Friday, January 30, 2009

New blog feature

Check out Man Up's first poll in the right-hand column, and then vote for your favorite type of BBQ!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Best of 2008: Best Overall

Rounding out our Best of 2008 is our award for Best Overall. Voters considered anything and everything they wished (food, service, atmosphere, etc.) in order to arrive at their picks. For 2008, here are our favorites of the 17 places we visited:

1. Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, Texas): 18 points (four 1st-place votes; three 2nd-place votes)

2. Smitty's (Lockhart, Texas): 12 points (two 1st-place votes; three 2nd-place votes)

3. Snow's BBQ (Lexington, Texas): 5 points (two 2nd-place votes; one 3rd-place vote)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Best of 2008: Best Brisket

When you think Texas BBQ, you probably think beef. Most likely, you think beef brisket. It's pure Texas, arguably Texas BBQ's signature item. Thus, it's our last Best of 2008 individual-item award. We tasted some outstanding slices of slow-smoked brisket in 2008. Of the 17 places where at least two people tried the brisket, here are the Top 5:

1. Snow's BBQ (Lexington, Texas): 9.612

2. Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, Texas): 9.43625

3. City Market (Luling, Texas): 8.76

4. Smitty's (Lockhart, Texas): 8.751

5. Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q (Austin, Texas): 8.6

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Best of 2008: Best Turkey

As with all individual menu items, scores were averaged for all items for which more than one person scored the item. For everyone who tried the smoked turkey at Louie Mueller Barbecue, it comes as no surprise that it was not a close contest. Here are the Top 3:

1. Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, Texas): 9.5744

2. Black's Barbecue (Lockhart, Texas): 9.0167

3. Iron Works BBQ (Austin, Texas): 9

Monday, January 26, 2009

Austin's Artz Rib House is closed

Art Blondin, who plays bass guitar and owns Artz Rib House at 2330 S. Lamar Blvd., needs help. A well-known figure among Austin musicians, Art had to close his business Sunday — "temporarily, hopefully," he said — because of financial problems. He owes back taxes to the IRS.

Read the review of Man Up's visit to Artz.

*1-27-09 UPDATE: Artz reopened.

Jason's pics from Smitty's

Jason's pics from Black's

Jason's pics from Kreuz

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Best of 2008: Best Pork Ribs

Texas is the place for beef ribs, but who takes home our Best of 2008 award for Best Pork Ribs? Here are the Top 5:

1. Opie's Barbecue (Spicewood, Texas): 9.54167

2. Smitty's Market (Lockhart, Texas): 9.38583

3. Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q (Austin, Texas): 9.28

4. Kreuz Market (Lockhart, Texas): 9.267

5. Snow's BBQ (Lexington, Texas): 8.875

Friday, January 23, 2009

Best of 2008: Best Atmosphere

When it comes to Texas BBQ, it's not just about the food. Often, atmosphere is what sets apart one place from another, particularly when it's next to impossible to decide whose food is better. With so much top-notch BBQ in Central Texas, how can you decide which to choose? Well, if it's a unique Texas BBQ atmosphere you seek, we've got the skinny. Here are our Best of 2008 awards for Best Atmosphere...

1. Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, Texas): 20 points (six 1st-place votes; one 2nd-place vote)

2. The Salt Lick (Driftwood, Texas): 12 points (one 1st-place vote; three 2nd-place votes; three 3rd-place votes)

3 (tie).

Snow's BBQ (Lexington, Texas): 7 points (one 1st-place vote; two 2nd-place votes)

Smitty's Market (Lockhart, Texas): 7 points (one 1st-place vote; one 2nd-place vote; two 3rd-place votes)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Talk about manning up!

An email from Jason:

So my buddies from Chicago are in town; what a great opportunity to take them to some Texas BBQ and what better place then Lockhart, Texas! We hit 4 places on this tour…yep all 4.

We started at Kruez’s the big massive mammoth of a building; it was Saturday afternoon around 1:00pm and it was slammed; it was one of the longest lines I’ve ever seen coming here. Today we ordered 4 slices of brisket (2 lean and 2 fatty); 3 sausages (2 jalapeno cheese and 1 regular); we also got 4 pork ribs. Brisket was average; tasty and flavorful. The sausage… man this is the best thing going for these guys! Solid once again…that jalapeno cheese rocks!! Pork rib was good; very peppery, as I remember the last time. Brisket 8; Ribs 8.2; Sausage 9.9; Overall 8.7.

Next we headed down a couple blocks to Black’s – I do enjoy black’s brisket and turkey so I recommended the guys get that. As tempting as those sides are coming into this place… we moved along cause there was much more meat to eat! So we ended up ordering 2 slices of turkey, 1 slice of pork loin, 2 slices of brisket, and 1 pork rib. Turkey 9.4; Brisket 8.9; Pork loin 8.7; Didn’t eat the rib; Overall 8.8.

Of course, farther down the road is Smitty’s. I won’t forget to mention this is my favorite place in Lockhart. We took a different entrance today, going in from the rear door, which leads to the other side of the fire, which sometimes they make you go to. Anyhow, the line was long, by far the longest I’ve seen at Smitty’s. People were definitely ready to eat today. The BBQ pits were definitely all going today, as we saw 4 pits blazing with the wood, as it was nice and toasty waiting in line. It was our last meat stop and we definitely manned up on some brisket, ribs, and 1 sausage. Fatty brisket 9.3; Lean brisket 9.2; Pork ribs (off the chain, as usual) 9.8; Sausage (very oily, as usual, but I expected that…but very tasty once you drain all the oil) 8.6; Overall 9.3.

Lastly, how can we forget Chisholm Trail? Peach cobbler a la mode! Can we say that was a 9.8 today!! Great sweetness and great texture! Loved it!

Adrian - In general, I loved the jalapeno sausage at Kreuz and the ribs at Smitty's. Brisket was good at all three - I think I prefer BBQ pork to beef though. Black's was the least impressive overall - kinda thought the turkey was the best thing there. Absolutely loved the building/atmosphere of Smitty's (which, if i understand correctly, is where Kreuz used to be located before they moved to that gigantic sterile big building?)

Ben - My review: "yum, me fat."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Best of 2008: Best Sausage

By a convincing margin, the Best of 2008 award for Best Sausage goes to The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas. Of the 12 places in the running, here are the Top 5, with average scores:

1. The Salt Lick (Driftwood, Texas): 9.5167

2. Kreuz Market (Lockhart, Texas): 9

3. Black's Barbecue (Lockhart, Texas): 8.788

4. Smitty's (Lockhart, Texas): 8.608

5. City Market (Luling, Texas): 8.6

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh. My.

Bacon Explosion: The BBQ Sausage Recipe of all Recipes (from BBQ Addicts). Read coverage from The New York Times.

Best of 2008: Best Beef Ribs

There were just 3 places where our group ordered beef ribs, but we have a decisive winner: Louie Mueller Barbeuce in Taylor, Texas. Here are the final rankings (with average beef-rib scores):

1. Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, Texas): 9.7275

2. Iron Works BBQ (Austin, Texas): 8.09

3. The County Line (Austin, Texas): 7.345

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Best of 2008: Best Service

The first category of Man Up's Best of 2008 is Best Service. As will be the case for the awards for Best Atmosphere and Best Overall, the award for Best Service was decided by tallying the scores for the top 3 choices from each of the 9 people who attended at least 3 Man-Up outings. 3 points for 1st-place votes; 2 points for 2nd-place votes; and 1 point for 3rd-place votes.

Without further ado, the award for Best Service in 2008 goes to Black's Barbecue in Lockhart, Texas. We had great service during many of our visits, but the personal tour from Kent Black made our trip to Black's stand out above the rest. The top 3 vote getters are as follows:

1. Black's Barbecue (Lockhart, Texas): 20 points (six 1st-place votes; one 2nd-place vote)

2. Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, Texas): 9 points (one 1st-place vote; two 2nd-place votes; two 3rd-place votes)

3. Snow's BBQ (Lexington, Texas): 8 points (four 2nd-place votes)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Later today

Man Up journeys to Llano, Texas.

Afternoon update: Back from our just-under-4-hours round trip to Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, fighting through a food coma with a cigar. Stay tuned for reviews, pics, and more.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jason follows suit

After reading about Todd's visit to Schoepf's, Jason stopped in. His email:

So I’m driving up to Dallas what a perfect opportunity to check out Schoepf’s, I mean I just read Todd’s review, I’ll check it out for myself! The drive is not too bad from Austin and very easy to find. I parked my car and walked out smelling BBQ goodness! I had my suit on and was a little upset I was going to smell like BBQ, but that’s ok! Hahaa…Anyway, I digress; I asked the person behind me if she had been here before and what she recommended; she recommended I get the brisket and pork ribs. That’s already a must in my book! I also ordered a cut of the sirloin, as the kids cutting the meat said it was good! Granted, I had to take this on the road with me; the lady who packaged my meal made it very eat-in-the-car friendly! I do thank her for that!! Super nice service! She cut my meat nicely. It was great! Brisket was good; not the best; lean brisket, good flavor. 8.5. Pork rib – very good pork rib! I was impressed with its tenderness; by far the most tender pork rib I’ve had. It’s almost like it was stewed! Flavor was good as well. 8.9. Sirloin – GREAT flavor; I’m glad I asked those kids what was good, 'cause this was the best tasting stuff I had. Basically a steak. BBQ’ed good smokiness; a little tough, but the flavor of the beef was fantastic! 9.3. Service 9.7. Overall 8.9. I would definitely go back to this place when heading up to Dallas or coming back down!

Schoepf's Old Time Pit Bar-B Que on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rudy's refill update

Apparently the price for the "Trophy Refill" is not $0.75 at all Rudy's locations, as it is at the New Braunfels location. I stopped (for the first time) at the location on Highway 620 in Austin, and the going rate is $1.00 ($1.08, with tax). Highway robbery!

Back at Rudy's, 2 days later

Two days after visiting Rudy's in New Braunfels for the first (and, later that day, the second) time, I returned. Rest assured, I came armed with a large Rudy's cup for my $0.75 refill. Two more posts of pics coming up.

Friday, January 9, 2009

BBQ in Europe???

And now, here’s Julianne’s wrap-up of her quest to find some BBQ across the pond:

Well, it appears that BBQ is not just a Southern or American thing. The Europeans began the idea and love to fire up the grill for any reason. For centuries Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas markets) have been held in villages and cities across Europe, each with their own flair for local food, drink, and novelties. The market is Dresden, Germany dates back to 1434. I honestly think my favorite part of Christmas is walking through the various markets. It beats our American department stores hands down. Each market is in the town square near the Cathedral or church for that town. The churches range from 200 years old to Koln’s Dom (Cathedral), which began in 1248. Until the completion of the Washington Monument in 1884 it was the tallest structure in the world standing at 516 feet. The snow falls down around the Cathedral that is all lit up, while the local bands play Christmas tunes. I graze through over 50 booths picking up Gluhwein (a spiced hot wine) and a swine steak to start off dinner. Then I pick up various potatoes, spatzle (noodles), wurst (similar to a hot dog) until I get to dessert. Then I peruse the chocolate covered strawberries, sugared nuts, waffles, crepes, Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and many more sweet delicacies.

The Germans are quite proud of their BBQ. All of the German BBQ is from the pig. Pig is pretty much the staple food of the Germans. They use all parts and grill it all up in different ways. They do not smoke the BBQ the way it is mostly done in America. It is more grilled. A large pit is created that is filled with wood. It is about 6-7 feet in diameter with a large grate hanging over it. This grate is tied up to the ceiling of the booth and allows for the entire grate (the same size at the pit across) to rotate in a circle as it holds the meat. The meat is continually rotated and glazed in BBQ sauce as smoke fills the booth. As a funny side note the BBQ sauce is of the American variety- Jack Daniels. Then when the meat is just right it is served in a brochen (bread roll). Even the meat on a stick is handed out in a brochen. The bread functions the same as a tortilla to hold the meat and allow for you to eat it. I just go for the meat, no need to fill up on bread.

The other main difference is the potatoes in Germany. In America we love potato salad and we like it cold. Germans LOVE potatoes in many different ways but they always come HOT. They have potatoes in rosemary seasoning with onions and bacon. They also have a favorite of potatoes in a garlic cream sauce and then of course the Frites (fries) with Frit Sauce (mayo). It is not a complete meal without Hot Frites covered in salt and Mayo.

Swine Steak - 9.999. I love Beef ribs and brisket but a swine steak is heavenly. So succulent and full of flavor. Never dry, never a bad piece of meat.

Gluhwein - 10. It sends a warm thrill through you heating you and dissolving any problems you have.

Shish-k-bobs - 8.5. Good meat, but a different part of the pig and not as tender. Grilled onions add to the flavor. A definite try but not the best.

Frites and Mayo - 9.5. Hot and with a mixture of salty sweet that hits the spot.

Potatoes in garlic cream sauce - 8. Full of flavor and cooked to just slightly soft. The key is they are cooked in the sauce, so it infuses deep inside to provide even flavor.

Atmosphere - 20 on a scale of 1 to 10.

As for the Dutch, they follow suit with the Germans. Their BBQ is about the exact same and runs a close second. Although I found it funny that the Dutch (much skinnier than the Germans on whole) require an XXXL Wurst and in Germany there is only L and XL. The Dutch also like to make pork ribs.

Pork Ribs - 6.5. Good but not my favorite.

Bottom line...

A German Christmas Market is a fabulous experience for all of your senses. And if you don’t like food, there is some of the best nativity scenes, and Christmas decorations you have ever seen. Beautifully hand made from wood, porcelain, and glass. The Cathedrals are decorated and lit up and if you are lucky to catch a mass service or a nun choir, sit down and let the beautiful music swim around you and draw you into the Yuletide spirit. The focus is community, love and fun; you cannot help but be caught up in the beauty of it all.

Who wants to come next year with me?

Todd goes it alone at Schoepf's

Here's an email from Todd, a faithful Man Upper, recounting his recent solo visit to Schoepf’s BBQ in Belton, Texas:

During a recent trip from Dallas to Austin, I managed to stop off in Belton for some great pit BBQ. Schoepf's Old Time Pit BBQ (exit 294A - I35‎) came highly recommended and lived up to its billing! Schoepf's fits into the category of pit get your meat first in the pit room and then head on inside the restaurant for your fixins. I ordered 3/4 pound of pork ribs and 1/4 pound of brisket, no sides, just some bread, pickles, and BBQ sauce for the brisket...oh and of course some sweet tea!

The atmosphere is great. With wooden family-style picnic tables, you never know who you might sit with. I had the pleasure of sitting with a local couple who had brought the husband's mom in for some authentic Texas BBQ. She was in town for a Christmas visit all the way from Green Bay, Wisconsin! I loved her commentary as we ate. She kept saying, "I just adore this food!" She enjoyed everything, from the meat, to the sides, to the sweet cornbread. I loved her comments and have never in my life heard anyone "adore" food like was great! On our Man Up visits we all sit around the table and comment and critique the food while we eat, perhaps we should add the word "adore" to our vocabulary.

Ok, so back to my review...The pork ribs and brisket were some of the best I have had. Although they will not overtake Kreuz in Lockhart, they were very good. The ribs were very meaty and had a great taste, very moist, but not dripping in BBQ sauce. The brisket was also very good. My cut was very lean, which I like. I used the free bread and pickles to make a sandwich topped with their BBQ sauce. The one thing I did not like though, was just that...their BBQ sauce. For my taste, it was too runny, spicy, and "vinegary;" it reminded me of living back in Atlanta. Other than that, everything during my visit was delightful! Be sure and stop by on your next trip.

Todd’s scores – Pork ribs: 9.57; Brisket: 9.44; Sweet Tea: 9.4; Overall experience: 9.52

(Read the reviews from Drew & Brad’s trip to Schoepf’s and Mark & Ashley’s trip.)

Schoepf's Old Time Pit Bar-B Que on Urbanspoon

Same ol' (great) story at Rudy's

Leaving Austin at 10:30 am yesterday for an 80-mile drive down I-35 to San Antonio for a 1:00 pm meeting lent itself well for a lunch stop at Rudy’s on Loop 337 in New Braunfels. This was the third Rudy’s location I’ve visited but first visit to this one. When I left, I knew when I left that I would be back (just didn’t know that I would return later that day).

Same ol’ story at this Rudy’s (great food, great service, great atmosphere), but a few things stood out about this location. First, some different items on the menu (at least different than the menu at my regular local Rudy’s on Highway 360 in Austin): pulled pork (apparently not a permanent menu item), green chile stew (also temporary), corn on the cob, and baked potatoes.

The lady taking my order was great. So friendly. I ordered a half chicken but also wanted a slice of lean brisket and a slice of pork loin. Instead of charging me for the two slices, she gave me half a slice of each for free and also gave me a sample of the stew free of charge. Speaking of saving money, two more items of note: (1) the half chicken at this location is $4.69, while it’s $5.44 at the 360 location in Austin; & (2) a large drink is $1.89, but, as I found out from the lady taking my order, if you bring your large (plastic) cup back to any Rudy’s, you can get a large drink for a refill price of 75 cents (at least this Rudy's). For those who know me, you know that this revolutionized my world (and, thus, led to my return later in the day for a $0.75 refill).

Didn’t have my camera, so picture quality isn’t great. In case you’re wondering, my food was very good. The pork loin was outstanding.

Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

Saturday, December 13, 2008: Smitty's Market (Lockhart, Texas)

One down, one to go, as we left Black’s and headed (circuitously) to Smitty’s Market. Lesser mortals surely would back down from starting all over, 10 mines after finishing a full BBQ lunch; lucky for you, you’re not reading their blogs.

As we neared Smitty’s, questions flooded our minds: Will there, again, be an open fire on an ash-strewn floor? Are the pork ribs really as good as we remember? Will we vomit? Time would tell.

My take-home points for Smitty’s (after this visit, as well as after our first trip to Smitty’s): Fantastic ribs and bad service. This is the place to go for pork ribs but not the place to go if you want to feel welcome.

Our Commander-in-Beef, Russell, kicks off thoughts from the group: “Our second trip to Smitty's did not disappoint. If there was a way to meld the hospitality of Black's with the quality of moist brisket and succulent ribs of Smitty's…well, you would surely have the premiere BBQ joint of all time! (It would be similar to what you find at Louie Mueller's in Taylor, actually!) Pork ribs: These rival The Salt Lick’s as perhaps the greatest ribs of all time! The sweet glaze on these (I don't know what it is) was just incredible! This is my most highly recommended dish in the whole city of Lockhart. Man up tried (twice), man up tested (twice), man up approved (twice)! Beef brisket (two categories)…Moist/fatty: Hard to out-rank this on flavor! Lean/shoulder: Nice flavor, but tough like jerky. Sausage (hot links): Tremendously good sausage. Maybe the best you can find anywhere. Overall: Even if Smitty's service and hospitality can't touch Black's, you do have to give it up to Smitty's on overall quality of meat…some of the best you'll find anywhere, maybe the best in a lot of knowledgeable people's minds.”

Todd says, “Smitty's has great atmosphere and history. Located on the main square, the building is truly authentic to Texas! I ordered the prime rib this time around. Although pricy, my cut of meat was juicy and amazingly good. While I am not a huge fan of their cracked pork ribs, the prime rib is just dang good. My only complaint is having to pay for all the fatty parts of the prime rib; they need to trim that off before they put it on the scale. I followed up the day with a nice scoop of Blue Bell ice cream!”

Waiting in line next to the fire reminded Bo of his hot summer days working the line at The Salt Lick, next to the huge open pit. He writes, “Beef brisket: Almost mirrored Black's. The flavor was there but again, a bit over marbelized for my liking. Prime rib: Haven't had any better. Cooked perfectly, just enough on the rare side to maintain its flavor but warm enough to still be good after making your way through the brisket and ribs. Pork ribs: Fantastic. From listening to the conversations going on around the table I gathered maybe the ribs had a bit more sweet glaze than usual. Fine with me. The ribs were cooked to a good smoky flavor and the sweet glaze added just enough of something different to really give your taste buds a treat. Sweet Tea: Every BBQ joint in the South should serve sweet tea. ”

Julianne, whose judgment on BBQ is rock solid, is short and sweet: “Ribs: absolutely one of my favorites of all I have been to. The flavor and the glaze over tender juicy meat. Beef brisket: Moist/fatty: Unbelievable flavor and so moist. Overall: It is hard to give them a top score when their hospitality is not quiet par. But them after Black’s, is anything? The food though is far and above some of the best I have had so far.”

Jason rounds us out: “My favorite place in Lockhart and did not disappoint!! Best pork ribs I’ve had from them!!! Pretty much awesome!! Brisket was tough; I wanted the fatty brisket but got the shoulder (lean). Prime rib: WOW!! Great cut of meat; great flavor! (price not so nice.. 10 bucks for my one slice; but hey it’s prime rib) Sausage: tasty; wasn’t too oily as it normally is. Pork chop: fantastic!! Big chunk of swine moist, crispy ends ohhhhhh so good.”

Thus ended our second great trip to the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Russell sums it up nicely: “A trip to Lockhart reminds you what TX BBQ is all about…and it pretty well spoils you from ever enjoying average BBQ again.”

Russell’s scores – Pork ribs: 10; Moist brisket: 9.98; Lean brisket: 7.8; Sausage: 9.8; Overall experience: 9.93

Todd’s scores – Prime Rib: 9.5; Sweet Tea: 8.78; Blue Bell Ice Cream: 9.85; Overall experience: 9.1

Bo’s scores – Brisket: 8.2; Prime rib: 9.5; Pork ribs: 9.5; Overall experience: 9.1

Julianne’s scores – Pork ribs: 9.98; Moist brisket: 9.98; Overall experience: 9.98

Jason’s scores – Pork ribs: 9.9; Lean brisket: 7; Prime rib: 9.7; Sausage: 8; Pork chop: 9.4; Overall experience: 9

Amber’s scores – Pork ribs: 9.5; Sausage: 7.5; Ice cream: 9; Atmosphere: 2; Service: 0; Overall experience: 6

Amir’s scores – Brisket: 9.25; Sausage: 9.999999999; Pork Rib: 9.75; Prime Rib: 9.50; Pork Loin: 8.50; Overall experience: 9.75

Drew’s scores – Pork ribs: 9.8; Lean brisket: 9; Overall experience: 8.5

Brad’s scores – Pork ribs: 8.95; Brisket: 8; Sausage: 7.75; Ambiance: 8.75; Service: 3; Overall experience: 8.5

Overall Man-Up Score: 8.8733

Smitty's Market on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year from Man Up!!!

Coming up in the weeks ahead: Man Up's "Best of 2008" BBQ awards. Stay tuned.

Personal tour from Kent Black