The BBQ journey is a unique experience and takes many forms. Many of us have bucket lists, Memphis in May, Kansas City, the Jack Daniels invitational and Texas. I was lucky enough to get to travel to Austin Texas a few years ago. For those of you who are new to the BBQ “scene” the Austin area has some of the most famous to some of the oldest bbq joints in Texas. This area is where central Texas style bbq comes from. In general this means very simple rubs of mostly salt and pepper, no sauce (or very little sauce and on the side) and cooked over post oak wood.
Being in Austin the first place we went was Franklin Barbecue. To those living under a woodpile Franklin Barbecue is considered one of the best BBQ restaurants in the country. People wait in huge lines for hours to get some of their food. We were the third people in line at 7:30 in the morning on a Wednesday. Now remember this place doesn't open till 11. First thing you see as you walk up is a huge pile of lawn chairs and a sign that asks you to please put them back when done. Luckily we had brought our own chairs. Soon the line starts to build.
This is when you find out one of the fun things about Franklin's, people come from everywhere to eat there. There couple next to us was from Arizona and was doing research for opening his own place. The line is so huge and you got nothing but time to kill so why not make some new friends. At about 10 the true Texas hospitality come out when two people come out from the restaurant one carrying a box filled with cozies and beer for sale. This doesn't sound like much but when you been sitting there for a few hours it is awesome. Next came the girl with a clipboard. Why you may ask? Well she starts asking down the line which meats and how many pounds of it you are planning on ordering. As she goes down the line eventually she gets to a point where she has to tell someone that they are the last person they can say will still get all the meat they want and no guarantees to any one after them.
The clock ticks down closer to 11. Soon the door opens and the line heads in. Being so close to the front of the line we were lucky enough to get all of the food we wanted. Now to say Franklin's excels at customer service would be an understatement. From the beer and cozies to the man himself Aaron Franklin, the customer service was amazing. Smiling happy people all of them.
We ordered our food and sat down. Here it was the time to eat after all that waiting, served on butcher paper with white bread.
We had brisket, ribs and sausage. All I can say is it lived up to the hype. The brisket was amazing. Juicy, full of flavor with a delicious simple bark and cooked to perfection. Ribs were very simple rub but great smoky for from the post oak. We sat and chowed down. As we were finishing up we saw the man himself Aaron Franklin Street out from the back and look around with a big smile at his work.
We got up and got to meet him and take some pictures with him. After which he took us into the smoker room. He showed us around and talked to us about some of there cooking process. You could see he just loves what he does and sharing it with people. I highly recommend taking a morning and going to Franklin's the food will not disappoint.
Next up we made the drive to Lockhart Texas. This town is home to some of the oldest and best known BBQ joints in Texas. In this town you have Kreuz, Smitty's and Black's. Kreuz and Smitty's are very similar but that is because Kreuz used to be where Smitty's is now along with the fact that the family's behind the two are related. To step into Smitty's is to step back in time to when BBQ was used as a way of preserving meat and to help sell the tougher pieces of meat. These places were meat market first BBQ joints second.
When you walk into Smitty's the walls and ceiling are coated in soot and smoke is in the air as you walk to the back you turn a corner and there is the brick pits with fire on the end. It is a site to see as you stand in line next to a fire with nothing around it. Coming from the northeast this is not something you would ever expect. The place has a weight of history to it you feel as if you have stepped back in time.
The meat is all sold by the pound wrapped in butcher paper with white bread or crackers. They open a lid on the brick pits to pull out chunk of brisket and set it down on top of a huge butchers block and slice it to order. At Smitty's they just have long tables to sit at and eat. Another unique element to the experience is that meat and sides are purchased separately. So what I found is that the brisket here has a different texture and taste from a place like Franklin's. Still great flavor but comes out almost more like smoked pot roast then what many would think of brisket. Another thing you learn is they don't do burnt ends in the central Texas area. What you get is your choice of fatty or lean brisket.
From there we headed over to Kreuz Market. For years Kreuz was located where Smitty's now stands until a moving to a new building. Although it is a new building they built it with tradition in mind. They still use brick pits and a huge butchers block. You also get your meat in a completely different area then sides and drinks. One thing that is hard to miss is the sign that states “no sauce, no forks, no kidding” they believe you don't need sauce if cooked right. You have your own forks at the end of your arms. Unfortunately Roy Perez was not there the day we went. Kreuz had a similar taste and texture to Smitty's which again I attribute to the family connection and similar pits.
After eating all day all I know is I was stuffed, this trip had been awesome and I highly suggest going if you get the chance to go. I loved seeing the different pits and styles. We here at Man Meat BBQ want to know what places you have on your bucket list, maybe it Rendezvous in Memphis, or Big Bob Gibson's in Alabama. That's the beauty of BBQ there is no wrong answer. That's it for this months blog hope you enjoyed and remember #cowboyup and #keepsmokin