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Hill Country - Hype Country

  • j

Last night around 7:00 I finally had a chance to try Hill country on 26 street. I could have just as easily stopped at RUB, which I love, but after all the posts on how wonderful the place was I wanted to pick up a sandwich and try it out. We wanted to test out the place before coming in with a party of diners in the next week or so.

You would think that at 7:00 on a thursday the place would be pretty busy. at least at the bar. It wasn't and I was able to walk up to the counter and get served instantly. I am not sure if it was the booming music that prevented anyone from wanting to linger, the lack of table service, the lack of plates and cutlery. I don't know. For me it was music that made conversation impossible that meant I couldn't stay more than a few minutes. It's one thing to have booming music at the bar while you are trying to impress women, it's another to try to sit though an entire meal and get deaf. (I feel sorry for the staff who are very nice). In any even I could not bring anyone I know to the place because with the noise and the lack of table service it's more work that it should be.

I got a 1/2 lb of the "lean" really leaner and poorly sliced and trimmed brisket. Wrapped up by a cheerful gentleman who doesn't know how to fold over and close a paper tray hot food (which should have been a lot hotter and was bone cold when I got it home). But what really got me is I wanted a sandwich, not two odd slices of white bread tossed in. At Katz's they can slice, make sandwiches, give a taste, and a pickle in about the same amount of time. I didn't like any of the sides so I didn't bother.

On the way home I picked up a Portuguese roll for the sandwich. THen I trimmed up the brisket a little more. At Katzes, lean is lean. here it ain't and I just don't like chewing fat.

The flavor, good, but nothing special, Give me RUB anyday, Take me to the little stand at the Houston airport any day too. but this place is hype and the lack of a crowd shows that folks are figuring it out.

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  1. my only experience with Hill Country was the sampling I had of their Salt and Pepper beef ribs at the Taste of New York event...and I have to tell you...they (I went back for seconds) were awesome. Very friendly group of people. They seem to be having fun and are putting out, from my small sampling, some tasty stuff. I'll certainly go there at some point. Additionally, I question how fair it is to judge a BBQ place on its takeout.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dkstar1

      THat's a fair point about the takeout but I had a sample there and it didn't taste any different at home and it's from the same meat, the same service as a sit down. As a FOOD reviewer of BBQ I only know what I like and I won't argue that some might fine the food worth the hassle, but as a place to eat or even takeout the ambience and noise shows a real lack of understanding about a walking into the store experience. For me, and I guess a whole lot of other people who weren't there last night - that's important.

    2. i was there on Wed. night. not that impressed either. I got the lean brisket and it also had quite a bit of fat still on it. and it was dry and not much flavor and kind of cold. i had to use a lot of bbq sauce. i got 2 pork ribs - which i liked better due to the peppered rub. and we got 3 sides - mac&cheese, sweet potatoes, and cabbage coleslaw. did not like the cabbage coleslaw at all - weird flavored. sweet potatoes were good - but too sweet. and mac&cheese wasn't bad - but not much in the little cup the penne has a lot of air inbetween pieces vs. the normal elbow macaroni.
      the loud music was ridiculious. they tried making us sit downstairs which was ridiculiously warm. and i had to look at 5 other tables for forks b/c we couldn't find our 'server' - she only showed up once to bring us water.
      i think rub will be a more regular stop for me - i really like the pulled pork sandwich. hill country - i may go back w/ a group of people b/c the food is easy to share. the meat was too much for me. but it's not high up on my list.

      1. I'd rather they gave you regular plates. Even paper plates would be an improvement. The butcher paper seems like a cute idea but it's really not practical, especially with a large group.

        That said, the cue itself is really pretty good. Fatty? Cue is not exactly health food. As for the white bread, you really shouldn't have been surprised. There hasn't been a single review, either on Chowhound or on the Internet, that promised 10 different kinds of designer breads. You get white bread at a true Texas BBQ place and that's what they were shooting for. May a little inauthentic variety in the breads would be an improvement but it certainly wasn't a case of bait and switch.

        1. I haven't tried Hill Country, but I was a regular at RUB. Don't they serve sandwiches on white bread, too?

          5 Replies
          1. re: a_and_w

            you get a choice at RUB. i had a seeded bun with mine. there was no way in hell i was going to eat pulled pork on white bread.

            1. re: sugartoof

              where are you from? new york city?

              texas girl thinks hc is fine (though a little kitschy--shipping in blue bell ice ceram and big read, come on). just don't eat the mac and cheese.

              1. re: HungryGrl

                This Texas girl agrees. The mac SUCKS.

                1. re: LeahBaila

                  Not exactly a standard version, but I actually like the mac 'n' cheese. :-o

                  1. re: RGR

                    I'm not 100% sure, but I went yesterday and the mac & cheese seemed 10 times better than it usually is - loved it. I have a feeling they changed the recipe. Overall, everything was delicious.

          2. I recently wrote a review of Hill Country on Roadfood.com. I happen to like it, but I thought it had some shortcomings. I've always found the lean brisket to be pretty lean, yet still moist. Sorry you got a fatty one, man. As far as being cold when you got home, how far did you travel with it. Most BBQ isn't hot to begin with, but rather warm due to being smoked over indirect heat. Not something that will travel well in terms of temperature maintenance. It's not too surprising that they wouldn't/couldn't make a sandwich. They don't ever offer any sandwiches on the menu. It's not what they do. The whole butcher paper/meat counter/no sandwiches is a nod to their muse, Kreuz Market, in Texas and much has been made online about that, so the info has been out there for some time. I wasn't mad about the pork ribs or beans, but I did really enjoy the Market Chicken, brisket, corn pudding and mac and cheese. I have to say that the prices for the desserts seems a bit outrageous. $6 for one cupcake. It was mighty good, but I can't justify getting it again at that price. I can make 'em at home. I would go back again, but it can get pricye as there aren't any platters/combos. Everything is ala carte and that adds up quickly.

            2 Replies
            1. re: billyboy

              it was pretty tepid when I sampled it at the store. My real point about the place is that they may have a "muse" of Kreuz Market (which I've never been too) but this is New York and the lack of business on a thurday night is indicative that while some hard core CHs might be willing to undergo the ritual but for the average New York the total package just doesn't cut it. As owners they are welcome to do whatever they want but frankly if they don't get proper table service, with proper plates, and a better selection of bread, and sandwhiches I'm not holding my breath for longevity.

              1. re: joelm

                i agree with your assumption about the reason behind the lack of customers.
                i have been curious about trying this place well before it opened and, even though i am in that nabe twice as week, i haven't gone b/c of the reviews. i've tried dinosaur, blue smoke, virgil, RUB and daisy may. the latter being the best by far. hill country just sounds annoying. i suppose i will try it at some point if i manage to get there before it closes down! ok, ok, i'm not being fair here b/c i've never tried it but the reviews, which sound very credible, are a letdown