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New York Times Piece on Texas Barbecue

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  • Kirk Jul 24, 2002 02:24 PM
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Interesting article in today's Food section of the New York Times.

Should be the basis of posts and arguments for weeks to come!

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/24/din...

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  1. Could you please cut and paste the article?

    5 Replies
    1. re: MidtownCoog

      To avoid potential copyright problems, I'll attach a link below:

      Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/24/din...

      1. re: Pat Hammond

        If you have to register to read it, then it ain't worth reading...

        SPAM city, baby!

        1. re: MidtownCoog
          c
          Caitlin McGrath

          NY Times registration does not generate any spam, in my several-years experience.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            True dat. Especially if you check the "opt-out" options.

            1. re: Kirk

              Nice article if you are a Yankee, but from a Native Texan's perspective, just a bunch of fluff.

              I wonder if they did their research on Chowhounds?

    2. g
      GordonElliott

      It appeared pretty well researched, but three out of the four are very overrated. Kreutz' BBQ is the only one that belongs in Central Texas top five along with Black's in Lockhart, Luling City Market, and Southside Market in Elgin. Louie Muellar's brisket is too dry, Cooper's is very inconsistant and the mesquite smoke does not do brisket or sausage justice and Salt Lick is a party place for out-of-towners with overpriced grub. At least he didn't list any of the Mikeska's places, they're pretty lame...

      13 Replies
      1. re: GordonElliott

        I've been to Cooper's twice and have had the best BBQ there. I'm not a black's fan at all. But you got it peg'd on Kruetz,and Luling.

        1. re: John
          g
          GordonElliott

          I'd really like to know what you don't like about Black's BBQ. Everybody I know that's had their sausage or brisket loves it...

          1. re: GordonElliott

            Hi Gordon, Would you please send us a quick email at the above address? Thanks a lot.

            1. re: GordonElliott

              It's been a long time since I ate at Black's. I guess it would be OK as long as it wasn't in the same city as Kruetz. In fact I might go to Smitty's instead of Black's if Kruetz was closed.

              1. re: John

                Heresy, John! Patronize the restaurant owned by the woman that forced Kreuz to move? Never!

                1. re: Greg Spence
                  s
                  Steve In Austin

                  (Smitty's daughter)inherited the building and Rick Schmidt inherited the business (Kreuz' BBQ). She simply wanted to raise the rent and Rick said no. So he wasn't forced to move, he just chose to. Good move for him and bad for her as I see very few people eating at Smitty's...

                  1. re: Steve In Austin

                    There was a lot more to it than that. The entire saga involved unmade repairs, radically higher rent (their business model seems to support dramatically higher overhead at the new place but couldn't support the higher rent she demanded), sibling rivalry, etc. What I do know is that the folks I know in Lockhart all felt that she was being unreasonable so as to drive her brother out and put in a competing business. I'll stand by the boys. Besides, they've never given me reason to stray.

          2. re: GordonElliott

            Hey Gordon,

            I forwaded this article to a good buddy of mine, who is another ex-pat here in Tokyo (originally from Austin), and he,too, wasn't happy that Elgin's Southside Market hadn't even been mentioned!

            A few hours after, he showed up in my office, and pulled up the Market's website. Looks like an outstanding chowhoundish place!

            Cheers,
            Andy

            1. re: GordonElliott

              as a northern 'cue fan who has been vacationing in texas for many years, even i have to say kindly that article was extremely basic. unkindly, it was a whorlwind tour if-it's-thursday-this-must-be-texas hack job. you'd think they would at least send someone who is a real bbq fan or that did some research before they came.

              i strongly suggest tourists check out joe cummings 'texas handbook' by by moon travel publishing. it's written by a texan so at least i halfway knew what i was doing when i first got there. myself, i refused to set foot in the state until i had it practically memorized out of principle. also, please just talk to people.

              glad to hear i've had the pleasure to try all your bbq recs and much more (except lockhart). let me add i've tried all the other major styles kc, stl, carolinas, even owensboro mutton over the years and there is just nothing close to any texas version. not even close.

              one question, that SALT LICK jalapeno dipped chicken sure sounds good, i'm tempted to go back there just for it, would anyone recommend that? oh, and check out our nyc chowhound fanclub bbq link, we're gonna give it a try somehow in august so wish us luck.

              Link: http://www.bbq-nyc.com

              1. re: mrnyc
                s
                Steve in Austin

                Without hitting the same place twice, and it's ALL good. Kreuz', Black's, Chisholm Trail and Smitty's are all some of the best around.

                1. re: mrnyc
                  s
                  Steve in Austin

                  You can get Black's BBQ (in Lockhart) shipped to y'all up there. I HIGHLY recommend the sausage rings as they are fully smoked/cooked and just need to be heated up on your smoker or grill. These are the best links you will ever eat! (See link below)

                  Link: http://www.blacksbbq.com/

                  1. re: Steve in Austin
                    t
                    THM - BBQ NYC Cuemaster

                    Thanks for the idea, Steve, but I do believe we'll be handling the cue ourselves!

                    That's sort of the point - to see if we can...it's been a tough row to hoe so far, dealing with the NYC Parks dept and the EPA's smoke pollution restrictions (no joke!) But the peeps here are really gearin' up for it, when we do get around to doing it...looking more like September or October, actually....

                    It's so weird to be in a place where the majority of the people you talk to about cue have never had it before, let alone the good stuff y'all got at yer fingertips...

                    Hence the BBQ NYC mission...hopefully it'll be A Thing.

                    THM

                    1. re: THM - BBQ NYC Cuemaster

                      NYC already has delicious Texas BBQ. Pearson's is in Jackson Heights, Queens (7, E, F, G, R, V trains). I was raised in Dallas and love Pearson's pulled beef sandwich. The sandwiches are served on a Portuguese roll (I think); I've read comments that that's the only thing not authentic about it. (Fine with me.)

                      Link: http://www.angelfire.com/ny3/globalgo...

              2. All in all an ok article I suppose. I'm always bewildered by the popularity and press that the Salt Lick gets. It's the worst barbecue I've eaten in this state.

                I will comment on the romantic notion (perpetuated by the writer of the article) that only fantastic Texas barbecue can come from tiny towns out in the middle of nowhere. Granted it's true in many cases but I think that there is some consistently great bbq in the Austin city limits.

                12 Replies
                1. re: Skye
                  g
                  GordonElliott

                  The best BBQ that can be found "in" Austin is the Beef Ribs at Ben's Long Branch. Close second is Beef Ribs at County Line...

                  1. re: GordonElliott
                    j
                    John Morthland

                    Try the brisket at BBQ World Headquarters, in the Farmers Market on Burnet Road. They use only certified Angus beef and it melts in your mouth.

                    1. re: John Morthland

                      Folks, you have got to go to John Mueller's on Manor Road and try the beef short ribs. They are incredible, as is the brisket and the ribs. Also, try House Park Barbecue on 12th Street just east of Lamar. It's all good. Look for the sign that says "Don't take no teef to eat my beef" on one side and "Pork Loin Pork Loin on the other.

                    2. re: GordonElliott
                      h
                      homesick for Taylor, Texas

                      Hi folks,

                      I've had the bbq at lots of the places listed in the NYT story--Mueller's, Kreuz, Cooper, Blacks, etc.

                      Granzin's in New Braunfels is also good.

                      But I grew up in Taylor, so Louie Mueller holds a warm place in my coronary. I still make my pilgrimage there every time I visit family in the area. In high school, a bunch of us would go there for lunch and make it back in time for 4th period class. In the 60's, a couple of hot links, a dill pickle, and a coke would cost less than a buck. Back then the pit boss was a man named Fred Fontaine, a prince of a guy.

                      But the best meals I ever had at Louie Mueller's were when I was HUNGRY, the kind of hunger that comes naturally and appropriately after a morning of hot, hard, dirty farm work. And that is, after all, what the founders of the place had in mind in the first place. And the brisket always tastes better, somehow, when use my own pocket knife to cut it up.

                      Of late, folks from Austin come to Taylor to sample the bbq with an epicurean's discriminating tastebuds, since bbq is apparently trendy. "Oh, how quaint, how atavistic!"

                      But the hunger that works best for Louie Mueller barbecue is the hunger that happens on a day when your body burns up 5000 calories and sweats out over a gallon of water doing something useful, real work, like working with cattle or picking cotton.

                      After lunch, you go back to the farm, but find a bit of shade in a breezy place for an hour-long siesta.

                      Then, and only then, will you understand what it feels like to be close to the food chain, eating the bounty of the very soil you're walking on, the same soil where your grandfather is buried. That is ultimately, in my opinion, what makes the best cooking in Europe so great: it's the food that is raised just outside the restaurant, raised by relatives of the same loving people who proudly enjoy serving it to you.

                      The late Stevie Ray Vaughn and his brother Jimmy did a blues album, "Family Style," shortly before SRV's death in 1990. The album cover shows Stevie and Jimmy sitting at a table in Louie Mueller's. To this day, the poster-sized version of the album cover is hanging right above that very same table in Louie Mueller's. The smoke-stained green wall in the restaurant is gradually becoming more stained than the one in the picture.

                      In my imagination, I can see SRV-- after his detox and rehab-- coming to appreciate such a close connection to the land that Louie Mueller's barbecue evokes.

                      ..........................

                      coda:

                      I still don't think anybody has gotten the secret of Louie Mueller's wonderful, watery sauce. It's not ketchup-based at all. It's mostly sort of a French-onion soup made by browning onions in the fat of a bunch of brisket trimmings. It has red pepper in it, bits of browned onion, and a wonderful broth. I've never seen any other sauce like it at a bbq joint. About 15 years ago, I went to a wedding reception where Fred Fontaine catered the barbecue; he told me that secret. The pale red tint is from red pepper and brisket trimmings, not tomato.

                      I'm now languishing in Ohio, where "barbecue" means something between a weenie on a coat hanger and a couple of pork ribs that are boiled, then slathered with ketchup and honey and toasted on a weber grill. I'd rather eat my goddamned belt.

                      1. re: homesick for Taylor, Texas

                        Now wpbrain, don't be lumping all of in Austin into one group. Some of us 'been making the pilgrimage to Louie's for 25 years; some of us even baled hay in the summers as kids and know what hungry is.

                        Long time Louie's customers who are buddies of mine believe that an important component of the thin sauce there is pickle juice. I agree.

                        1. re: Greg Spence
                          h
                          homesick for Taylor

                          I think you may be right about the pickle juice in the sauce. Their potato salad uses dill pickles, so it stands to reason they think of something to do with the juice. I'm third generation German-American myself, and trust me, we "squareheads" can be thrifty to the point of cheap. It also fits the model, among lots of ethnic groups that live close to the land, of not throwing away anything.

                          wpbrain

                        2. re: homesick for Taylor, Texas

                          I love this post! It reads much like a love letter to your hometown, and Mueller's barbecue. Heck, I'm feeling nostalgic about Taylor, TX and the way of life there too, and I've never been there. That barbecue does sound terrific. Thanks for posting.

                          1. re: Pat Hammond
                            h
                            homesick for Taylor, TX

                            Of course it's a loveletter to my hometown. I'm about four weeks from my next trip there, so of course I get homesick.

                            One place with good Q that the NYT story missed is also in Taylor, about a block and a half away. No, not Rudy Mikeska's, which has gotten god-awful since the death of Rudy himself. It's Vencil Maresh's Taylor Cafe, on first street, right next to the tracks. Check out Texas Highways magazine online for a recent article and a photo and a pinto bean recipe. I prefer Louie's myself, but I dine at Vencil's periodically, just for the trip back in time. The place is so earthy it makes Louie's seem cosmopolitan.

                          2. re: homesick for Taylor, Texas

                            now wait a minute, you're shocked...shocked!!! that you can not find texas bbq in ohio. i got news for you as a seasoned 'cue eater, you can not find it anywhere else either. it is unique. you have to try to make it yourself or wait until you visit taylor again.

                            in the same time/distance you can spend driving around texas for good bbq you could be driving all around ohio trying the things they do best. as a former clevelander(can'tcha tell?;))i certainly do not look for walleye/perch, pierogies, italian, etc. when i am visiting texas.

                            i do enjoy your homestate for the people and all the local specialties that it offers -- i hope you look for the same in mine.

                            1. re: mrnyc
                              h
                              homesick for Taylor, TX

                              Hi cleveland,

                              Oh, certainly I've come to find bits of Ohio cuisine that are as authentic as my Q.

                              Before I moved here 12 years ago, I'd never had rhubarb pie. It's wonderful.

                              I'm told there is a Q place in Columbus, OH that has a passable brisket. I'm skeptical, but not cynical; therefore, hopeful.

                              Last September, I was on a tour to the Czech Republic. In a wonderful medieval city called Czeski Krumlov, I was told by the hotel concierge that there was a BBQ restaurant. That evening, my companions and I wandered the cobblestones and could smell the aroma, but could not find the Q.

                              I asked a policeman (who spoke no English, so I used my very stale college German, a language many Czechs know, owing to both history and geography), but he either didn't know the location of the place or just thought I was nuts. So we found a good restaurant and ate svichkova (which varies across the country from something like pot roast to something like a fat fillet mignon. Then we toasted our meal with absinthe, a really wierd buzz.

                              Back here in Ohio, I once asked a student (I teach for a large Big 10 university in Ohio) about the identifying cuisine of his hometown, Kenton. He took me to a congenial bar that served fried bologna sandwiches. I ate one, and tried my best to appreciate it as an expression of the town's culture, but it was pretty skanky.

                              I have had pirogies from the Cleveland area, and they're wonderful, sort of Polish raviolis.

                              wpbrain

                            2. re: homesick for Taylor, Texas

                              fred lied about the sauce. no one will ever know,excepy 2 people.

                          3. re: Skye

                            I love Sam's sausage and the ribs are damn good as well.

                          4. "And while low heat and slow cooking is prevalent elsewhere, Texans barbecue at a high temperature (upwards of 400 degrees)for a relatively short time." What an idiot. That may be true at Kreuz (although I think the temp there is closer to 350F) but it's certainly not true elsewhere.

                            Also, does anyone have any ideas about why The Salt Lick gets so much mention in the barbecue annals of moronic journalists? I mean the best thing there is the cloe slaw. Is it the byob policy? It certainly isn't the quality of the 'cue.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Greg Spence

                              Maybe because it's an "in" place with celebrities?

                              1. re: Greg Spence

                                Greg, didn't it used to be good once upon a time?

                                I once spent three hours getting lost in cow pastures searching for it, and found it closed. BEAUTIFUL country, though. I hanker to get lost there again someday.

                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                  Once upon a time, before Austin's population explosion, the Salt Lick was pretty good. Now, it's banquet hall barbecue (remembering your "What Jim had for dinner" piece on The Tavern on the Green) at best. They serve 5000 people a weekend, so the notion that they cook all the meat on that old, round, direct heat pit is absurd. They have multiple pitmasters working on various pits and the result is a generally poor and completely inconsistent product.

                                  Yes, it is a picturesque location and the quality may improve for a brief period (the banquet hall burned down last week; they were insured) but overall, go to one of our great 'cue places, take it out to Hamilton Pool and make a picnic of it. You'll be much happier.

                                  1. re: Greg Spence
                                    s
                                    Steve in Austin

                                    Can be rented real cheap right about now. That place was REALLY smokin' yesterday...

                              2. I have not read it yet, but I suspect that the writer was on the BBQ bus a few weeks ago. A busloaad of food critics were loaded up on a bus, and hit 5-6 bbq joints in one day. My current fave is City Meat Market in Giddings, but I've heard so much about Thelma's in Houston, that I'm going to go there next weekend.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Frank M
                                  s
                                  Steve in Austin

                                  Is NOT good. Tried it for the first time last Sat. at lunch. The sausage was overcooked (dry) and had a very strange taste and texture. Had slices of brisket from two slabs of meat and one was full of exterior fat and the other was dry like it had been leftover from the previous day. Chicken was also below average. Folks were friendly, but I can see why it's never mentioned with the likes of Lockhart, Elgin, and Luling.

                                  1. re: Steve in Austin

                                    AMEN

                                2. Y'all didn't mention the best of all, the Krauze meat market on the square in La Grange. Always served on paper, pepper sauce in the old vinegar bottle and crackers or light bread. Gotta get there early, they sell out shortly after noon. The pork shoulder and sausage are tops. And if your into cooking, they uually have sweetbreads for sale in the meat market that are wonderful. You don't even have to clean them
                                  the s'breads are so well packaged.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Richie

                                    Do you mean Prause? I know there is a Prause's but no Krauze... There is however a Kreuz out in Lockhart.

                                  2. I'm a fan of thelma's, personally, but then again I haven't ever been there when it wasn't good. I find that soul food barbecue is often so different from the german descendents' barbecue that I don't hold them up to the same measuring sticks.

                                    Try also the market or grocery in Gonzales for good brisket, sausage and ribs.