Friday, October 23, 2009
It’s only about a 35-minute drive from Austin to Elgin, but this was our first visit to the town that’s famous for its sausage and home to two well known BBQ joints. The first stop for our party of 10 was Southside Market & Barbeque, housed in the 2nd-oldest building in Elgin—a building that is part BBQ restaurant and part sausage factory.
Southside has a classic Texas BBQ atmosphere, with a snaking line to the counter, where you watch them slice/cut your meats, and walls adorned with BBQ paraphernalia and Southside Market history and honors. The place was packed on this rainy Saturday, yet Tom, Southside's Director of Operations, was kind enough to take the time to give us a complete tour of the sausage factory (a first for us, as were the hairnets) and the pit.
I didn’t enjoy the food as much as I did the great atmosphere and the wonderful service, which bumped up my overall score. The brisket and pork ribs were smoky, but I found both of them to be too chewy. The chicken, however, was quite nice – easily the best thing I had.
Bo has some things to say about Elgin's place (or lack thereof) in the ranks of the best BBQ in Texas, so he's up first: "One of the great things about Texas bbq is the disparity in any rankings you might come across. Different people take a liking to different things and their individual reviews will reflect as such. However, after visiting both Elgin BBQ joints for the first time this past man-up trip I came upon a great mystery and am downright stupefied. As I wrote this review I quickly double checked my facts to make sure I was correct, and unfortunately, I was. The mystery is this – how in the world did a place like Mann’s make the Texas Monthly Top 50, while both Elgin joints, Southside and Meyers not even get a shout out in the Honorable Mention section? That is about as absurd as VP Gore and P Obama winning the Nobel Peace oh wait, nevermind. To me this tomfoolery is well beyond comprehension. That being said, in my own personal rankings, I would easily place both Elgin places well in the top 6-7 in the state. Elgin itself is a textbook Texas town approximately 20 minutes Northwest of Austin and Southside and Meyers epitomize the heart of small town Texas BBQ."
No kidding. How can places like The Salt Lick and Mills County BBQ Company be missing from a list of the top 50 BBQ joints in Texas? Anyone???
And now, Bo's review of Southside Market: "Any place who advertises the annual Hogeye Festival with a banner that stretches across the entire side of the restaurant is alright in my book. Upon entering the establishment a waft of air completely consumed with BBQ smell and smoke comes fairly close to suffocating you. The ordering of the food at Southside reflects that of the great BBQ joints in Lockhart. As you wait in line eagerly anticipating and trying ever so hard to decide what to order, the menu is placed perfectly where out of the corner of your eye you gaze upon pounds and pounds of succulent brisket, ribs and of course Elgin Hot Sausage being sliced and given to those lucky customers who managed to beat you there. Inevitably, the best option is the three meat plate: fatty brisket, ribs, and Elgin Hot Sausage. Brisket: The brisket had good smoky, earthy flavor. It was flavored nicely from the melting fat. When dipped in a mixture of the warm BBQ sauce and table hot sauce the natural spice from the wood used to smoke the brisket filtered through for an almost entirely new experience. Ribs: I would echo Russell on this one. Good flavor, but a little tough and stringy. Sausage: Where many BBQ joints’s prize possession is their ribs and briskets, in Elgin make no mistake about it – Sausage is king. Elginites take pride in their sausage and in one bite you too will be a believer. Perfect amount of spice. Perfectly cooked. It doesn’t get much better than this. After the meal, Southside was nice enough to offer us a detailed tour of their entire facility there including the shipping and manufacturing process. It was a wonderful insight into the bbq world in Elgin. Southside has an amazing bbq operation going on. In fact, their traveling BBQ trailer might be one of the coolest things I ever did see."
Russell's thoughts: “Overall – Probably would have scored even better, had Meyer’s not immediately trumped it with its state-of-art BBQ equipment, food and hospitality…since we did man up and head over to Meyer’s right after manning up on Southside in a big way. However, the Southside Market has tremendous, BBQ, hospitality, décor and tradition in its own right. In fact, it just reeks of traditional Texas BBQ tradition, particularly in terms of the scope, scale and pride of their on-sight sausage operations --- which their manager Tom so kindly guided us through in great detail. Southside represents Elgin quite well. To give you an idea of the seriousness of BBQ in Elgin: Southside’s remarkably cool and large gooseneck, portable smoker was one of the more awe-inspiring pieces of BBQ equipment I’ve ever seen. Hospitality and atmosphere – Loved the people here, who really treated us to a great tour and made us feel at home in their beautiful BBQ operation! Really liked the traditional Texas BBQ décor and feel of this place, too. A lot of cool deer mounts adorned this place --- so clearly my kind of people! Sausage – It’s really all about the sausage in Elgin, and Southside has some great links. Loved seeing how they’re made and manning up on some of that! People in this place are first-class down to earth country folks who know their food. My kind of people, who really treated us to a great tour and made us feel at home in their beautiful BBQ operation! Really liked the traditional Texas BBQ décor and feel of this place too. Brisket – Mine was moist and well-marbled. I little chewy, but had a solid smoky flava, especially when combined with the warm, spicy sauces! Pork ribs – flavorful but a bit stringy and chewy. Might have been left on the smoker a little long…and I had to use quite a bit of the warm sauce on ‘em. Pecan pie – Not really anything too special, but pretty tasty. I should have availed myself of some of their ice cream to enhance it. Shiner Bock – Shiner always hits the spot when it’s cold like theirs was.”
Deana writes that the chicken was "juicy and delicious," the pork ribs were "tasty but tough," the sausage was "not too greasy," and the "detailed tour, complete with hairnets" made the hospitality outstanding.
Dana writes: “Great sausage and love the warmed up BBQ sauce. I will bring my own tortillas next time. A sausage wrap in a plain piece of white bread isn't cutting it. Sausage – Best sausage so far!! Brisket – Very tender and tasty! Pecan pie – It looked better than it tasted.”
Bo’s scores – Brisket: 9.6; Pork ribs: 9.2; Sausage: 9.8; Overall experience: 9.75
Deana’s scores – Brisket: 9; Chicken: 9.8; Pork ribs: 9; Sausage: 9.8; Service: 10; Overall experience: 9.9
Russell’s scores – Brisket: 9.4; Sausage: 9.75; Pork ribs: 9.23; Pecan pie: 9.15; Shiner Bock: 9.85; Atmosphere & Service: 9.95; Overall experience: 9.62
Dana’s scores – Brisket: 9.75; Sausage: 9.99; Pecan pie: 9; Overall experience: 9.75
Drew’s scores – Brisket: 7.5; Pork ribs: 6.5; Chicken: 9.3; Atmosphere: 9.8; Service: 9.9; Overall experience: 8.75
Mark’s scores – Brisket: 4.5; Chicken: 8.2; Peach cobbler: 9; Sauce: 6.9; Service: 9.9; Atmosphere: 10; Overall experience: 7.4
Dave’s scores – Brisket: 4; Sausage (jalapeno): 7.5; Pork ribs: 7; Sauce: 8; Service: 10; Overall experience: 7
Overall Man-Up Score: 8.88