Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chris crashes the Crash Course

Chris represented Man Up at SXSW's 2010 BBQ Crash Course. My thanks to Chris for taking the time to try it out for us and for sending me a recap. Here's what he had to say:

We here at Man Up are lucky to live in Austin, a city centrally located to several excellent BBQ places in all directions. One of the many other great things about Austin is its status as a premiere city that hosts nationally recognized events like South By Southwest. So while everyone from around the US was converging on the capital of Texas for SXSW, several central Texas BBQ joints joined in for the 2010 BBQ Crash Course.

Seven different BBQ places, including several Man Up favorites, came to Emo's with a spread that I will describe as unbelievably awesome. It was Texas BBQ mecca, all within a couple of hundred feet at Emo's. Here's the menu, starting with some familiar names:

Louie Mueller's: brisket and sausage
Snow's: brisket and pork
Franklin BBQ: brisket, pulled pork, cole slaw
Rudy's: brisket, turkey, creamed corn, potato salad
Southside Market: beef ribs, sausage
House Park BBQ: chopped beef sliders, sausage, pinto beans
Gonzales Food Market: sausage and lamb ribs (yes, lamb ribs)

True to Texas, the beverages were bottles of Dublin Dr. Pepper as well as a free beer ticket, which yours truly used on Blanco, TX-native Fireman's #4. But you're reading this for the meat, and the meat was amazing.

Snow's, Louie Mueller, and Franklin BBQ are my top three favorite places for brisket based on my previous Man Up outings, with Snow's topping my own personal rankings followed by Franklin and Louie Mueller (although this is somewhat like ranking your own children since all three are exceptional). Naturally, these were the first places I headed to at the Crash Course. True to fashion all three were incredible. Perfect moisture, perfect flavor, and perfect doneness on all three. On this particular night, I was slightly surprised to enjoy Louie Mueller the most of the three. At one point I tried Louie Mueller brisket with Rudy's Sauce (why not put one of my favorite sauces on a near-perfect piece of brisket?) but found the combo actually took away from the meat. Wayne Mueller knows what he's talking about when he says his brisket doesn't need sauce.

Franklin and Snow's were also both near flawless on brisket and their pork. I'd had some pulled pork on a Man Up outing to Franklin, so I was eager to find it on the Crash Course menu. I had also eaten Snow's pork on my first trip there with Jason and Russell, and all three of us had loved it then. Not surprisingly, Franklin's pulled pork was full of flavor while Snow's pork was cooked perfectly.

I also sampled plenty of fare besides brisket. Southside Market edging out Louie Mueller and House Park in sausage, while it was nice to have a change of pace from House Park with the sliders and from Rudy's with their turkey (admittedly, I felt somewhat sorry for Rudy's since their brisket couldn't come close to the other three powerhouses on the menu).

Of course I also had to try some lamb ribs from Gonzales, and I'm glad I did. I'd never had lamb ribs before and wasn't sure what to expect compared to a pork or beef rib, but they were so juicy and tender with great flavor. I definitely understand why they decided to showcase such a fabulous and unique cut of meat for the event.

My main regret from the Crash Course was not really giving Southside Market as much attention as I should have. By the time I'd walked back to where Southside was located (I'd somehow missed it when I'd first walked in), I was close to full from all the meat, Rudy's creamed corn, House Park beans, and Franklin's cole slaw. That's a problem when the meat of choice is a beef rib.

I was close to full because the story of the night was the brisket, and having my top three favorite briskets all within 45 seconds of each other instead of three hours was too wonderful to ignore. It didn't help that when I went back for seconds to Snow's (after already having seconds from Louie Mueller and Franklin), Kerry Bexley honored my request for deckle by giving me what looked like half a pound of blackened outer brisket. I wanted to hug him, but that brisket put me over the top and was my last eating of the night.

In addition to all the great food, the people made the BBQ Crash Course a ton of fun as well. Both Kerry Bexley and Wayne Mueller asked me how the BBQ sauce competition had gone when I told them I was from Man Up, and I also really enjoyed talking to Wayne about why he participated in the BBQ Crash Course, the difficulty with competition BBQ and why Louie Mueller doesn't really participate in them despite having such excellent brisket, and the restaurant in general. Kerry also talked about how much fun it was to make the drive to Austin for the BBQ Crash Course again after participating in it last year. Thanks to both of them for perfecting their craft and being so friendly and welcoming while sharing it with the rest of us.

I also met some new people to enjoy all that BBQ with at the event. So thank you to ACC professor Herb, Hassan from Seattle, and Deb and Dawn with Digitaria from San Diego. I convinced Deb to try Snow's and made a believer out of her, to the point where she asked Kerry if he'd ship her BBQ to California. It was fantastic getting to share about the blog with them and talk about why Texas BBQ is such an amazing institution. Of course I also must thank Drew and Lindsey Simon with Dishola for making it possible for me to attend the event.

I know it's customary to rank what we eat on a Man Up outing, but this was such a cool experience full of great food that it's impossible to rank anything other than saying the Louie Mueller, Snow's and Franklin are 1A, 1B and 1C on my brisket rankings in some order (I'm really not sure which). The entire night was awesome, and the BBQ Crash Course is absolutely a must-attend event among everything that happens during SXSW. I'm so glad Dishola, Emo's, and SXSW put on such a spectacular showcase for the rest of the country to fully experience what makes Texas BBQ so incredible.

Chris Riley

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