Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jacob & friends MAN UP.

A few weeks ago, Jacob and 4 friends hit up 7 BBQ joints in a 24-hour span (8, if you count the lunch just before the whole group got together). Four of the 5 wrote reviews, which I will post throughout today (11a, 1p, & 3p), along with pics. Jacob spearheaded this BBQ extravaganza, so he'll kick us off:

I once believed there was no such thing as “too much” BBQ. I was right. In a 24 hour span I ate somewhere in the neighborhood 3.5 lbs of some of the greatest meats in all of Texas, and honestly I would do it all again tomorrow if I could just get the crowd to accompany me along.

My journey started innocently enough. My brother was coming through Austin and wanted to stop for lunch. I knew that if I only had one meal to eat in Austin, it would be Franklin's brisket and ribs. I have eaten here some many times by now that even the way to long wait has become second nature to me and expected. It was still what I have come to know and love, and visit 13 was just as good as the first time I went back in January. Aaron Franklin does more than just cook his meat perfectly, he seasons it perfectly also in a very unique, keep Austin weird, type of way. My brother enjoyed his first trip and both he and his girlfriend felt firmly that this could be the best they have had. I also grabbed a few links of sausage and a pound of brisket as a welcome gift for my friends coming into Austin later.

They wanted to go somewhere big and exciting in the BBQ world for dinner that night. They have all been to Lamberts before, and as hard as I tried it was too late for me to get in at Cele Store, so I finally broke down and agreed to go where they wanted to, Salt Lick in Driftwood. When I first moved to Austin, Salt Lick was the first “big name” Austin area establishment I visited. I liked it a lot. Now at almost 2 years and about 40 different BBQ joints later, I cannot honestly recommend Salt Lick to anyone wanting to experience the best BBQ Texas has to offer. My brisket was dry and tough, the sausage tasted no better than what I have made from store bought brands, and the ribs were a bit too fatty and bit to skimpy on the meat. The worst part is that they may have some of the best BBQ sauces in Texas, and the atmosphere is truly a unique experience, but the food has become a mass producing over blown factor.

The plan was to wake up early the next day and the two cars to meet in Elgin and kick off our day trip at Southside Market. My plan turned out to be, sleep in late, than speed to Lexington to try and catch up with the other car. I had been talking Snows BBQ up to everyone I know not lucky enough to have ever visited. I didn’t disappoint a soul here. Even though we made it at just after 10:00AM, ribs were sold out. We still loaded up on moist brisket, sausage, and pork butt. Honestly I was a bit disappointed with the pork today. It was a bit dry and had a slight burnt crunchiness to it. There was still a good flavor on the bark of the pork but the insides was lacking. Sausage also tasted just a tad over cooked and dried out, but still had the perfect smoke flavor all the way through. Brisket was the show stealer however, and reminds me why I always mention this place in my top 5. Perfectly moist and falling apart. Smoke emanated in every bite and the salty rub was the perfect amount for full flavor.

Next stop also happens to be my current “favorite that you haven’t been to yet” spot. Well known, but not enough to get a regular following from all around Texas, or even form Austin for that matter. City Meat Market in Giddings, Texas should be on your list of places to try. The old building was filled with delicious smelling smoke and packed with locals. Even at 11:00 they had a long line and had already gone through a few briskets and rack of ribs. We go for the sausage, brisket, ribs, and pork. I’m a big fan of their sausage, and isn’t very dense is almost crumbled into the casing, but still sticks together well. Casing has a great snap to it and the meat is full of all kinds of flavor. Ribs also were cooked well with a perfect bark and lots of salt and pepper. Any other trip I would have said the brisket here was the best, but it was just too tough to follow up on Snows, and while everything was great with the brisket it was still missing the fall apart moistness, the fat rendered until it is like butter, or the burst of perfect smoke and flavor in each and every bite. It was still a very moist, perfectly seasoned brisket that hardly required chewing. The real surprise here was the pork however. So moist you would never believe it was pig, and juicy all the way through. The seasoning had a great kick too it while still locking in the flavor, smoke, and juices of the pig. Second best meat on the whole trip.

By this point it was almost noon and each of had eaten around 1.25 lbs of meat. The meat sweats were starting to come on, and any second someone could have easily slipped into a meat coma, but we trudged on. Next stop was Prause Meat Market in La Grange, Texas. This place had been on my list for a long time, and it will have to stay on it for now as when we pulled up they were out of everything but sausage links. We order up a pair of those, and then I talked the butcher into throwing in the burnt ends of brisket and pork that were left on the cutting table for free. While not the best example, they were still good samples. What we had of those were tender and good flavor. The sausage however was one of the best yet. Perfect casing and snap with right amount of smoke and small hint of sweetness to balance with the saltiness and heat. The next two stops lead us to getting smaller and smaller portions as we were now regulated to trying samples only. Austin's BBQ & Catering in Eagle Lake provided another good homemade sausage, but nothing special in the brisket and one of the worst sauces I have ever tasted. Final stop in East Bernard at Vincek's had a similar experience. The store itself there is worth the trip, and the sausage held up strong with a subtle spiciness and lots of heat. Brisket was about what you expect from a well made cut, but just a tad too tough. Sauce, while nice, was forgettable. The real treat here is the meat market and bakery. Jerky here was fantastic, and they have about a dozen homemade sausages you can buy.

It was a great memorials day trip. A lot of driving through some beautiful parts of Texas, good friends, and great food. Luckily I already have my mapped marked out for the Labor Day trip.

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