Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Black's BBQ Trifecta

sampled October 18 and 20, 2014
Just for grins, during our recent trip down to Gettin Sauced, Scott and I decided we would eat at all 3 Black's BBQ joints.  Now we know they are different companies, but all 3 have roots at the original Black's BBQ in Lockhart so we thought we'd do a comparison.

Our first stop was at Terry Black's BBQ in Austin on October 18.  We had visited once before and got some to-go but we felt we needed to have a sit down meal there to get a better tasting.  The to-go we got back in September was decent que but fairly average in our evaluation.

Inside we we joined a short line, maybe 15 people in front of us.  The line moved slowly and I think it took us about 20 minutes to get our meal.  That was with 2 of their three meat cutting boards in operation.  I got my usual half pound of fatty brisket, 2 spare ribs, and a jalapeno cheese ring.
All the food was hot and tasty but the meat had zero smoke flavor.  The brisket and ribs were a bit overcooked.  When I tried to pick up a slice of brisket by the end it fell apart under its own weight.  The rib bones slid out of the meat, too.  Neither was mushy on chewing.  The jalapeno cheese sausage had plenty of cheese but no hint of jalapeno spice.  I never did see any flecks of jalapeno. Sides were good but nothing to really stand out.  They kept busy for the whole time we were there, from about 7-8 pm.  More photos from our first visit here.

Our second stop on the tour was Kent Black's BBQ in San Marcos on October 20.  We arrived for lunch about 12:30 pm. 
This is a new joint and a separate business from the Lockhart Black's, but run by the same folks.  It has been open a little under a month.  They have a nice spacious set-up with an outdoor eating area and a large dining area inside.  In the parking lot there were several San Marcos Fire Department vehicles.  Usually a good sign.

There were just a couple of folks in line in front of us and we quickly got our food and headed to the back dining room.
I got my usual half pound of brisket, 2 spare ribs, and a ring.
The brisket was a tad undercooked with fat that was not quite rendered all the way.  There was zero smoke flavor.  Scott got some burnt ends and he commented there was little smoke flavor in his meat.  The pork ribs left a decent bite mark but some of the bark was a bit chewy.  That might have been a holding time issue, but why would there be issues like that at lunch time?  The jalapeno cheese sausage had good cheese and pepper content and had a nice kick to it.  I think that was the highlight of the meal for me.  The mac and cheese looked promising with bacon bits but surprisingly came across as pretty average. 

One nice touch we noticed was a signed dollar bill from Edgar Black sealed into the flooring near our table.
Our last stop on the Black's Trifecta tour was at the original Black's in Lockhart on the evening of October 20.
This is one of our usual favorites and we have eaten here many times before over the years.  We arrived about 7 pm and quickly got our food.  When they sliced my 2 ribs, they gave me an end piece at no charge because there was not a lot of meat on it.  They also gave me 2 rings but only charged me for 1 because they were small. That's the nice touches we are used to at Black's and the kind of thing many other BBQ joints do not do. 
After I got my usual, I grabbed a chair and went straight to the brisket.  Dang it!  Still no smoke flavor.  That's something that is almost a given on all our recent visits to Black's.  Even frozen mail order briskets I have had from there had decent smoke flavor throughout.  The fat was, again, not completely rendered and was devoid of flavor.  I had to cut it away.  The ribs were good, even the end piece with little meat, but there was no smoke flavor there, either.  The jalapeno rings were nice with good spice.  I think the Mac and Cheese was better here than at Kent Black's.  Strange, because I always thought bacon made everything better and there was no bacon here!

After some discussion, Scott and I decided to come back on Tuesday and get some to-go, figuring we might find the smoke situation back to normal.  Sadly, that was not the case.  I got 2 lbs of fatty brisket to go and found it just as roast beefy as what we had the night before.  The interesting thing about all of this is that at Gettin' Sauced, Black's was one of only 2 samples we got, out of 12 stations, that had decent smoke flavor.  Who says great BBQ is easy?  Not me.

On reflection we'd like to go back and try this trifecta again, but all on the same day.  It would be pretty easy to do from Austin, to San Marcos, and to Lockhart.  None of the 3 joints stood out from each other this trip.  We had plenty of good food but no truly great BBQ.

There will soon be another "Original" Black's in Austin on Guadalupe Street.  However they plan on bringing in the meat from Lockhart instead of smoking on site.

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