Saturday, September 6, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008: Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q (Capital of Texas Highway, Austin, Texas)
My first trip to Rudy’s was actually prior to moving to Texas, when I lived in Chicago. I knew of Rudy’s from seeing it on the Food Network or Travel Channel (can’t remember), so when I landed in San Antonio for a Memorial Day weekend in the Hill Country, I found a phone book at the airport, located the nearest Rudy’s, called them and got directions, and headed straight there in a rental car. Little did I know that, within a matter of months, I would be living in Austin and frequenting Rudy’s “Country Store” and Bar-B-Q, “The Worst Barbecue in Texas.”
All of us have eaten many times at Rudy’s, but this was our first Man-Up meal. I have been a Rudy’s fan since Day 1, but Texans regularly scoff at my Rudy’s praise, noting its chain status and that I need to broaden my BBQ horizons. Well, I’ve broadened my horizons. Would Rudy’s measure up? Would I still sing its praises, after trying the best of Lockhart, Luling, Spicewood, and Driftwood?
Since there’s a Rudy’s less than a mile from Chaparral Stadium (with locations throughout Texas), where we were going to take in the Lake Travis at Westlake football game, putting Rudy’s on the Man-Up itinerary was an easy decision. Texas barbecue and Texas high school football was, as we knew it would be, a Thursday evening well spent.
I like much more than just the food at Rudy’s (view the menu). I like that you can smell the barbecue while you fill up your car. I like the look of the building. I like the array of drinks that you can pull out of the icy cooler while you wait in line. I like the fuss the workers make when a first-timer steps up to the register, and I like that they let first-timers sample several things. I like the plastic cups that fill up your cupboard at home. I like it that (at least at the one I go to) that you can sit inside or outside. I like the nifty hand washer/massager, with the attendant “I have clean hands” stickers. And, true to form, I like it that I don’t have to carry Equal and lemons with me for my iced tea. Last but not least, I like it that you can exit the bathroom by opening the door with a foot handle (this definitely ups the overall-experience score). But back to the food…
In my opinion, the strengths of Rudy’s are the pork ribs and the sides. I am not a creamed corn guy, but theirs is fantastic. The beans and sauce (“sause”) are good, and their slaw is second to none. Also, to be so lean (and dry), the extra lean brisket (my usual order) has great flavor.
Greg’s thoughts: turkey (“good, not great’); jalapeno sausage (“it needed more kick to it and it could have been warmer”); potato salad (“near perfect…I love it!”); banana pudding (“a bigger serving would have been nice. But delicious none the less”); sauce (“I love Rudy’s sauce…it’s almost perfect!”). Greg’s overall impression: “good food in a gas station? Sign me up!”
Russell’s comments: cutter's choice brisket (“good flavor, but could use a little more moistness”); pork ribs (“very moist and meaty and flavorful…these are consistently very good at all Rudy’s locations”); baby back ribs: (“not quite at the level of the regular pork ribs, but still tasty”). “For a ‘chain restaurant’ it’s great…I enjoy the atmosphere and the sweet tea…gotta love what Rudy’s has done for BBQ in Texas and the Austin 360 location is certainly one of the better ones)…I man up on Rudy’s at least once a month.”
Todd gives an excellent summary: “Rudy's has struck the perfect balance between amazing food and reasonable prices. Rudy's is and has been on my short list for great BBQ in Texas. I have yet to go to an Austin location and be disappointed. This visit was my first time trying the Baby Back Ribs, and oh how good they were...my highest rating to date. I am still waiting for that elusive perfect 10, but these ribs were mighty close! The cream corn is a favorite staple of mine, it is just plain good. Next time you visit Austin, Rudy's is a must stop.”
Drew’s rankings – Brisket (extra lean): 8.5; Pork ribs: 9.3; Pork loin: 9; Slaw: 10; Sauce: 9.4; Overall: 9.6
Greg’s rankings – Turkey: 9.01; Sausage (jalapeno): 8.25; Potato salad: 9.65; Banana pudding: 9.99; Sauce: 9.9; Overall: 9.5
Russell’s rankings – Brisket (cutter’s choice): 8; Pork ribs: 8.99; Baby-back ribs: 8.3; Overall: 8.75
Todd’s rankings – Brisket (cutter’s choice): 9.3; Baby-back ribs: 9.55; Creamed corn: 9.2; Overall: 9.78
Overall Man-Up Ranking: 9.4075