Friday, February 27, 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009: The Salt Lick (Driftwood, Texas)

As part of the celebration of Ashley’s birthday, Man Up made its second visit to The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas, for a Saturday lunch. (Read the review of our first trip.) BBQ and a birthday. What’s not to like? Speaking of liking, a Russian bus boy liked my “KGB Still Watching You” t-shirt.

Just like Man Up’s first visit (and every non-Man-Up visit), The Salt Lick lived up to the hype. Before I started going to TSL, I assumed it was an overrated tourist trap. Sort of a Hill-Country cliché. But I’ve never been disappointed. I still find it curious that TSL didn’t make Texas Monthly’s list of the Top 50 Texas BBQ joints for 2008, garnering just an honorable mention. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

My take-home thoughts about TSL: an enjoyable drive from Austin; awesome BBQ pit inside the door of the restaurant; outstanding chicken, fantastic sausage, and arguably the best sauce you’ll find; and fast, attentive service. A downside of TSL: they only take cash.

But back to the sauce. Dave loved him some: "I'm not really one to use this saying, but all I gotta say their sauce is a little piece of heaven. I'm not sure if it’s the Japanese influence or not but that slightly sweet sauce just goes great with the smoked beef and other foods for that matter!" The only other place I’ve found whose sauce rivals the Lick’s is City Market’s (Luling, Texas), whose sauce is quite similar.

On to the scores. The birthday girl kicks us off.

Ashley’s scores –Turkey: 8; Sides: 7; Atmosphere: 10; Service: 8; Overall experience: 8

Dave’s scores – Pork ribs: 8.5; Chicken: 9.5; Brisket: 9.75; Sauce: 12 (That's right a 12 out of 10!); Pecan pie: 9; Atmosphere: 9.25; Service: 10; Overall experience: 9.75

Brad’s scores – Brisket: 8; Chicken: 8.25; Pork ribs: 8.75; Sides: 8.5; Sauce: 9; Atmosphere: 8.5; Service: 9; Overall experience: 8.85

Mark’s scores – Brisket: 9.2; Turkey: 8.7; Chicken: 9.6; Sauce: 9.85; Atmosphere: 10; Service: 9.8; Overall experience: 9.9

Drew’s scores - Chicken: 9.8; Pork ribs: 8.8; Sauce: 10; Atmosphere: 9.7; Service: 9.5; Overall experience: 9.65

Overall experience: 9.23

The Salt Lick Bar B-Q on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009: The Old Coupland Inn & Dancehall (Coupland, Texas)

Seven of us planned a pre-concert dinner at The Old Coupland Inn & Dancehall before Cory Morrow took the stage. To say the least, the kitchen was backed up, and, though we had a reservation, the wait for our table was long, and the wait to order and then get our food was even longer. Perhaps it’s because my blood sugar had tanked so much—after waiting so long for dinner—that anything would’ve tasted great, but the food really was excellent. The pork ribs were outstanding, the chicken was great, and I really enjoyed the green beans and the cole slaw, which had apples and raisins.

Since we judge a visit on the entire experience, rather than just on a single category (like the taste of the food), Coupland doesn’t rank among the best BBQ experiences I’ve had. However, the food was top-notch. Maybe on a different night, when it’s not so busy, the service would be up to the quality of the food. In such a case, Coupland would be a Texas BBQ force to be reckoned with.

Russell weighs in: “Atmosphere: Warm beer, cold service….great food, great music, great friends! Loved the authentic, old building. Only thing missing: A couple of great deer mounts. A big mule shoulder mount would look great in there, in my opinion. Cory Morrow put on a great show, which more than overcame the slow, subpar service by the seemingly confused staff and the somewhat strange (even by Austin standards) crowd of people we found ourselves packed together with while watching the show. Service: Very slow, exasperated staff; but I contend there was some level of ‘strategery’ involved in keeping our expectations in check to make sure we were good and hungry and would be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food, after our very long wait to be served. Was shocked that they actually ran out of sauce…and Shiner! The all-you-can-eat feature doesn’t do you a whole lot of good when it takes that long for ‘em to bring the food out, unfortunately. Brisket: Maybe the best brisket we’ve manned up on so far. Incredibly moist, tender, and flavorful. This was like magic brisket and would be my recommended item at Coupland! Pork ribs: A bit inconsistent, but most of my ribs were incredibly moist and tasty. Chicken: A little inconsistent, piece by piece, as well…but most of it was falling-off-the-bone good moist dark meat chicken! Sausage: Loved the sausage; this was some of the best I’ve had even though I’m not a big sausage guy. Sides: Excellent slaw and tremendous brown-sugar, cowboy-style beans! Tator salad was decent at best. Green beans with pepper sauce were great. Overall: It’s only the service factor that keeps this place out of my top 5 of all time…really was incredible food and authentic atmosphere.”

Dave, who is becoming a Man-Up regular, writes, “It is a really old building with a lot of character which added to the experience. However, we had over an hour wait for our food which is something I didn't expect to happen at a BBQ joint. With about 20 hours of preparation time, it’s not like they are making it to order! The food was good, some of it was a little drier than I would have liked but had a nice smoky flavor to it. Their sauce was not too special, kind of tasted like they simply used A1 or some other commercial brand and put it in a different bottle for us."

Bo holds nothing back: "Oh, Coupland Dance hall, where art thou? Surely it wasn’t what I saw that chilly February evening. What happened to the 'eatinest, drinkinest, dancinest place in Texas!' - that promises 'the kind of entertainment, food and hospitality that cannot be found anyplace else?' Maybe there is a disclaimer I missed that this statement and promise only applies if you arrive not on a Saturday night, with a bunch of friends, who had a reservation. See, Restatement (2nd) of Torts §90. Coupland Dance Hall defines façade. The décor and atmosphere of the Old Coupland Dance Hall was Texas enough (a good thing) to make anyone from north of the Mason-Dixon Line feel as uncomfortable as a prize does in a crackerjack box but the service was just plain Yankee. First, as Drew points out, our group had a reservation, but that didn’t seem to matter. Even though there were plenty of empty tables large enough to accommodate our Man-Up troop we had to wait at least 30 minutes. I know what you are thinking; surely the waitress came to our table immediately upon us being sat and offered her condolences for the long wait. Well, not really, actually it took another 30 minutes or so for the waitress to even acknowledge our presence. And don’t get me started on the koozy invention happening at the table because of the warm beverages. (See, e.g. Kaitlin’s pic). After enough time for Cory Morrow to record his new album - Vagrants and Kings - our food finally arrived. I ordered the 'all-you-can-eat' option which should have been called, 'all-we-really-have-time-for-even-though-its-not-that-busy-is-one-plate.' Brisket: The brisket was not that bad. Easily the best protein of the night. The right amount of fat flavored the meat nicely. Chicken: It might have been falling off the bone but that’s because it was completely dried out. Wasn’t a fan at all. Sausage: The sausage had potential. Like, it potentially could have been good 8 hours before it was served when it was actually cooked. Even though it tasted dried out from sitting too long a last little bit of flavor was hanging in there. Sauce: Wouldn’t know – they ran out. Sides: The only sides I remember was the cowboy baked beans served in the petite kettle. By far the best food of the night. I liked the touch of brown sugar. Whoever makes the beans should immediately be appointed to Executive Chef. Coupland Dance Hall – you are on notice. Because you glisten the pages of Texas Monthly next to such venues as Luckenbach and Gruene Hall we should give one more chance to redeem yourself. However, it won’t be easy."

Russell’s scores – Brisket: 9.98; Pork ribs: 9.87; Chicken: 9.85; Sausage: 9.76; Sides: 9.55; Service: 4.2; Atmosphere: 8.6; Overall experience: 9.33

Dave’s scores – Brisket: 9; Pork ribs: 8; Sausage: 8; Sauce: 6; Service: 2; Atmosphere: 10; Overall experience: 7

Brad’s scores – Brisket: 8.75; Pork ribs: 9.25; Chicken: 9; Sausage: 7.75; Cobbler - 9.5; Service: 0.025; Atmosphere: 8.75; Overall experience: 8.77

Drew’s scores – Pork ribs: 9.8; Chicken: 9.75; Sausage: 9.5; Atmosphere: 8.8; Overall experience: 9

Bo’s scores – Brisket: 8.5; Chicken: 5; Sausage: 8; Sides: 9.5; Overall experience: 5

Overall Man-Up Score: 7.82

Coupland Inn & Dance Hall on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 23, 2009

Reader Review: Dickey's Barbecue Pit (Terminal C, DFW)

An email from my good buddy Whitt, of Peachtree City, Georgia, who had a layover Sunday at DFW:

The old adage goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In applying this saying to my brief layover in Texas, I knew I had to find some BBQ. Fortunately, my plane pulled in only two gates away from the Dickey’s Barbcue Pit at C6.

The menu offers several options but I chose a 2 meat-2 side plate. Available meats were brisket, spicy or regular sausage, and ribs. Sides included corn on the cob, green beans, mashed-potato casserole, coleslaw, and something I could not determine. For my meal, I chose the two meats most associated (at least from what I have read) with traditional Texas BBQ…brisket and spicy sausage. I also added some potato casserole (a delicacy with cheese, bacon bits, onions, and potatoes) and the coleslaw (which had a tinge of spice as well) to finish off my plate.

I must say that I was satisfied by my meal. I did not know exactly what to expect from the sausage as the BBQ joints I have frequented in the past never offered it. Was it going to be the same as the sausage patties on my McDonald’s biscuits or those my grandmother used to make me for breakfast? I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the spicy sausage very tasty, the nice Jamaican lady at the counter gave me an extra half a sausage to boot. I am not sure if that was due to my striking good looks (probably not) or the fact that I mentioned one couldn’t come to Texas and not try to BBQ.

The brisket left a little to be desired. I was expecting a mouth-watering treat that would knock my socks off (especially since I had some really good home-made “Texas style” brisket just two days ago in Colorado). However, the meat was rather dry and not that tasty, until I bathed it in the sauce that was provided (at my request) on the side. I knew from reading this blog that many Texas BBQ joints don’t even offer sauce since they believe the real challenge in making great BBQ is to allow the meat to speak for itself, not the sauce. I guess if you add enough sauce, you could make anything taste good (kind of like I do with Splenda packets and gas station cappuccinos). I will admit though that the sauce was pretty good!

The best thing on my plate (not good when its not one of the meats) was my potato casserole. It was really good!!! It was like taking a loaded baked potato and smashing it in a pile that just begged me to take another bite. Unfortunately for me, the nice lady only gave me a small portion of this. Next time I will ask her to fill the “meat portion” of the tray with the casserole and the “side portion” with the sausage. I’ll probably leave the brisket off altogether.

The coleslaw was good, but let’s be honest, who cares about coleslaw? No one reads this blog to find out which places know best how to mix cabbage and mayonnaise and whatever else is in the stuff.

All in all, I am glad I had time to stop by Dickey’s to temporarily appease my appetite for Texas BBQ. I know I have to make my way to the Austin area to really get the real deal stuff, but for now this will have to do.

Brisket: C+
Spicy Sausage: B+
Potato Casserole: A
Coleslaw: B-
Bread (it was just white bread or untoasted Texas Toast but was stale, & I only took one bite): F
Sauce: A-
Service: A

Just a thought for all you who make baked beans: Try putting some pickled relish in there. I had some the other night in Colorado (made by the same lady who brought the homemade brisket) and it really was pretty good. It was unlike any baked beans dish I have ever tasted

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Live from Rudy's...

Blogging for the first time from a BBQ joint. I found out Tuesday that Rudy's (at least the one on Hwy. 620 in Austin) has free wireless, so I'm back at my spot in the back, with my Trophy Refill of iced tea, about to do some work. I'll break in a bit for my third Rudy's meal in less than a week.

Odds and ends:

1. Keep commenting on yesterday's Questions of the Day (Man Up's first QOTD post; many more to come).

2. Brisket has tied it up with pork ribs, in Man Up's first poll.

3. Reviews in the hopper: Old Coupland Inn, The Salt Lick, and Schoepf's

4. Man Up is making plans for our first outing in San Antonio, so sit tight.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Questions of the Day

1. Do you prefer sauce with your BBQ?

2. If so, whose sauce is your favorite?

Leave comments!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"A Taste of Texas BBQ"

The four of us each flew in from a different city, met at the Austin airport, rented a Mazda6, and hit the road for three days of the best barbeque that I have ever tasted. Here is a rundown of where we went, what we ate, and how good it was...

Monday, February 16, 2009

BBQ 101: What is beef brisket?

From "With a little bit of time and the proper cooking method, even the toughest piece of meat can be made palatable. Brisket is one of the least tender cuts of beef, but it can be made tender and the flavor is tough to beat. What is brisket? Brisket is a beef cut taken from the breast section beneath the first five ribs, behind the foreshank. Fresh brisket is an inexpensive boneless cut that requires long, slow cooking to break down the collagen in the connective muscle tissues achieve tenderness. The long piece is cut in half for marketing. You'll find it sold as a flat cut or a point cut. The flat cut is leaner, but the point cut has more flavor due to a bit of extra fat (called the deckel)."

Read more from Wikipedia.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Today: Man Up visits Schoepf's

Before spending the afternoon at a C.A.O. event at Salado Cigars, we're having lunch at Schoepf's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Belton, Texas. Stay tuned for our review. In the meantime, read about our previous trips to Schoepf's.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Man Up Texas BBQ proud to be mentioned in The Goldthwaite Eagle

Mills County BBQ featured in Texas BBQ Blog

Man Up: Texas Tales of BBQ featured Mills County BBQ in their recent blog site. Mills County BBQ got good marks across the board. Read the blog by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009: Mills County BBQ Company (Goldthwaite, Texas)

Well, it turns out that my first time to stumble upon a Man-Up outing is also my first time to stumble upon a Texas BBQ gem. A vinyl-sided, two-room structure, with a covered-patio BBQ pit and a gravel parking lot, Mills County BBQ Company in Goldthwaite, Texas, is worth the stop. Rodeo-cowboy-turned-BBQ-pitmaster Chris Paskett single handedly mans the mesquite-fired smoker’s spread of beef brisket, pork ribs, sausage, turkey, and ham. He does the smoking, and he does the cutting. (Be sure to check out the pictures on the wall from his rodeo days.)

I ordered everything but ham, and every meat was absolutely succulent. The thick, lean brisket had nice burnt ends, the sausage had great flavor and texture (meaning it didn’t crumble, which I hate), the salt-brined turkey was moist, and you could pull the thick rib meat right off the bone with hardly any effort. I enjoyed the brisket and the sausage, but the turkey and the ribs were outstanding. I didn’t try either of the sides, but there was no need to. The pickles and thin-and-tangy sauce were excellent additions, but, for these meats, not essential.

Judging on the quality of the food alone, Mills County is fantastic; but, when you consider the price you pay for the amount and quality of food you get, it’s even better. The portions are substantial, and a three-meat plate (which includes one side) is just $9.95. As far as value goes, Mills County is first-rate. Service was also first-rate, as Chris took the time to show us the pit area and answer all of our questions.

My first visit to Mills County BBQ Company was by happenstance. My next visit will not be.

Amber’s scores – Brisket: 8.5; Pork ribs: 9.65; Sausage: 9.02; Turkey: 9.85; Overall experience: 9.75

Drew’s scores – Brisket: 8.75; Pork ribs: 9.78; Sausage: 8.9; Turkey: 9.9; Sauce: 9.7; Overall experience: 9.78

Overall Man-Up Score: 9.765

Mills County BBQ Company on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009: Hill's Cafe (Austin, Texas)

Though we’d visited many times before for dinner or free Wednesday-night concerts under the big oak trees, this was our first Man-Up visit to Hill’s Cafe in South Austin. Hill’s is a great place to grab a drink, eat comfort food, catch a game, and hear some Texas music. It’s not strictly a BBQ joint, but they have a good range of BBQ to choose from.

We had a party of eight, but a few didn’t partake of Bob Cole’s BBQ offerings. Those of us who did found the BBQ to be fairly solid. Not great, but not bad. Of the BBQ we’ve eaten in Austin, I’d put Hill’s in the middle of the pack. I’d choose it over Iron Works, Ruby’s, and R.J.’s but not The County Line, Green Mesquite, or Rudy’s.

Bo writes, “Hospitality: Any place owned and operated by Country Music Hall of Fame personality Bob Cole has to be friendly, even if it is in South Austin. Hill's came through on my scale with a score of 8.8. The waiter also did a god job of handling such a large and loud group. Turkey: The turkey had some flavor in it but seemed dry, as if it was cooked earlier in the day and was sitting underneath a heating lamp for some time. Sausage: I thought the sausage had potential but had dried out a bit too much for my liking. Brisket: Surprisingly moist and full of flavor. Sides: I had the mac 'n cheese and something else. That says it all - I can’t even remember what I had.”

And now, thoughts from Russell: “Hospitality: Hill’s has the friendliest service you can expect for a South Austin place. Even though we didn’t meet him, I assume Mr. BBQ Bob Cole does a good job setting that good-ole-boy tone at his place. I think it has a warm feeling associated with it…maybe it’s from all that free live music they play on the back patio under the big oak trees! I was highly disappointed they were out of their 'award winning' pork ribs…that kept them from scoring higher on the hospitality scale. Brisket: Maybe a little fatty, but their moist brisket was some of the juiciest, most flavorful in the ATX and would be my recommended item at Hill’s. Brisket quesadillas are also great. Turkey: I'm not a huge turkey fan at a lot of BBQ joints; but theirs was quite flavorful and moist. I would also recommend this highly. Sides: Tons of great sides! Jalapeno black eyed peas! Corn casserole! My favorite: Sweet potato fries! All excellent! Overall: Ranks highly mainly because of the hospitality and authentic TX feel, and it’s just down the road on S. Congress.”

Bo’s scores – Brisket: 9.3; Turkey: 8.5; Sausage: 8.5; Sides: 8; Hospitality: 8.8; Overall experience: 9.2

Russell’s scores – Brisket: 9.55; Turkey: 9.15; Jalapeno black-eyed peas: 9.3; Corn casserole: 9.8; Sweet potato fries: 9.99; Hospitality: 8.5; Overall experience: 9.62

Drew’s scores – Brisket: 8; Turkey: 7; Jalapeno black-eyed peas: 8; Grilled squash: 8.5; Atmosphere: 7; Overall experience: 7.5

Overall Man-Up Score: 8.7733

Hill's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009