's BYOB so pack a cooler. Order the family plate for all you can eat.

Avoid most, if not all, BBQ places in Austin proper. They are just not that good. One decent choice is Lewis' BBQ on MLK near Airport. It's take-away but they usually have very good food - the best inside Austin without a doubt. Ruby's (on Guadalupe, near campus) isn't that bad and it uses organic beef so it's got that going for it. Not too hot on Rudy's as it is strange to me to eat BBQ at a gas station. Plus, they are located a little too close to the 'burbs to be any comfort. Avoid any temptation to go to County Line or Iron Works. Awful stuff.

Elgin is not a bad option if you're a sausage lover. However, many of the BBQ restaurants serve Elgin sausage so it might not be worth the trip out there just for that.

Llano has Cooper's but Llano is a good 75 miles outside of town. The pits at Cooper's are pretty cool and the food is good but the other options are closer and, in my opinion, just as good.

Lone Star is nasty and Shiner isn't that great (in my opinion). Go with one of the local beers from Live Oak or Real Ale instead.

That is some of what I know about being a BBQ aficionado in Austin. My personal preference is for the pig, but this is Texas and cattle is king. What can you do?


ps - George Bush is from Connecticut and, thus, cannot know good BBQ.

Posted by: boudin on November 27, 2007 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

I'm in. I already registered.

And having been there this year, what are these sessions you speak of? I just kept finding myself in bars.

Posted by: ArchPundit on November 27, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Does Barton Springs still have a section for the nekkid?

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on November 27, 2007 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Salt Lick is vastly overrated and is more of a tourist "must do" than a bbq joint.

Posted by: tx bubba on November 27, 2007 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure Barton's has ever had a nekkid section (although people do sunbathe nude in the bathhouses from time to time -- the bathhouses are open-air, which makes it less odd than it sounds). Lake Travis does have an infamous nude swimming cove ("Hippie Hollow"), and as far as I know it's still a going concern.

On the BBQ front, second everything that's been said about the Salt Lick. I don't agree that all in-town barbecue is bad (Sam's on East 11th is great, and I'm sentimentally attached to both the Green Mesquite on Barton Springs Rd. and Artz' on South Lamar), but do avoid the mass-produced joints (e.g., County Line). Llano is a bit of a haul (to eat at Cooper's), but the trip gives you an excuse to ride out to Enchanted Rock at sunset, which is a thing worth seeing.

Posted by: rawbone on November 27, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Does Barton Springs still have a section for the nekkid?

There will always be a Hippie Hollow, Virginia.

Posted by: sweaty guy on November 27, 2007 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

I thought about mentioning Sam's but the quality there is spotty. Some days it can be amazing but it can be equally bad on other days. Also, sorry to say but 12th and Chicon is just not a nice place to be at night and it's only slightly better during the day.

Haven't been to Green Mesquite in a while but I've been to Artz and have more of an opinion on that. I like pork ribs and the ribs they serve there look more like they are from a brontosaurus than any other type of animal. Pork ribs are just far superior to beef. In this case bigger is most definitely not better.

Barton Springs doesn't have a nude section but topless sunbathing is legal. If I'm not mistaken, in Austin it's actually legal for a woman to be topless anywhere a man is allowed. I haven't checked the code personally, but that's what I've heard (and seen at Barton Springs).

Posted by: boudin on November 27, 2007 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

Hippie Hollow is at Lake Travis, Haven't been there in years tho as seeing so many of the "purty" hill 'round there being for mc mansions jist broke my lil Texas heart.

BBQ? Oh hell! Drive SE (or other compass points) and get some really good German food (or real Tex-Mex for that matter)

If we can set up a PA meet, I'll be there with spurs on.

Posted by: Keith G on November 27, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

I thought I'd see a couple of vegetarians protesting your choice of lunch, but no. Progressives must be as gluttonous as the average Texas fatty. You understand, I assume, that the absolute best way to save the planet is to become a vegetarian. The rain forests are cleared to support your meat habit. Plant agriculture is ten times more efficient at delivering protein to our tables than the meat industry. A single hog farm in Arkansas produces more waste than the city of Chicago. That's three of a hundred reasons not to eat meat. To say you are solidly on the side of protecting the planet while scarfing down a dead animal marks you as a rank hypocrite.

Posted by: James of Dc on November 27, 2007 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Oddly enough, the best ribs I ever ate were at a company picnic in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Posted by: FS on November 27, 2007 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

I believe rawbone has figured it out.
The BBQ road trip is just a ruse to cover Kevin's
daily trip to Hippie Hollow.

Posted by: Crown & Anchor on November 27, 2007 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

One of Austin's best BBQ places is right by the convention center. Weigl's Iron Works, at the corner of Red River and Cesar Chavez (First St to old timers), and the back porch over looks Waller Creek with the Convention Center on the other side. Not open on weekends, and not open very late on weekdays.

Posted by: jussumbody on November 27, 2007 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Boudin: I was only talking about statewide Tejas beers in recommending Shiner over the myth of Lone Star.

Jeffrey Davis: I've lived down near the Gulf Coast, less than an hour from Helltown, I mean Houston. Dallas is much better; Austin is somewhat better.

Kevin, do NOT waste the time going down to San Antonio to go to the Alamo. The biggest Texas myth of all.

And yes, Hippie Hollow is still going. In the fall, a lot of its regular denizens hit the hot spring at Big Bend.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 28, 2007 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

As a former 15-year Austinite (now in San Antonio), I've gotta pretty much second everything Boudin said. Best BBQ in Texas is Smitty's, Salt Lick, and Cooper's. I, also, recommend the Full Moon Pale Rye from Real Ale, which (when fresh) is my fave.

Posted by: GullyFoyle on November 28, 2007 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, ribs are not the preferred meat for Texas 'que. It's beef brisket. You should know this. And head for Llano, home to two amazing barbeque joints: the well-known Coopers Bar-B-Que, 505 W. Dallas, and the less well-known but (I think) better place, Laird's Barbeque, 1600 S Ford.

Posted by: Tom from Houston on November 28, 2007 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Welcome to Austin y'all. I offer the following 'que reviews:

Smitty's - fantastic, definitely worth the drive.

Kreuz's - better BBQ but the new building just doesn't compare to the old one.

Salt Lick - not as good as it used to be but still a wonderful country setting and great atmosphere, shorter drive. Dry county - byob. Ask to sit in the original building - not the new addition.

Green Mesquite - in town and darn good, cool country diner, great pie, live music, progressive owner.

Iron Works - right across the creek from the convention center itself, not great but authentic. Used to be an actual foundry. Family owned, down-home, they'll custom-smoke your deer for you. Notable for refusing to sell their land to the convention center.

County Line - founded by a couple of UT MBA grads. What more do you need to know?

Rudy's Country Store - despicable Republican assholes. During the height of the anti-French nonsense they sponsored a promotion whereby they would give you a bottle of their barbeque sauce in exchange for a bottle of French wine which they ceremoniously poured into a garbage can in front of TV reporters. Ignorant, jingoistic, opportunistic, pointless, economically idiotic (how do you hurt the French by buying their goods?) and a waste of good wine. Don't give them a dime.

Posted by: melville on November 28, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm...I might even come out of my cave for some Texas BBQ and Austin nightlife/music. Went to the first big shindig in Vegas, but low-fi ever since.

Posted by: Jimm on November 28, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK



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