Rib Update: Little Austin's Texas BBQ in Salinas
Been holding back on posting about this for too long . . . the giant smoked beef ribs at Little Austin's are off the charts. I've had them four times now since Feb. 2006 when the place was newly opened, and if anything they're better now. Deep smoke ring, well-integrated and complex rub, thick cap of well-marbelized and juicy beef with the richness of flavor only found next to the bone. I don't know how long they smoke these, but even the fell (the papery membrane on the back of the bone) is tenderized and edible. And, I do chew on it to get every bit of deliciousness off these ribs. They're not cheap at $10 per, or 3 for $25 (cut from the small end), but even my thrifty mother agrees they're worth it.
Even though this meat needs nothing else, the sauce is good here too. Savory, well-spiced and not sweet, in the Texas style. Regular with a splash of the hot version is my blend.
Our first visit, we went with the 5-meat combo with a good to excellent showing on everything. I loved the Elgin sausage too, flown in from Texas. In subsequent visits, the pork ribs and brisket have been variable, but can be very good, so ask to see the pieces first to make sure they're not too dry. The image linked below is big so you can see judge the smoke ring and succulence of the meats yourself.
Image of 5-meat combination plate (984x637 pixels):
Sides-wise, the cajun beans are my favorite. Potato salad is pretty good.
Smoked pork is an untried, new addition to the menu. And, I'll let someone else report on the lumpia.
Little Austin's Texas BBQ
1909 Natividad Rd
Salinas CA 93906
Open Daily 10a-9p
tel: 831.449.4835 fax: 831.449.4853
I had lunch there today with a friend. The brisket looked juicy, didn't try it, but my pal said it was good. I ordered one of the new items, the riblet plate for ~ $9 available on Mon, tues, wed only, that comes with cajun beans, one side, and a fountain drink. This is the crosscut of the end of the ribs, and with two pieces of this was quite a bit of meat. Deep smoking, a little too dry and just starting to be a bit stringy, but I can't complain. I still like the sauce here very much. The cajun beans weren't as flavorful as my memory, but still good with lots of chopped meat in the blend. I forgot that the green beans are basically straight out of the can, won't get those again.
re: Melanie Wong
I was just up in Monterey this weekend visiting my parents and ate at Smalley's. Prior to heading over there I passed by their new location and did a rubber neck wondering if they were starting to expand. I'll miss their old location, having gone there a lot as a kid. The new location, while not having the homie feel of their old place, should do well for them though, being easily double the size of what they're used to. Just too bad it's in a old fast food resturant location. I'm hoping that doesn't imply anything on quality.
For those wondering, they're opening the first week of Janurary on South Main across the street from the Star Market.
re: Melanie Wong
Funny. We ended up at Smalley's the next day. I had Grandma's Plate, and based on the size of it grandma must have an extremely healthy appetite. It was a combination of 6 gigantic pork ribs and a messy pile of tri-tip. It came with garlic bread, beans, and rainbow sherbet. If there was a vegetable, I don't remember it. It didn't conjure the excitement of what I was hoping for at Little Austin's', but it wasn't too different from what I expected either.
We drove by the new location earlier that day (is that where the Pizza Paddle used to be? Or maybe it's still there). It looks pretty modern and antiseptic compared to the old place with it's faux-wood carpeted walls.