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Tilting at Windmills

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July 17, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

BARBECUE ROUNDUP....It's not quite as hot in Austin as I expected, but still plenty hot. On the bright side, at least I don't work at Smitty's Market in Lockhart, where, they told us, "we go outside when we want to cool down."

There were five of us on today's barbecue pilgrimage, including Blue Girl, who finally escaped Amtrak hell and made it to Austin at three in the morning, and Joe Garcia, who's trying to unseat Mario Diaz-Balart in Florida's 25th congressional district. If Joe's ability to pound down Texas barbecue is any indication, he should be a landslide winner in November.

My verdict on Smitty's: great brisket, pretty good ribs, so-so pork chops, didn't try the sausage. On Saturday we'll try crosstown/cross-family rival Kreutz Market and see how they stack up.

Kevin Drum 4:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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Comments

Texas barbecue is all about the beef. Forget looking for pork and focus on the brisket.

Posted by: Jefffrane on July 17, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Brisket-wise, you might want to consider Louie Mueller's in Taylor (about the same distance from Austin, only to the northeast instead of the southeast).

Posted by: DPL on July 17, 2008 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Lucky! Bring us back some brisket!

Posted by: teresa on July 17, 2008 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
You must bring me back 10 lbs of catnip infused brisket. Otherwise Domino will go missing.

Posted by: Inkblot on July 17, 2008 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

What about Threadgill's for music and chicken fried steak?

Posted by: Jeff II on July 17, 2008 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Texas barbecue is all about beef, which is why you should forget about Texas barbecue.

Posted by: PA on July 17, 2008 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

We appreciate your courage and self-sacrifice in this Battle of teh BBQ

Posted by: firefall on July 17, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Yurm, Barbachew.

Posted by: Jet on July 17, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Be sure to try Stubb's. Terrific brisket and damn fine ribs.

Posted by: Otto Man on July 17, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Glad you're in Austin, Kevin, but I'm sorry to see you glorifying "barbecue," which is a nice euphemism for the unspeakable suffering endured by so many animals whose will to live is every bit as strong as yours and mine.

Here's Albert Schweitzer: "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." Indeed.

I like you, Kev, but I hope your next round of meat tastes spiritually sour. Because it is.

Posted by: KP on July 17, 2008 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Just reading the words "Chicken Fried Steak" raised my cholesterol level.

Posted by: thersites on July 17, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Just reading the words "Chicken Fried Steak" raised my cholesterol level. Posted by: thersites

Don't forget biscuits and gravy for breakfast!

Posted by: Jeff II on July 17, 2008 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Mmm. Eating lots of meat after an airplane flight. Smells like...global warming.

Posted by: MattD on July 17, 2008 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

If you have time and can find it, head to the Salt Lick.

Posted by: DoubleB on July 17, 2008 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

As an ex-Austinite (now Corpus Christi) I suggest the sausage at Kreutz Market (they supply most of the better BBQ places in the area anyway) and the brisket at the Salt Lick near Driftwood.

While beef production is energy-intensive, barbecue is generally smoked in a mesquite fire. Cattle spread the mesquite seeds and, um, fertilize them by eating the seed pods. Controlling the resulting thicket means firewood. I don't think the carbon footprint is huge.

Posted by: Ancient on July 17, 2008 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

The post deserves more words or at least a picture or a graph. Maybe a city map with overlayed images of meat.

Posted by: B on July 17, 2008 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

When your're finished, hop up to Kansas City and I'll buy you some real BBQ.

Posted by: Dotar Sojat on July 17, 2008 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Dotar PLEASE! Y'all don't even eat the brisket, you throw it away. I've seen it with my own eyes...and I cried. But yeah, the ribs are bad ass there.

Posted by: elmo on July 17, 2008 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

No no no, man. If you're going through Lockhart, you've got to hit Black's. And indeed, while there are other meats, and I'm sure they're quite tasty, the high water mark of TX BBQ is brisket, and if you're not planning on living there the rest of your life, there's no reason to eat anything but.

Posted by: Imaginary on July 17, 2008 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

I repeat: cool off at Barton Springs and Scholz Garten.

Posted by: hollywood on July 17, 2008 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, yeah, Texas is about beef, and although Smitty's is far and away tops in Lockhart, do try Kreutz' ribs - the place lacks soul, but the ribs are tasty. And at The Salt Lick in Driftwood - nothing less than The Combo ... and pecan pie (oh, and remember to bring your own cooler of chilled brews).

Posted by: Tom on July 17, 2008 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin had the Brisket, I had the lean (shoulder) and the folks from Florida who went with us had some of everything - and we met some cool locals who are yellow-dog Democrats through and through - they were actually kidding when they called us hippies, and one of 'em had his grandson tell us no matter what the problem is, it's George Bushes fault - and was sure to point out that he's a yankee carpetbagger, NOT a Texan.

Thanks for lunch Kevin!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on July 17, 2008 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Two words for barbecue:

SALT LICK

It's in Driftwood, TX and is probably closer to Austin than the overrated Lockhart, Tx joints. I was particularly disappointed in the low flavor brisket I gnawed into recently at the highly vaunted Kreutz Mkt. But then again, I'm a Stubbs BBQ girl, too. In Austin, On Red River near I-35. I want to be buried in their potato salad. ;P

But seriously, as a San Antonian, I favor Rudy's brisket above all others. Melts in your mouth.

Posted by: san antone rose on July 17, 2008 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Please do as Inkblot says. He's not kidding.

Posted by: Domino on July 17, 2008 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yes, and the Salt Lick's PECAN PIE. And I don't even like pecan pie. Toooo sweet. But theirs is more like a delicious custard instead of a mouth full of corn syrup.

Threadgill's near Downtown? Their food sucks. You have to go out to the one on Lamar. The original.

Although it might interest you to know that the Threadgill's downtown location used to be the site of the Armadillo World HQ where Willie and Waylon and all the country outlaws performed, along with Frank Zappa, etc. And then Carole Keeton Strayhorn (Scott McClellan's mommie) had it condemned and shut down while she was the mayor of Austin. That bitch.

Posted by: san antone rose on July 17, 2008 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

Ooooo! If your still in town Sat nite, head to Threadgill's downtown location to hear the Austin Lounge Lizards. You'll love them, I promise. :) Nice outdoor beer garden area, too. Get some Shiner beer, relax, and enjoy.

Posted by: san antone rose on July 17, 2008 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

The Austin Lounge Lizards at Threadgill's is a terrific idea. You will love them, I second the motion. I live in Austin and that's where I'm going Saturday.

Posted by: siditious on July 17, 2008 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

I am green with envy. I love barbeque.

Posted by: POed Lib on July 17, 2008 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

Inkblot and Domino,

You'd better behave! Just because dad's out of town doesn't mean mom can't send you to bed without your supper if you two don't stop fighting. And dad will not have any sympathy when he gets home if he hears you've been bad cats.

Posted by: Inkblot's Aunt on July 17, 2008 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

I second the Louis Mueller's in Taylor. Also, the two County Line's are excellent although more upscale. The beef ribs are excellent and large enough to be used as a weapon.

And Artz Rib House on South Lamar has great ribs (obviously) and excellent music in the evening. I have several friends who rave about the soup at lunch, especially the garlic soup. Go figure. A few years ago I was in the midst of a project with a bunch of east coast IBM'ers and Artz was the runaway hit of the recommendations.

And don't forget the South Side Market in Elgin for artery stopping sausage. Hot guts roolz.

Posted by: Nat on July 17, 2008 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I guess I'm not going to Texas - I'm a pulled pork fan.

Uncle Pete's rules! (Formerly in East Boston, now in Revere, MA)

Posted by: mroberts on July 17, 2008 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

And between the BBQ smacking - could you mention something about Al Gore and moving to renewable resources in 10 years, just in case Obama has OTHER ideas?

Posted by: Me_again on July 17, 2008 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

Oh and watch out for Bigfoot. I know they live in CA but Texas is their favorite hangout too.

This guy from Travis county says:

My friend and I were out on Old Ferry Road near Paleface Park. My buddy, who is still my best friend, saw something big and hairy trotting upright on two legs, crossing the road ahead of us. We were parked on the side of the road. He instantly locked both doors. I saw the object from behind, moving through the brush.

This object was about 75 yards ahead of us at dusk. This scared us so bad that we went straight home.

We talked to a Travis County Sheriff several days later, and he reported seeing a bear. What we saw was not a bear, trotting on two legs. [It was] between 6 & 7 feet tall and brownish in color.

I hearsay they like BBQ or maybe it's just people with BBQ breath they like, so don't wonder off into the pinewood alone and don't get caught on the road late at night.

Posted by: Me_again on July 17, 2008 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

I was in Austin a few years ago for a conference and timed it so that I could go to the Texas Food Fair. That took place at the Salt Lick that several people have already mentioned. The fair was OK, but Salt Lick is the real deal.
http://www.saltlickbbq.com/directions.htm

But what I found is that some no-name roadside joints have better stuff than most of the big-name places. You get paper plates and bare-bones service (no pun intended), but the taste is what it's about.

It's like steaks in NYC or Chicago--you can get a great steak at the big name places, but paying $80 for a steak is not my idea of a meal. Most of it goes to pay five people to stand behind you and polish your forks.

Posted by: buck on July 18, 2008 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
Go to IronWorks within walking distance of the convention center. Love Kreutz Market ("we don't have sauce cuz we don't need it") and Louie Mueller's in Taylor, but IronWorks is really good ribs and briskit.
Buck, you are so right!

Posted by: Scotia48 on July 18, 2008 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

Rudy's is a great chain of BBQ in Texas and now Oklahoma.

I agree with some of the posters however that pork is the king of BBQ meats.

BTW, the best pork ribs in Texas are in Grapevine at a small place named Bartley's BBQ near downtown. Seriously the best pork ribs in texas.

Posted by: carr1on on July 18, 2008 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

Inkblot started it!

Posted by: Domino on July 18, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, why would you go to a Texas BBQ place and order pork chops? Most places don't even have them on the menu, much less specialize in them. If you want pork, the best options will be pork ribs and sausage.

And oh, by the way -- welcome to my town. :o)

Posted by: SmartyMcSmartyPants on July 18, 2008 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Also, as many posters have already commented, the Salt Lick in Driftwood is fantastic. But if you go there, please be aware it's BYOB and you need to bring your own if you are so inclined. :o)

Posted by: SmartyMcSmartyPants on July 18, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

...and if you want decent BBQ without a long drive, try Stubb's or the Green Mesquite to name a couple. There truly are lots of good places right here in Austin.

Posted by: on July 18, 2008 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Auntie,
Domino is wrong. She started it, she tried to hog the pooooop box. I asked her to leave, nicely. But she just hissed at me.
So I thought some nice brisket would help me recover from getting my feelings hurt.

Posted by: Inkblot on July 18, 2008 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Whatever.
Just don't send Inkblot to bed without supper. I'm scared, Auntie.

Posted by: Domino on July 18, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I must agree with those who recommend Louie Mueller's in Taylor. The brisket and the atmosphere are terrific. Love the slap of the brisket tidbit they give you while you wait at the counter.

Posted by: hdh on July 18, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Paper plates? Ha! Rudy's gives you a sheet of waxed white paper to eat on. The creamed corn alone will make you slap yore mamma. (Secret: they use cream cheese in their recipe!)

Posted by: san antone rose on July 18, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

As a shameless carnivore and a 20+ year resident of Texas, I can say with authority that KC or Memphis BBQ is vastly superior to whatever stringy brisket my neighbors are bragging about.

Posted by: scott_m on July 18, 2008 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Christ on a fork, these comments are starting to read like DailyKos. ;P

Anyhoo, Kevin, you might like to experience the Alamo Drafthouse cinema. The one on 6th Street - The Ritz. Great food, fabulous seating and hey, The Dark Knight is out! A fabulous theater experience.

Posted by: san antone rose on July 18, 2008 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

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