If you're like me, you love polls. Rankings. Top 10 lists. Any compilation that declares something or someone to be the best. But if you're like me, you take a given ranking with a grain of salt. You take subjective polls at their subjective face value. Any number of things could influence a ranking: What were the criteria/factors? Who were the scorers? Were they qualified to judge? Did they have any ulterior motivations and biases? Was the poll on the up and up? Any undue influence? You get the point.
The same is true for Texas Monthly's BBQ08 rankings (and this blog's, for that matter), which we've mentioned in several reviews. They're just rankings, compiled be a group of people. They're not fact. Not gospel. But this in no way makes me any less interested in them. TM's rankings are, to my knowledge, the most current and relevant rankings for Texas BBQ. And for a guy who hasn't lived in Texas that long, with limited knowledge of the BBQ options out there, they are a useful guide for picking places to visit. I've used the list since I started the blog and will continue to do so (I also really like the BBQ08 pages on TM's website. Great articles and pictures.).
Prior to this past Saturday, Man Up had visited 4 of TM's Top 5 BBQ joints for 2008. All that was left was TM's choice for the top BBQ in Texas: Snow's BBQ in Lexington. After a 54-mile drive at 8:00 am on Saturday, we rounded out TM's Top 5 with a morning meal at Snow's.
The second half of the drive (between Elgin and Lexington) was a great way to start the day. Peaceful and beautiful. But it was not all downhill from there. As we turned onto Main Street in Lexington, we eyed the Snow's sign not far ahead. With windows rolled down, we passed a truck on the side of the road with raw honey for sale out of the truck bed and then got our first impression of Snow's: the smell of barbecue smoking was unmistakable.
Once we got out of the car, I went immediately for the pit for a close-up look at the meats, as my shirt soaked up the smoke that would stay with me the rest of the day. Before I get to our thoughts on the food, I have to say that the workers at Snow's—Tootsie Tomanetz, Kerry Bexley, and the rest—could not have been kinder or more accommodating, showing me around the pit and patiently answering my questions. Whatever was to come of the meal, I knew I would leave Snow's with a first-rate impression of the staff. For any Snow's staffers reading this, thank you again for being such excellent hosts.
Now to the food, scored by 5 of our party of 8.
It was Mark's first Man-Up outing, so he's up first: "Chicken - I don't know what a 10 would be, but I'm sure this was close. So tender that it almost fell off the bone and onto my fork without me picking at it. Its cigar equivalent would be the 'easy draw.' Brisket - Maybe it's because i had Iron Works' brisket to contrast it with that same day, but it was (again) very tender and juicy. Made me wanna suck my teeth afterwards to soak up every last bit. If it's not the best I've had, it's dang near. Sauce - Honestly didn't have any. That's how dad-gum good the meat was on its own. Forgot to eat my cole slaw. Atmosphere - If it weren't for that dang fly taking a little fly-crap on the lip of my tea cup, it would have been perfect. I did finish the tea, though. Cute little old ladies serving the food. Couldn't ask for anything more authentic. Overall - It lived up to its #1 billing, in my book."
Providing a much appreciated female perspective, Julianne recounts her experience: "Brisket: very moist, and cooked to perfection, didn't even need sauce, they were so good. Chicken: good but I don't normally eat chicken at BBQ places, so hard to judge. Moist though, which is hard to do. Ribs: I didn't think they were moist enough (Maybe needed more sauce). Sausage: terrible, not worth ranking. The drive was beautiful and provided a nice time to spend with family or friends. The area around Lexington is serene. Each mile you go further from Austin drops off lbs. of stress from your life. The atmosphere is wonderful. Too many flies, but still enjoyable due to the quality of food. I would recommend to anyone for at least special occasions. Not worth going every weekend."
Greg's thoughts on his second outing: "Chicken – It might have been the best chicken I've ever had. It was perfect. It was just like I like my women, moist and smoky…wait what? Brisket – It was good…I was expecting better so that might have been why I score it lower. Good with and without sauce, which you can't beat. Sauce – great sauce and it came in an Ozarka/Gatorade bottle. I have to give it props for uniqueness of presentation. Potato Salad – It's potato salad, hard to screw up and it was good. Great compliment to a great meal. Cole Slaw – I'm not a huge fan of slaw and this did little to change my mind, but not bad. Atmosphere – It was exactly what I wanted. The only way it could have been better if it wasn't 9am and there were even more people there. The TV cameras almost overcame all of that though….Overall – It might be the best experience at a BBQ joint I've had. The food was great, the people were great, and we are going to be on TV. Finally, my big break is here! If it wasn't for the fact it was 9am and I don't remember any dessert. Some banana pudding or peach cobbler would have made it perfect."
Last but never least, former meat grader Russell: "Beef Brisket: tender, flavorful and moist, but a little too stringy to get a 10 on this day. Pork Ribs: tasty and falling off the bone tender, but a little crispy (Kerry was kind enough to apologize for the crispy-ness of this item, offering the explanation that TX Country Reporter photographer, the good Mr. Strickland, had distracted him from regulating on the usual rib cooking time!). Pork Loin: extremely moist and tender on this item---maybe the best pork loin we've manned up on to date! This would clearly be my recommended item for Snow's goers. Chicken: As you all know, I'm not much of a bird-eater by nature, but there's was wonderfully flavorful and moist. My friends, despite the reviews of other folks such as TX Monthly, Snow's BBQ was not quite number one on my list, but I will say I loved the friendly folks and the authentic Texas country atmosphere. It was a nice drive out there from Austin with the fam…and running into ole' pheasant huntin' buddy Dan Strickland and the Texas Country Reporter was just a bonus. Bottom line: Go out there and man up on you some Pork Loin, Chicken and Brisket first chance you get…but get there early because the lines can be long and the good food and sweet, sweet tea doesn't last long. Stay hungry my friends."
Mark's rankings – Chicken: 9.5; Brisket: 9.9; Atmosphere: 9.95; Overall experience: 9.95
Julianne's rankings – Brisket: 9.56; Chicken: 9; Pork ribs: 8.5; Overall experience: 9.25
Greg's rankings – Chicken: 10; Brisket: 9.45; Sauce: 9.6; Potato salad: 9; Cole slaw: 8; Atmosphere: 9.99; Overall experience: 9.9
Russell's rankings – Chicken: 9.93; Pork ribs: 9.25; Pork loin: 9.95; Brisket: 9.45; Overall experience: 9.49
Drew's rankings – Chicken: 9.7; Pork loin: 9.75; Brisket: 9.7; Sauce: 9.65; Atmosphere: 9.9; Service: 10; Overall experience: 9.78
Overall Man-Up Ranking: 9.674