As usual I prepared by fasting the previous day and kept to small samples from each booth. We managed to try all 21 participants in about 2 and a half hours.
We were joined by Dave's buddy Bill who made the rookie mistake of filling up early. However he was helped by our game plan which meant we scheduled some of the best joints right at the start. Our first 3 targets were Franklin, Snow's, and Pecan Lodge. The one to one comparison of Snow's and Franklin last year was an easy win for Franklin. Not so this year. Snow's brisket had perfectly rendered fat and a nice smoke flavor. The sausage was average.
After our top 3, we ran from stand to stand, usually gathering 3 or 4 to take back to our table to sample. This year we found a spot under one of the tents and just kind of camped out there. When Bill filled up on food early, he stayed and guarded our spots so we always had a seat to try our food at. It was a good system and served us well.
I have to say overall, the food was a bit better than it was last year. I had at least 6 good smoky pieces of brisket including Baker's, Snow's, City Market, Goode Company, and Lambert's. I marked down Lambert's as number 2 to Pecan Lodge. I think we had more good ribs last year but I noted Baby J's, Stanley's, Vincek's, with Baby J's being number 2 to Pecan Lodge. I thought Opie's beef rib was superior, but my co-conspiriters raved on Pecan Lodge. I guess I just got a bad rib. I never found any really good sausage. Probably the best flavor was from Smitty's, but their super thick and chewy casing just ruins it for me.
There were all kinds of famous folks milling about. I saw Daniel the BBQ snob and Drew from Man Up but never got to visit with them. Aaron Franklin was signing autographs. However for me the real BBQ royalty was seated over at the Taylor Cafe booth. Mr. Vencil Mares was there in person this year and anyone who can operate a BBQ joint for over 60 years is BBQ royalty in my book.