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Sep 1, 2011 04:09 PM

Need opinions on 4-day BBQ-plus plan

Austin hounds, will you weigh in on my mostly-BBQ plan for our upcoming 4 days in the area, and my choices for the other meals? Do you think we have chosen the right highlights at each BBQ place? I realize this is not a true crawl, but we have to work it around my husband's business trip, and are trying to fit in a few other things where 'cue is not an option. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Tuesday 9/6 - arrive Austin mid afternoon, dinner at Tacos El Rico. Where to go for a good margarita or cold beer?

Wednesday 9/7 - Once Over Coffee; in line at Franklin's by 10:30 am, brisket, ribs, pulled pork. Wednesday dinner sake social at Uchiko for just light nibbles.

Thursday 9/8 - Frank's coffee; 11 am, pick up take-out at Black's for 15-person work event: brisket, sausage, beef ribs, beans, potato salad, coleslaw, pickled onions; banana pudding or peach cobbler? Anybody wanna argue for choosing Smitty's (no online menu so couldn't see options) or Louis Mueller's instead? Dinner, Parkside happy hour.

Friday 9/9 - Medici coffee, then drive to Luling by 10 am for brunch at City Market: brisket, pork ribs or pork shoulder, sausage. On to San Antonio for husband's work day, then return via New Braunfels for dinner at Coopers at 6 or 6:30; is the cabrito worth the expense? I hear the chicken is really good at Cooper's. Thoughts?

Saturday 9/10 - Houndstooth Coffee; Snow's by 8 or 8:30 am, brisket, pork shoulder, anything else? 1:30 or 2 pm, late lunch before airport; should we go to Chen's Noodle House, dim sum at Pao's or somewhere else? Fly home at 5:30 and eat steamed broccoli for weeks!

City Market
633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

Chen's Noodle House
8650 Spicewood Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78759

4200 North Lamar, Austin, TX 78756

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  1. Hate to monkey-wrench...with a sweeping judgement, no less. But..

    Can I suggest killing Coopers and going to Live Oak in Austin when you get back in town? Take a look at my past posts and you'll see I've had a turn-around.

    Live Oak was a very pleasant surprise and Coopers depressed us the last time.

    Mobile phone typing. If you want details, say so and I'll expand tomorrow.

    Otherwise, damn! Perfect trip!

    6 Replies
    1. re: amysuehere

      Barbeque opinions vary and the quality can change day to day (unfortunately that is the nature of the beast. (If you prepare fifty+ briskets there will be a few that are not as good as others [thickness, toughness, meat flavor, etc] )

      While in Lockhart, I would chose Smitty's or Kreutz long before Black's. My last visit was so disappointing in multiple categories that it will be tough to pass the other two to go to Black's. Black's definetely has its fans on this board, but I prefer the other two by far.

      Based upon many visits over five years, when eaten in different order on the same visit, Black's would fall after Smitty's and Kreutz.

      My summer has been busy and I have also been too lazy to post a review for Cooper's in New Braunfels. The location in Llano outshines by far in ambience and overall food quality, but my one visit to Coopers in NB was really awesome for two reasons: The Big Chop and IMO best beans at any BBQ establishment ever.

      The Big Chop is a pork chop that was incredibly juicy with the right amount of saltiness and mesquite flavor. It is also freaking huge and may provide a break from many of the other brisket and sausage meals. Side dishes at Central Texas BBQ are very often overlooked or not considered worthy of response, but these beans with pork and jalapenos was incredible (better than in Llano). I also like the large pot where you can help yourself to an additional helping. When we were there Brisket was a solid B+ with Ribs B- and sausage a disappointing C.

      Snow's.....They will offer some smoked pork, ribs, and sausage, but I would ignore all other meat offerings and get the brisket exclusively. The texture is different than most; almost like well-prepared pot roast where the fat renders perfectly into the smokey exterior. My two visits out there did not require arriving before 10 to get everything I wanted.

      My two bits may just make it more difficult to decide.

      1. re: Chefdavis

        i am with chef davis regarding blacks, its terrible. they cook their brisket too hot and it shows, dry and chewy. its never a pleasant experience to have meat expand in your mouth as it rehydrates...

        kreuz and smittys are definitely better options, though they tend to be inconsistent in my experience. one trip will provide you with a phenomenal experience, moist tender brisket with the perfect balance of smoke and pepper. the next trip you'll get an untrimmed packer brisket that tastes and chews like it has spent two decades in the pit. i've found that the earlier you get to either the quality is generally improved...

        i wanted to like live oak but it was a major disappointment as well. between the steamy room and the over smoked brisket that was texturally akin to chewing on a rubber duck i felt like i was child in the bathtub. ribs were terribly undercooked and hadnt had the membrane removed from the back. sausage was acceptable however.

        go to franklin and enjoy everything you get there. its damn tasty.

        in lieu of blacks or even lockhart head to taylor and get brisket and beef ribs at louie mueller, you wont be disappointed. or maybe head down to south first street and enjoy john mueller bbq, if its open by the time you arrive!

        1. re: zephyrus446

          I'll third this, that Black's is not very good, and that the brisket at Live Oak (admittedly in the one time I went there, several months ago) was not nearly as good as some of the other options on the table.

          1. re: zephyrus446

            On any given day, I would say that either Smitty's or Black's has the best brisket in Lockhart. It's been a year since I went to Kreutz, but the last time I went (and it will probably remain the last time), the brisket was dry and had no noticeable smoke ring.
            It's also been last summer since I was last at Louis Mueller, but my impression was that they were using way to much pepper in their rub. Maybe it was a bad day, but I didn't see why they should be considered a top-tier contender.

          2. re: Chefdavis

            "The Big Chop and IMO best beans at any BBQ establishment ever." I had Cooper's beans a couple of years ago & still crave them. I posted below that I'd love to have the recipe or a regular mail delivery of them.

            Chefdavis, my daughter & I will be in Austin for 2 days in June & I'm trying to simplify our bbq quests. I know I want to drive to Cooper's in New Braunfels (maybe float the river again) & try Franklin's. We'd also like to drive to Lockhart & pick up a little bit of food from each of the 3 places & find a shady spot to eat. I need to know what time we need to show up in order to get some food. I hear Franklin's sells out quick & has long lines. What about the places in Lockhart?
            We'll also need one dinner while we're down there, but honestly I'm not sure what to have. We both like all kinds of food and are pretty adventurous. We'll have a car but I don't want to drive in a ton of traffic if I can help it. Is there any place that is a must have while we're in Austin?

          3. re: amysuehere

            Coopers was so horrendously salty last time I was there it was inedible. I would have returned it but we were already back in Austin. Absolutely TERRIBLE. Never, ever again. Somebody in the kitchen needs fired because no SANE person would use that much salt. I'd wonder what other psycho things they're doing to the meat if they're that disgruntled.


          4. I think Wednesday is your strongest day. Franklin's rivals anything in Lockhart.
            Might want to get there a tad earlier just to majke sure you get in. Uchiko is great. The early "social" menu is fantastic and a great value. Try the brussel sprouts.

            4200 North Lamar, Austin, TX 78756

            1. Skip Louis Mueller, it's crap... Seriously, the place gets a 10 on atmosphere and smell, but a 4 at best on the Q.... no flavor. If you're going to Taylor the only place worth your $$ is Davis Grocery.

              If you're going to be in Round Rock, check out Johnny T's on 620.

              Otherwise, I see no gripes with your plan.

              1. I'm one of the folks who likes Blacks a lot. The other places are good too, for sure, but I get great food at Black's and find the folks there much friendlier. I appreciate that.

                Honestly, too, if you're new to the area, you'll find bbq at all these places delicious. People who are lucky enough to have a big sample size at all the popular places can quibble about differences, but you'll get good food at all of them. I take people new to the area or visiting to all three (and the Chisholm Trail too....) and everyone loves the trip. Always a fun day (or two, sometimes we stop at two places before and two after on drives to and from the coast from Austin).

                1. not sure if Pao's has dim sum. I would maybe try dim sum at Chinatown or Shanghai.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: lixlix

                    Thanks for all the replies, folks. I had a feeling this would be confusing, but since my last trip to Austin was a decade ago and we are BBQ geeks I want to make the most of this visit!

                    The challenge with Thursday is that the only way we can try any of the places at lunchtime is to pick one and get take-out for my husband's work event, so we can't crawl around Lockhart, which would have been my preference. Can anyone tell me what is best at Smitty's, since they have no menu on line? I would have to know exactly what to get for the work lunch. I kinda ruled out Kreuz's because in all the threads I read about Lockhart, it had by far the most negative comments... I was torn about Louis Muellers because it seems like a real love/hate thing in the threads.

                    Coopers remarks duly noted; thanks for the specifics, Chefdavis, it's extra nice to know about the sides cause unlike a lot of BBQ folks I actually care about them (southern thing as opposed to Texas thing maybe?). One of the reasons I chose Blacks was because I read good things about some of the sides. You gotta balance out all that meat!

                    Dave Westerberg, props for the positive attitude. I love that. Anything we get will be vastly better than what we have here (Boulder CO), but like I said, we are geeks.... so I'm willing to fuss over the choices some.

                    lixlix, I will check out those two places. Pao's does have dim sum, I called to check; and apparently they also have a Chinese menu that you can request.

                    Other thoughts welcome, I love reading everyone's comments.

                    1. re: glang

                      PS, lixlix, this is a whole other discussion, but I am a bit nervous about the Chinese food in Austin thing - here at home we have almost no edible Chinese food, so I am always looking when I travel.... but having lived next door to Chinatown in both SF and NYC, I am looking for something reasonably authentic and well-prepared. I was also thinking small dishes after all the meatfests, ergo dim sum.

                      1. re: glang

                        You'll have a great time. Visitors I've taken love all the BBQ places. (Truly: Any of the Lockhart Big 3 would be the best restaurant in 99.9% of the cities and towns in the US, and they are all with in a few blocks of each other in one fairly small town, and that is pretty amazing.) The ones that geek out have favorites and everyone else just eats like they are getting executed in the morning. I only regret I can't eat like that all the time without consequence-- as I could in my youth.

                        One comment: City Market in Luling has a huge following, and you and you pals will likely love it. Me? I can't get through Luling fast enough, and never stop, unfortunately. I can't handle the natural gas smell. I wish I could cuz I hear the food is awesome at CM.

                        City Market
                        633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

                        1. re: Dave Westerberg

                          Never noticed the smell when I went to Luling for CM. Guess I hit them on a good breezy day?

                          If sides are important, then you should probably stick with Black's. They're an afterthought at Kreuz and likely at Smitty's too since they come from the same origins, though I could be wrong.

                          1. re: verily

                            Awesome, I hope I miss the gas someday. The city calls it "the smell of money," and I'd likely learn to love the odor if I had the rights to the gas.

                            "Many tourists that travel to or through Luling notice that the community greets you with the “smell of money” before you ever reach the City limits signs. A proud community with a history rich in oil, Luling’s first discovery of Oil was made on August 9, 1922 by Edgar B. Davis. The Raphael Rios well struck oil on that date and began the oil boom for Luling. The town became a “tent city” over night with rough necks and oil producers actively drilling for “Texas Tea” the Oil wells and pump jacks are so much apart of our everyday life that years ago the Luling Chamber of Commerce commissioned an artist to decorate characters that spend their days and nights entertaining tourists and the community with their perpetual motion."