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My list of Less Than Famous Central TX BBQ - Which ones?

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All,

A couple of years ago my buddy and I did a pilgrimage to Central Texas to eat at many of the famous Q joints, and they were great. Here's my write up if you're interested:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7779...

I will be in San Antonio for a conference in late April and will sneak out at some point for a BBQ quest, but wanted to focus on some of the lesser known gems that don't take me too far from San Antonio. I've done a bit of research but I'd love to hear from all of you who have been to some of the places within say, 70 miles of San Antonio.

Here is my list. Which of these are must-eats? Which can be skipped? Which ones am I missing?

San Antonio – Granary
New Braunfels – Cooper’s Barbecue
San Marcos – Hay’s Co. Bar-B-Que
Luling – City Market

My big thing is brisket and guts.

Thanks!

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  1. Not sure I would classify Cooper's or City Market as lesser known.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PappyAustin

      Okay, that's good to know. So they are good? Others you might suggest?

      1. re: EarlyBird

        City Market in Luling is fantastic. Cooper's in New Braunfels has no atmosphere or character and the times I've been there, it's been about as good as a Rudy's. Ok. Not anything special.

    2. I couldn't even finish my BBQ in Luling. Locals there will say otherwise but I'd recommend you stay away. I like Coopers but their brisket isn't great shakes but they do great steaks, sausage and prime rib. Can't speak to the others. If you are that close to Luling just go to Lockhart and go to Black's or Smittys. Great stuff.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Rptrane

        Well, I've been to both Black's and Smitty's and was trying to avoid getting that close to Austin on this trip, and wanted to visit other places.

        Thanks for the information.

        1. re: EarlyBird

          I've never had any bad food at City Market.

          1. re: James Cristinian

            City Market in Luling has always been consistently good to great. It's there whenever the Lockhart ones have an off day.

            1. re: Rene

              I'll third that. I've always enjoyed City Market (and conversely, never enjoyed Black's)

              1. re: Rene

                great sausages

                1. re: ieathereforeiam

                  Thanks all. Sounds like City Market in Luling is a must. I'll report back.

        2. If you get close to Lexington, check out Snow's. Dear Daughter's boyfriend grew up with it and swears by it. I am looking forward to the fall visit. And thank you in advance for making my research so easy.

          8 Replies
          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

            Snow's seems to have fallen off a lot of people's radar since Franklin's and LA BBQ came on the scene. People that used to drive to Lexington would rather stand in line (or so it appears).

            1. re: TroyTempest

              A lot of the problem with Snow's is that, unless things have changed, it's only open on Saturday mornings. That can certainly make it a less-than-convenient option.

              And City Market in Luling has had for many decades a reputation as being one of the iconic Texas greats for one reason: it is one of the iconic Texas greats.

              Period.

              1. re: Jaymes

                Okay. I'm most definitely making it to Luling and City Market. I notice there is "City Market," the famous one, and "Luling City Market." They must be entirely different establishments, right?

                1. re: EarlyBird

                  The "Luling City Market" in Houston initially had some tenuous connection to City Market in Luling, a former employee or something. At this point, it's deceptive at best.

                  1. re: ampeg66

                    There is also a Luling BBQ in Luling, never been there though.

                    http://lulingbar-b-q.com/

                    1. re: James Cristinian

                      Funny about that "other" barbecue joint in Luling. It's right across the street from City Market. I always sit there and look at it for a few minutes and think I really should try it.

                      But never have.

                      Honestly, City Market is so good, I've never really seen the point of trying Luling BBQ. I mean, if it were really good enough to compete with City Market, why is it that you never hear about it anywhere.

                      And I've usually driven at least an hour to get to City Market. So don't want to waste time, money, tummy space on second tier barbecue.

                      You know?

                    2. re: ampeg66

                      Right. The City Market in Luling is so famous as being a top tier iconic smoked meat market that somebody in Houston is currently trying to capitalize on the confusion.

                      There's a pretty sleazy sordid story about how the owners of the ripoff joint in Houston lured a family member from the real City Market in Luling. But, as usually happens when somebody is being "used," there was a falling out.

                      Unfortunately, there are still folks that think there's a connection. Unfortunately.

              2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                I've seen Snow's on many lists, and I think I can build an itinerary which includes it. Thanks for the information. I'll report back on my trip.

              3. Thought a response to your original question might be helpful. A co-worker that lives in New Braunfels suggested http://granzinsbbq.com/.

                1 Reply
                1. re: PappyAustin

                  Looks good. Thanks.

                2. OK, so given the criteria "top tier BBQ" and "close to San Antonio", you probably want to add Two Bros BBQ Market in SA and Texas Pride (which also has great cobbler) in nearby Adkins. They are both really good and close enough that they would be easy to add to your route.
                  I also like Buzzie's in Kerrville but it's out the other direction from most of the rest of the joints.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Alan Sudo

                    Thanks, Alan. I'll have a AAA map, a full tank of gas and an empty stomach when I set out. These two will be on my radar too.

                    1. re: Alan Sudo

                      Agree with 2 Bros, you may want to post this in the general Texas forum as well to get non Austinites opinions.

                      1. re: saeyedoc

                        funny.

                    2. I caught Hays County on a previous trip, and I thought it was worth the detour from my route. I wouldn't put it in my pantheon of Texas Q (There's Black's, then Louie Mueller's then everyone else IMNSHO), but I was glad I stopped by. Nice variety, large space, nice people.

                      City Market in Luling is always a must stop for me. Their sausage is really good. Right up there with Elgin in my book. Brisket is pretty yummy, with plenty of flavor and moistness.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: GroovinGourmet

                        I was unable to get to Hays, but did stop by City Market and found it outstanding, secondly only to Louie Mueller's in my experience.

                        Thanks.

                      2. Just to provide feedback: time and stomach space limited me to only two institutions on this trip, City Market in Luling, and Smitty's in Lockhart.

                        I'd been to Smitty's and many of the other famous central Texas BBQ institutions with my friend a couple of years back and we had split on Smitty's. You can see my report in my original post on this thread. I thought it only fair to give them another try, and this time the food was far superior.

                        However...City Market. DAaaaayum! I'd put it second only to Louie Mueller's and that's saying a lot. The bark on the brisket was crisp and salty and peppery and the meat itself just collapsed in my mouth. Outstanding. Their pork rib was just what a pork rib should be, and their sausage was perfect: coarse, peppery, the skin popped, juicy without being greasy. Just excellent.

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: EarlyBird

                          Louie Mueller is only good for the beef ribs and sausage. I've found their brisket wildly uneven and often tough. LA BBQ is the place to beat for brisket and ribs at this point. Maybe I went on the worst day ever but that brisket I had at City Market in Luling was inedible. We literally threw our stuff away.

                          1. re: Rptrane

                            What a shame.

                            My buddy and I still swoon over our experience at Louie Mueller's. We got there before noon, and perhaps that has something to do with it. I also thought City Market was fantastic, and got there before noon.

                            When I first went to Smitty's I didn't like it. The brisket was tough, the sausage under seasoned and fatty, the pork rib dry. But this time it was much, much better on all counts.

                            I do suppose there are good days and bad days, better times of day to go; not to mention every animal is different too and will cook up a bit more tender or tougher no matter how consistent the barbecuer is.

                            What/where is LA BBQ? Please tell me that is "Los Angeles BBQ" in my home town.

                            1. re: EarlyBird

                              I always try to hit a place before 11 am.

                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                EB - I think that LA is short for LeAnne (Mueller). I'm not totally sure.

                                What do y'all thin of Mann's BBQ? I've only been a couple of times, but I seem to remember it being better than average.

                                1. re: rudeboy

                                  It's decent weekday BBQ. They don't run out of stuff, etc. If you have time though you can't beat LA BBQ.

                                  1. re: Rptrane

                                    Still haven't been there! Definitely need to go.

                                    Also, I had some damn fine ribs at Ruby's. They have good sides, too. Always wanted to find a "real" que place with fancier sides.....like brussels sprouts and healthy vegetables like that.

                                    1. re: rudeboy

                                      My gf tells me the brisket at HEB in Mueller is actually very good weekday always available BBQ. She doesn't contend that it can touch LA BBQ or other greats but she maintains it's very good. I have not been though.

                                      1. re: Rptrane

                                        I meant to ask: as I drove around I kept seeing a chain called "Bill Miller Barbecue." I just immediately dismissed it as bad because it was a chain, but am I right about that?

                                        1. re: EarlyBird

                                          It is a regional chain, EarlyBird. There's two reasons that I go there: 1) Their fried chicken, which is some of the better fried chicken around' and, 2) Through the drive through to get a couple of ribs when I want a snack. I usually get two medium-sized ribs for two or three bucks. I wouldn't put it on your list for a BBQ excursion, though.

                                          1. re: rudeboy

                                            Thanks. And now you remind me of when I was on my Central Texas BBQ quest a couple of years ago, my buddy and I ate at the Rudy's chain and found it quite good. So I should not assume that a chain can't do 'Q well.

                                          2. re: EarlyBird

                                            LA BBQ is a food trailer on East 6th Street in Austin, it's from the same linage as Franklin's in a round about way. IMO the food is just as good but with way less of a line.

                                            BIll Miller has serviceable BBQ. FOr me it's a sliding scale. I can have great BBQ and wait an hour or okay BBQ in 5 minutes. I like the great places more but won't get to eat them due to distance and time. Bill Miller has better fried chicken than BBQ. I also like their breakfast tacos.

                                    2. re: rudeboy

                                      It does stand for LeAnn.

                                      Mann's is pretty inconsistent. I like the folks that run the place, but the brisket and pork can be incredibly dry one day (even when I get it with "flavuh") and nice & moist the next. The sides are so-so, never grabbed me. I still prefer them to Rudy's on a weekday bbq run from work.

                                2. re: EarlyBird

                                  This reminds me of all my visits to City Market.

                                  1. re: EarlyBird

                                    I've been to all of these several times. While there are most definitely off days, my most recent experience mirrors yours with all three BBQ Joints. I enjoyed Louie Mueller's Sausage the most while I preferred the brisket at City Market. Smitty's came in number 2 for both. Love all three!

                                    1. re: Rene

                                      A couple of years back I really loved Sam's just on the other side of the freeway from downtown Austin. It was a surprise since it is not as well known as many of the others, bit was excellent.