Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lee-Mo's Smokehouse, 9/28/11

Visited about 1:30 pm, 9/28/11

As threatened after my last visit, I returned to Lee-Mo's this week to sample their ribs and re-sample their brisket.  Unfortunately, the ribs I had were overcooked, then sat in a warmer too long, making the outside very chewy.  The result was that the meat fell off the bone, then you had to chew on it awhile.  There was not much flavor and zero smoke.  I also got a half pound of brisket to go, and it was moist and tender.  However there was zero smoke flavor and it came across as the all too familiar roast beef.  I will say the fat was well rendered and the meat was tasty with the addition of some Dr Pepper BBQ sauce.  Their house sauce remains way too sweet for me, and seems to be made up with a heavy percentage of honey.  The highlight of the meal was their home made potato salad.  Having sampled that before, I doubled up on that!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2011 Calories and Cholesterol Tour!

We had an abbreviated tour this year, 3 1/2 days, with 8 BBQ stops.  5 stops we had eaten at before 3 were new joints for us.  Scott got his first taste of Franklin in Austin and I got my second.    We also came home with lots of goodies for future consumption.  I scored 2 pounds of fatty brisket to go at Franklin BBQ in Austin, plus a box of 25 links of jalapeno cheese sausage from Kreuz in Lockhart.  Black's in Lockhart was having a sale on frozen fatty brisket at the bargain basement price of just $6 a pound, so I had to grab a couple of pounds of that as well.  So this week's good eatin' will continue for another week or so, at least.  Woo hoo!

As usual, the festivities began as we turned south on the fabled Pickle Parkway, or as I like to call it, the BBQ parkway to Lockhart.  They have not quite completed the last few miles to Lockhart, but based on the bridges and flyovers that seem to be completed, it will not be long now.  Read on for more details and don't forget you can click on the pictures for larger, mouth watering versions!

Best Quality Meat, Temple, TX 9/22/11

Best Quality Meat, Temple, TX visited 9/22/11 about 1:15 pm

This is another place we have tried to hit several times in the past, but never managed to be there on the right day or time.  Today was the day!  This place is located just off the highway on the west side of I-35 just as you go onto the overpass at Temple.  You can see their sign from the upper deck of the freeway, but it is easy to get off and circle back under the elevated highway. 

As we came up we noticed a sign offering a bargain pulled pork sandwich and I was worried we might not get a full BBQ offering.  Wrong! On enquiring inside they had a full compliment of brisket, ribs, sausage, pulled pork and chicken on offer.  Scott and I split a to-go order of brisket, ribs, and sausage with beans and tater salad.  On pulling the brisket the gentleman apologized for the limp brisket.  It was definitely well overcooked and fell apart into small pieces, even as he sliced it.  On taste there was no smoke flavor at all, though it would have made nice sandwich meat with some good sauce.  The ribs looked nice and were tasty indeed.  I thought I detected the taste of charcoal grilling and Scott thought the same.  That said, these were tasty ribs that were tender with good moisture content that pulled easily away from the bone.  The sausage tasted like standard store bought fare, which was surprising considering the signs touting their home made sausage.  The sides were average. 

Miller's Smokehouse BBQ, Belton, TX 9/22/11

Miller's Smokehouse BBQ, Belton, TX visited 9/22/11 about noon

This is a place we had tried to visit several times before, but never managed to get by when they were open.  Today we managed it and I'm glad we did!  For the record, Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 am till sellout are the things you need to keep in mind. 

This is a tiny little storefront operation but is a perfect example of good things coming in small packages.  One little lady was up front taking orders and money, one man, Mr. Dirk Miller, I assume, was in the back cranking out orders and delivering to the waiting customers out front.  There may have been seating for about 20 inside, maybe.  Many folks got food to go and stood by til their goodies were brought out front.  Sadly, no ribs except on Friday.  I went with a 2 meat plate with brisket and jalapeno cheese sausage with the standard sides, beans and tater salad.  Despite a busy lunch rush we had our food in a few minutes and it was mighty tasty.  The brisket was tender, moist, and had NICE smoke flavor.  The fat was perfectly rendered and was very tasty.  I didn't leave a bit of it.  The jalapeno cheese sausage was exceptional.  I have to say it rivaled the best of Kreuz or Black's that I have tasted, and they are my favorites.  The sides were average, but Scott though his tater salad was very good. 

This meal blew away what we had at Schoepfs a few days earlier.  While this place probably has much more restricted hours (and the presence of a nearby "sold out" sign for BBQ suggested they often run out), it is well worth the few hundred extra yards you have to travel.  While dining we heard the owner talking about the fact they have moved their deer processing and taxidermy business down the street and would soon be moving the BBQ operation to a larger site as well.  Fortunately they seem to have a well kept website which will make that info easy to find. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Big Papa's Smokeshack BBQ, Luling, TX 9/21/11

Big Papa's Smokeshack BBQ, Luling, TX visited 9/21/11 about 5:30 pm

I had first heard about this place on the Man Up blog but I never heard back when I asked them about the location. Then one of my racquetball buddies was telling me about a place he stopped at on the way back from Shiner. He didn't recall the name, but when I sent him the link to the Man Up pictures he said "That's it!" We took a reconnoiter Monday and found they were only open Wednesday through Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday.

We arrived about 5:30 on Wednesday and were informed they only had sandwiches or ribs and brisket by the half pound. We settled on a half pound of brisket and ribs and waited on the nice wood deck patio for our order. Everything looked good on arrival, but the ribs were definitely undercooked. They were very tough and chewy and difficult to separate from the bone. I think it was very telling when we received 3 ribs, Scott and I tried one each, and neither of us wanted the third. The brisket was better. It was tender and moist but the fat was not completely rendered. There was zero smoke flavor in the brisket and it was essentially roast beef. Their sauce was a thick mustardy sauce, but not quite as mustardy as City Market. It added some nice flavor to the meat and was good for bread dipping. I think a brisket sandwich with sauce would be the ticket here, but only if you come by when City Market is closed. Those in the know will head 5 minutes north on 183.

Grandma's Bar-B-Q, Luling, TX 9/21/11

R.I.P. Grandma's.  Sorry we never got to know ye.

City Market, Luling, TX 9/21/11

City Market, Luling, Tx sampled 9/21/11 about 11 am

While folks in Austin were, no doubt, still standing in line at Franklin, we were in the door at the smokey pit room at City Market. We timed our arrival for about 11 am, knowing the line starts to form for the lunch rush about 11:30. We just had a couple of folks in front of us so there was almost no waiting. As usual I loaded up with half a pound of brisket, 2 ribs, and a sausage ring. The brisket was just a tad chewy but I lucked into a delicious brisket end dripping with smokey goodness. Meat candy indeed! That was one of those slices where the smoke flavor stays with you long after you have finished your meal. The ribs were divine, juicy, tender spare ribs with a nice sweet bark. As good as it gets. The sausage ring was flavorful with a nice moisture content and a perfect snap to the casing. I just wish they had jalapeno sausage because I like a little more of a spicey kick. Still, it was great sausage. The prices here are also lower than almost any other great Q joint. $9/lb for both brisket and ribs and $1.80 for a hot link. Still one of my favorite joints, even if it has slipped a bit below Franklin.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kreuz Market, Lockhart, TX 9/21/11

Kreuz Market, Lockhart, TX sampled 9/20/11 about 6:15 pm

We have eaten at Kreuz many times before and consistency has always been an issue. Tonight was no exception. The brisket was tender but dry. Scott said his was too salty, but mine was not. The fat was well rendered and tasty. Surprisingly, their always reliable jalapeno cheese sausage was not reliable tonight. It had an off taste, something I have experienced before when I have left their links in the fridge for too long. I don't ever remember taking a few bites of a Kreuz sausage and chunking the rest. I guess there's a first time for everything. The rib was the best of the meat tonight and it was tender, moist, and flavorful. The mac and cheese was average and made me realize the mac and cheese I had last night at Black's was much better.

Franklin BBQ, Austin, Tx 9/20/11

Franklin BBQ, Austin, TX, sampled 9/20/11 about 11:15 am

This was only my second trip to Franklin and my first to the new location (which is actually the OLD location of Ben's Longbranch BBQ which we sampled back in 2006). To be sure of getting our share of the good stuff, we showed up one full hour before opening at 10 am. We found a few folks already waiting. Some had arrived at 9:30 am. The line began to get longer, some of us on the porch, others going down the ramp and along the street. A few minutes before opening, a nice lady came out and straightened up the line and went along with a clipboard to get an idea how many pounds would be sold to those already waiting. They might want to put a chain across the porch with a "line starts here" sign to avoid the scrum before opening. Then they could drop the chain at opening. Just a suggestion. I think there were about 60 folks in line when they opened.

At 11 am the doors opened up and the line snaked inside. I got a half pound of fatty brisket and 2 pork ribs, plus another 2 pounds of fatty to go. My buddy Dave gets "to go" a lot and he says the brisket freezes and re-heats well. I added two bottles of Dr Pepper, not knowing they have the real sugar DP on tap. Thanks Dave. Next time I will know!
Here is the gorgeous sight that rewarded our hour wait.

The brisket was awesome. It was tender, moist, and smokey, with a healthy crust around every slice. Meat candy fit for the Gods. The ribs were perfectly cooked. Check out the bite mark below. KCBS would be proud. Again the meat was tender, moist, and delicious. Their rib rub had a tang I could not quite make out. It sort of reminded me of Cholula hot sauce but it went well with the meat. After about 20 minutes we had very happy tummies indeed.

This was Scott's first trip to Franklin and his reaction was similar to most. He said it is rare that any place lives up to such massive hype and adulation, but Franklin's does. Yes, it does. I passed on sides this time but both Dave and Scott remarked that the beans were good. Dave said they seem to have changed their recipe. Scott said thumbs down on the tater salad. Hopefully when they complete their new pits out back, there will be enough tasty meat that the pre-opening lines will become a thing of the past. I sure hope so.  When we left there were still about 50 people in line.

With two trips to Franklin and two solid home runs, I am going to move them up to my all time favorite spot. It really is THAT good.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Black's BBQ, Lockhart, TX 9/19/11

Black's BBQ, Lockhart, Texas 9/19/11 sampled about 6:45 pm

One of the pleasures of taking our annual BBQ trips is going back to the places we KNOW are good. Black's is certainly one of those. While it is always fun to try new joints, it's places like Black's that serve as the standard by which others are judged. We have never had anything less than an excellent meal there and tonight was no exception. I loaded up with 1/2 pound of fatty brisket, 4 baby backs including a rib tip, and a jalapeno link. As sides I had their mac and cheese and some beans. The brisket was just perfect. Tender and moist with deep smoke flavor from first bite to last. The fat was perfectly rendered and melt in your mouth good. The baby backs were just a tad chewy on the tip but the inside bones left a perfect bite mark. They were tender and moist with excellent flavor throughout. The jalapeno sausage followed the other 2 meats and was just as good. I still think Kreuz has a slight edge in the sausage department but the gap is shrinking. The casing was just a bit tough but the meat was perfectly seasoned and moist with a good spicy kick. The mac and cheese was excellent but I have to give special kudos to the beans. Now I don't know if this was just a pot of beans which had cooked way down or if these were actually refried beans. Whatever they were, they were perfectly seasoned and were perfect for sopping up with a nice big biscuit.

They had a sign on the front door offering frozen brisket for just $6 a pound. If they have any of that left on Thursday when we head out (doubtful) I am going to load up the cooler.

I noticed they have added live western swing music with the BBQ Playboys! Wait a minute, I'm a BBQ playboy!

Schoepfs BBQ, Belton, TX 9/19/11

Schoepfs BBQ, Belton, Texas sampled 9/19/11

It had been 5 or 6 years since we had last sampled Schoepfs and there have been many changes. They have a nice new exterior, an expanded dining room, and the warming pits are now enclosed. Sadly, the food seems to have declined. The brisket was basically falling apart roast beef without a hint of smoke flavor. The ribs were tough and chewy, but had good flavor. I had to gnaw on them like a caveman to get the meat off. I had the hot sausage and it was flavorful with a good spicey kick but it was dry and the casing was tough. The beans were average but the potato salad was a step above. The sauce had a nice mix of sweet and spicey with a strong vinegar flavor.

I had told Scott I could hold out to Lockhart or Luling to eat lunch. I wish he could have held out. Next year I'm bringing him a pudding cup.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cowboy's Bar-B-Q, Wills Point, Texas

sampled 9/8/11 about 12:30 pm

Finally found this place today after a vague first description from Scott several months back.  For the record, this joint is located just north of the Hwy 80/4th street intersection in Wills Point, about 1/2 mile north on 4th street, on the left.  According to the front door, hours are 11-8, Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.

On arrival I found a parking lot full of pick up trucks, always a good sign. 
As I had already been driving for an hour back from Lake Fork, I went inside instead of using their handy drive through window.  A nice lady took my order for a sliced brisket and rib combo with beans and tater salad.  The food came quickly and was piping hot.  The food was so hot I had to let it cool a bit.  Total was $11.20, which was a good deal considering all the food I got.

The brisket was perfectly tender, very moist, and had a hint of smoke flavor.  There were a generous five slices which went down pretty easy.  Underneath those brisket slabs were three very nice, big, spare ribs.  They were just a tad overcooked, the meat came away from the bone a bit too easy, but they had a very nice flavor. The meat was moist and tender with a sweet glaze on the bark.  Having just judged a KCBS event I would offer the opinion that the meat sampled here was as good or better as anything I sampled at the contest.  The added attraction is that I know where to go back to get more!  The beans were average pintos and the potato salad was pretty average, too.  The sauce was a thick, rich tomato concoction, with just a bit too much vinegar flavor for my taste. 

This is another good East Texas stop and on a par, maybe a bit better, than Mr. B's in Grand Saline.  It would be interesting to sample both of those on the same day for a direct comparison and I may have to take on that task, soon!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bedford Blues and BBQ 9/4/111

Another successful BBQ contest down for the Bedford Blues Fest.  It seems to be growing every year.  This year there were 51 cooks and more than 60 certified judges in attendance.  KCBS held two CBJ classes in the area in the last few days, more than tripling the number of local judges.  I think it is going to be pretty tough to get in as a judge in years to come, unless the number of competitors increases that fast, too.

This year we were in airconditioned comfort inside the old Bedford Library location.  It was perfect!  Plenty of room, comfy, and very close to the cooking area for quick delivery.  As always, the KCBS staff and Bedford people made the whole process easy to follow.

Overall the BBQ this year was much better than last year.  I think I gave one 9 in brisket, ribs, and beans with lots of 8's in every category.  I gave very few 6's and 7's (average is 6).  The surprise was the small number of entries in the steak category.  There were only 8 entries with payouts of $900, $700, and $500 for 1st-3rd. Pretty good odds for the few cookers who participated!  I only got to sample 2 of the steak entries and my Mrs would have kicked their butts.  If they do it again next year there will be lots more entries, especially with those prizes.  One of the brisket entries I sampled had deep smoke flavor and I loved it.  Some of the burnt ends were pretty good, too. 

As usual, I got to bring home my sampling leftovers.  My Mrs has already been in them and has agreed they are much better than last year.  It's really a shame there aren't more KCBS events here in Texas, but IBCA and other groups have solid schedules here already.  I do like the KCBS process a lot.  They are very organized, thorough, and with the training, everyone starts from the same page. 

Congrats to all the cooks who participated in this year's event.  A mighty fine showing, indeed.