Texas Monthly BBQ reviews
Anyone else go to the Texas Monthly BBQ festival at the Long Center yesterday?
We were pleasantly surprised at the setup. They had 19 vendors there, each under a tent spread around the patio circle. The vendor's smokers were behind the vendors and down the sidewalk; no meats cooked in other cities here. You stood in (short) line to get a vendor's food. Depending on the vendor you might just get a small sample or a full plate. Some vendors also allowed you to be buy extra stuff like T-shirts, whole briskets, or sausages. How anyone could buy more meat after gorging on the all the meats is beyond me.
I sampled 18 of the 19 vendors--skipped Cooper's in Llano which I've been to 10 times in the past 10 years and have not enjoyed in some time. From what I could tell some vendors really brought their A game while others mailed it in. Some vendors had sliced up their brisket into bites, put into warming pans, and doled it out when you came up. Those vendors' brisket were always too dry. Others were slicing it up fresh onto your plate. Fresh, warm, slightly fatty brisket.
From the bites I had, Kreuz, Smitty's and Louis Mueller were all good as expected--though Smitty's was not slicing to order. Some notes from the places I'd never been were:
* Cousin's in Ft. Worth had a very nice Memphis-style dry rub rib. Their cheese sausage had too much cheese in my taste, but not for others as it won the sausage contest. Their beef rib won the beef rib contest though I saw maybe one or two other beef ribs and didn't have any at any place.
* Giddings Meat Market is classic Central Texas 'cue--strong smoke taste with salt & pepper rub. Mueller's, Luling, Kreuz style. Their 'cue was not as fresh as some places, but I'd like to go there in person and get it fresh and hot and hopefully tasty.
* Stanley's of Tyler had the winning pork rib and my vote for favorite pork rib. Very much a southern style rib with lots of sauce basted on while cooking. It was served warm and delicious. My favorite pork ribs I've had in Texas have been from Country Tavern in nearby Kilgore. That part of Texas should be considered the pork rib capital it seems.
* Snow's. Much vaunted but I've never had a taste. They were in served from a warming dish line so I couldn't taste it fresh but the brisket I had was smokey enough and I can see their Central Texas influences. The brisket won for best brisket, but I really don't know how. My favorite brisket bite was from Mueller's. Their sausage was not bad.
Final note is Buzzie's of Kerrville tied Snow's for best brisket. My taste of brisket there was completely unremarkable. I don't know how they got a placement unless they were serving up better morsels before or after I went through.
Anyone else have any thoughts to share? The Texas Monthly crew said they hoped to start small and build it up and I'd say it was a whale of a good start. Prices and crowds will no doubt go up, but hopefully they can keep the focus on vendors serving fresh 'cue.
I was at the cookoff with CarterB, so he generally has already said what I would have to say as well! But I have to throw in a few extra comments:
-I can't emphasize enough how disappointing Snow's was. I've never been there before, so I have to imagine when they're cooking on their own pit, and getting to spend as long on the brisket as they usually do, it just has to be a different experience. Because the brisket they served Sunday was akin to pot roast; stringy and flavorless.
- I was really impressed by the brisket from our own Lambert's. The crust was sweet, salty, and thick with smoke and seasoning.
- I really liked the chopped beef from Wild Blue BBQ in Fresnos, down in the valley.
- Schoepf's, from Belton, had to cancel at the last minute due to flood damage last week. I'm making it a point to drive up there once they re-open.
- For the price of the ticket ($14) one can sample as much brisket, beef and pork ribs, and sausage as one's stomach can handle from 20 of the top joints in the state. This was a fantastically executed festival and a great bargain to boot. I don't think I ever would have the chance to sample the meats of places that span the entire state like this. I'm pretty sure it'll return next year - a volunteer told us that the event was 3 years in the making and they have hopes to make it an annual thing.
That's too bad to hear that Snow's brisket didn't show well at the festival. I've been out to Lexington twice to try to brisket at Snow's, and each time it's been excellent. Tender, smokey, melt-in-your-mouth rich. Don't let the festival discourage you from a trip to Lexington, I do think their brisket is worth it. They also serve up great BBQ chicken there. But I don't really care for their ribs, a little mushy in texture and not enough bark.
Its also important to know what part of the brisket you are eating. The flat (lean) part of Snow's brisket is nothing to write home about. But the point (fatty, moist) is pure heaven that melts in your mouth. Of course, my only experiences with it have been in Lexington, so maybe they didn't bring their A game this time.
Hey - I had the great pleasure of helping out for my cousin who owns Stanley's and here's what we speculated on why the briskets were not up to expectations. No one was working on their home pit. Having arrived in Austin from Tyler late Saturday, Stanley's couldn't set up and start brisket until around 7 am for serving around noon, and that just didn't work to make good briskets. The guys became unhappy with the briskets they cooked, so we didn't serve it and that's what we told folks after we made that decision. Not to give excuses, we didn't have a planned solution to the problem of getting briskets cooked at a home pit and retained at safe temperatures until serving Sunday at noon. Other cuts of meat didn't have that same problem. I'm wondering how the other guys managed their setup....
We assumed that this must be the problem. The issue is most likely that the Long Center was booked on Saturday night, so they couldn't have BBQ teams setting up and smoking on Saturday. Maybe next year the event could be at a venue that allows the teams more time to set up and start doing their thing.
I was there at this gr8 fest, as well (pics coming!!)
and I would have to say that your buds at STANLEY'S were the absolute friendliest!!!!
Smiles all day long ! And I took lots of gr8 pics when they won the "1st place pork ribs" award at the end of the day... lots more smiles !
p.s. Lots of friendly BBQ joints, (Buzzie's espescially!!!) but Stanley's really stood out!!
I flew all the way from the Atlantic City area for this fest, so you know I love my BBQ
Franklin's wasn't there because the practitioners on display had to have been on TX Monthly's Top 50 bbq list at some time in the past. Franklin's hasn't been in business long enough to have made the list yet, because it only comes out every other year or so.
I was underwhelmed by Lambert's. Really liked Wild Blue, and there was a country rib over by the Snow's stand (of course I can't remember who it was) that was incredibly tasty.
I failed to pace myself (had gone for a long run in the morning and eaten very little in order to conserve calories) and ended up stuffed after about 5-6 stands. Amateur move.
the brisket from BERTAM BBQ had a perfect texture for me !!!
Crusty outside, moist inside !!!
more pics coming!!!
ellen in atlantic city