Snow's BBQ... Texas Monthly was right.
I've been in and out of consciousness most of the day, suffering the ill-effects of a severe meat coma. Now, in this brief moment of lucidity, it's a struggle to draw the energy to even type. My fingers moving across the keyboard evoke ten little versions of the sausages from this morning, flashing my memory back to a misty dawn in Lexington. In this reverie the after-effects of my gluttony come flooding back faster than BBQ sauce from an Ozarka squeeze bottle. If I don't survive this, I'm happy to have my last will and testament be a testament to how good Snow's BBQ in Lexington actually is.
First off, I hope no one is too offended that this is on the Austin board (anonymous people of the internet get picky about the weirdest things). There is, as yet, no Lexington board and I won’t hold my breath (to hold one's breath in Lexington would deprive you of the sweet smoke wafting through the morning air). I thought about throwing this to the Texas board, but who knows what type of person posts there. Not to mention, the good folks of Austin have a duty to know what a 45 minute Saturday morning drive from their doorsteps can deliver.
And you do want to drive on a Saturday morning. Snow's is only open on Saturday's, and after Texas Monthly let the cat out of the bag, naming this the best BBQ in Texas, the brisket's been flying from the smokers. A few weeks back we arrived at 9:30 AM to find them completely sold out. We weren't going to suffer the same fate this morning. Early birds and worms and all that... except with brisket. We left Austin at 6:45. The drive out, taking you past out-of-scale churches actually provides a nice reflection on your early morning journey, making you think there might actually be something worthwhile to the much hyped early-rising of the protestant work ethic.
We were certainly rewarded. After a brief wait, we were the first ones through the side screened-door once the place opened. What to say? I can't even really recall the menu. Perhaps it will flash before in my life’s last moments, which feel increasingly close. I can recall that there were 4 main food groups represented: brisket, pork (steak and ribs), chicken, and sausage.
Brisket first. This is the best Texas BBQ, ever, period, full stop. I know why they call it Snow’s, because this brisket simply melts like snow. I will scoff if I ever hear brisket described as fork-tender, because this was finger-tender. Pushed between your thumb and forefingers a slab would spread itself out like a deck of cards. It was a winning hand for sure. Actually, the brisket’s difficult to even handle, it being so prone to fall apart. W.B. Yeats and Chinua Achebe must have had this brisket in mind as their muses.
I'll temper my enthusiasm somewhat. Some parts of the brisket were better than others, proximity to fat obviously in play. The meat only suffered compared against itself, however. It was all good. I actually liked the inconsistency, if you can call it that. It was a nice reminder that this wasn't factory BBQ, a place pumping out carnivorous cogs. The brisket was a living thing, unlike the cow it once was. It's a nice contrast from so many of our modern meals where restaurants are based around expectations, and the only surprises are when the Chili's waiter forgets to put the dressing on the side of your Quesadilla Explosion salad.
The pork ribs were similarly delicious, exhibiting a moisture and meatiness that kept us feeding at their trough.
As for the rest of the menu, it was sprinkled with slightly less magic, if equal dry rub. I only had a small portion of the pork steak and found it alternately fatty and dry. Despite the smoke ring shared between them, those fatty and meaty sides never really became wedded in BBQ matrimony. One of my companions disagreed with my assessment. By way of disclosure, I'm from California originally, and I'm always keen to see pretty much anything and everything get married.
Speaking of controversy, things to never discuss with people: religion, politics, the Great Pumpkin, and sausage. I love sausage but I find it one of the most contentious points of BBQ conversation, as it’s of such wide consistency and flavor. This sausage was good, but I kept adulterating it with Jalapeno from the counter. I really love heat. I felt the sausage in attendance this morning was a noble attempt, but once you try a jalapeno cheese, or chipotle sausage, I ask you, is there ever any going back to plain? To me, Jalapeno Cheese is the eudemonia , while plain sausage may be, at best, the missing “link” in a progression to perfection.
Speaking of plain. The chicken was good, but still BBQ chicken. One of the employee's made me smile by shouting for another order of "yard-bird," as my father would call it. I hope I don't hurt any feelings while I turn partisan here for a second. I don't see the point of expending the effort of Texas BBQ traditions on chicken. The meat simply doesn't have the fat content to undergo the transfiguration (with every holy connotation), the BBQ apotheosis of fatty pork or a beef slab. I wish I could say it was just my opinion, but it's actually science (a science, I'm sure, understood in Lexington better than evolution itself). It seemed a popular order among the inevitable yuppies who lined up later in the morning, sipping Starbucks into their personally-trained abdomens. We eyed them suspiciously with our lazy-lids and slack jaws, dripping with grease. They swarmed, wearing "ironic" western shirts pulled from their closet.
"Oh my god Honey, can you believe this place? Go get the digital camera."
"Where is it?"
"In the glove box of the Prius!"
"I can't find it!" (this time yelling from the front seat)
"It's in the iPod sleeve!"
"I can't hear you over the Vampire Weekend!"
It's was sad. In contrast, I'd like to say, in closing, how amazing the people actually working at Snow's were. Arriving early, the first one's there, we got to see the pre-orchestration. To refer to their pit, is to hearken to the pit of symphony. But while everyone was busy, it wasn't workmanlike. Everyone involved was so warm, from the teen girls working the register to the grandma pit-boss (my most admired figure of feminism since Rosie the Riveter). “Hellos” and “good mornings!” shot at us from every direction. They seemed happy to see us and happy with their jobs. I'd quote some Frost lines on avocations and vocations that it reminded me of, but I think that guy’s a hack. Anyway, one woman there basically forced free (quite good beans) upon us, and brought us out a roll of napkins in a way that made her feel like a friend's mom, rather than a BBQ-trix.
Food, and folks. The whole experience was amazing. I hope they can keep the quality up of both the brisket and their smiles. Hopefully, I survive my food coma to sign their praises again.
Excellent, excellent post. I'm on my yuppy way next weekend minus the vintage shirt, coffee, and Vampire Weekend sound track but yes the camera comes!
Awesome report - I am going to make this a priority too...with coffee, and most likely in a very sincere western shirt...
damn, i hate you...for two reasons....your writing is wonderful, and i wish mine were so vivid, and two, you live 2435 miles closer to Snow's than do I. ratz.
however, I think I'm happy to report that I have NO idea what Vampire Weekend might be, not a clue. Can't wait to hit Snow's next time I'm in town, January? Finally Texas Monthy got something right...it's been too long, like that last bowl of Wolf Brand....