Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Posse favorites: Crispy wild boar ribs at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue

Our second stop on the Central Texas 5-Star Anniversary BBQ Tour took us to Lamberts Downtown Barbecue in the heart of Austin. Our previous stop at Franklin Barbecue was going to be a hard act to follow.

The dining room had just closed for lunch, so we took over the bar in the historic Austin building that dates back to 1873, ordering up a round of frothy cold beverages. Looking over the menu, the crispy wild boar ribs jumped out as must-sample bbq tour fare, described as "Honey & Sambal, Cabrales Blue, Celery & Daikon Slaw. Though not exactly sure what that meant, we ordered three plates of ribs and jumped in. I can't precisely describe the sophisticated mix of sweet and sour, hot and cold, but what an amazing dining experience.

Next, we ordered sampler plates of brisket, pulled pork, sausage and ribs. Nothing that touched Franklin BBQ, to be quite honest. Fortunately, posse member Libby Jacobson is an Austin local and knew about Lambert's famous mac & cheese, so we talked our way into servings for the group, despite the fact that M&C isn't on the bar menu. Another Posse favorite was born, some of the best we've sampled.

Bottom line, these are two "can't miss" dishes. The next time you find yourself near the corner of Guadalupe & 2nd Streets in downtown Austin, belly up to the bar and enjoy!

Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, 401 W. Second, Austin, (512) 494-1500. Open Daily 11am-11pm.

(Photos by Chris Wilkins)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Franklin Barbecue - Is this the best brisket in Texas?

One giant question loomed over our Central Texas 5-Star Anniversary BBQ Tour. Could Franklin Barbecue, aka: the little trailer that could in Austin, beat out Snow's BBQ in Lexington for the title of "Best Brisket in Texas?"

We had 12 posse members meet up for lunch at Franklins. The joint opens at 11am but they were sold out by 12:30pm, not an unusual occurrence. We had called ahead anonymously a few days earlier to pre-order a brisket, a couple of racks of ribs and some sausage. The posse arrived at 1pm and dug in, sitting at the picnic tables next to Franklin's blue trailer and two large smokers. The debate was fast and furious as pitmaster and owner Aaron Franklin joined us later to talk all things BBQ.

Here are some of the comments from posse members:

Marshall Cooper, the Texas BBQ Posse's pitmaster: "The brisket at Franklin BBQ certainly defines what the best brisket is. The rub was just right with salt and a little black pepper. The fatty brisket was melt in your mouth tender, with the right amount of salt enhancing the smoke flavor. The flat cut of brisket was exceptional as well, perfectly tender with the perfect black crust imparting the flavor of the salt and pepper rub perfectly enhancing the smoked flavor. The ambiance was bar none with the turquoise concession trailer & seating located just next to the two gigantic wood burning pits that put off a real good sweet aroma of cooking bbq and burning oak wood."

Bruce Tomaso: "I’m telling friends they should visit Franklin as soon as they can. The trailer experience will never be duplicated in a restaurant; and the brisket might not be, either."

Jim Rossman: "This was my first Central Texas trip. I found exactly what I was looking for — a few places to return to again and again. Talking to Aaron Franklin changed the way I think about barbecue. His dedication to his craft is as amazing as his meats. I'm already trying to think of excuses to get back down to Franklin's in Austin or Snow's in Lexington."

Libby Jacobson: "The fact that people regularly wait 45 minutes to eat BBQ at a picnic table in the back of a parking lot makes a loud statement that the good ol' boys of BBQ are being challenged to a duel, and they may not be the last ones standing..."

We took a vote among posse members after breakfast at Snow's on Saturday morning, while memories of Franklin's were still fresh on our taste buds. On a straight vote, Franklin's took the title in an amazingly close race.

I wasn't so quick to make the call. These are undoubtably two of the best briskets in the world. Can't we be thankful for that and call it a draw? I'm thinking maybe next week, what about breakfast sitting among the smokers at Snow's followed by lunch at one of Aaron Franklin's picnic tables. That's what we call BBQ heaven......

Franklin Barbecue, 3421 N. I-35, Austin, TX 78722, (512) 653-1187. Open Wed. - Sun. 11am-4pm or when the meat runs out.

(Photos by Chris Wilkins)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Central Texas 5-Star Anniversary BBQ Tour: The final numbers

Since the day we retuned from our first Central Texas BBQ Tour one year ago, the posse started making plans for our next trip to the epicenter of the world's best barbecue.

Since then, we've been exploring BBQ trails in every direction from DFW. The Texas BBQ Posse has taken tours to East Texas joints in Tyler and Kilgore, the Best of Fort Worth tour, the North Texas-Texoma tour and our Beyond the Brazos tour to Glen Rose, Stephenville and Granbury.

Our Central Texas 5-Star BBQ Tour last weekend totaled 555 miles roundtrip. We visited and dined at eight BBQ joints over a 26 hour period. We started with 13 posse members in Austin and seven crossed the finish line in Giddings. Most importantly, we spent as much time as possible talking with the greatest pitmasters in the state, soaking in hundreds of years of combined BBQ knowledge and skill.

Here's our final itinerary:

Central Texas 5-Star BBQ Tour

Friday Nov. 5th
9:45am Leave Dallas
1pm Arrive for lunch at Franklin Barbecue, 3421 N. I-35, Austin, (512) 653-1187. (Open Wed–Sun, 11am-4pm or when the meat runs out).
2:45pm Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, 401 W. Second, Austin, (512) 494-1500. (Open Daily 11am-11pm).
6:30pm Southside Market BBQ, 1212 U.S. 290, at Hwy 95, Elgin, (512) 285-3407. (Open M-Thur 8am-8pm, F-Sat 8am-10pm, Sun 9am-7pm).
8pm Dinner at Taylor Cafe, 101 N Main St., Taylor, (512) 352-847. (Open Mon-Fri 10am-10pm, Sat-Sun 10am-11pm).
Overnight in Taylor

Saturday Nov. 6th
8am Arrive for breakfast at Snow’s BBQ, 516 Main St, Lexington, (979) 773-4640. (Open Sat. 8am–12pm or until the meat runs out).
10am Prause Meat Market, 253 W. Travis, La Grange, (979) 968-3259. (Open Mon-Wed & Fri 7am-5:30pm, Thur 7am-1pm, Sat 5:30am-1pm).
12pm Zimmerhanzel’s Bar-B-Que, 307 Royston (Hwy 95), Smithville, (512) 237-4244. (Open Mon-Sat 8:30am-5pm).
2pm City Meat Market, 101 W. Austin, Giddings, (979) 542-2740. (Open Mon-Fri 7:30am-5:30pm, Sat 7:30am-4pm).
3:30pm Head back to Dallas

Click here to see a google map the Central Texas 5-Star Anniversary BBQ Tour designed by BBQ Posse member Bruce Tomaso.

Stay tuned for detailed posts on each of the joints we visited, along with some surprises we found along the BBQ trail.......

(Photos by Chris Wilkins)

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

8 joints in 26 hours - The Central Texas BBQ Tour II comes to an end

The Texas BBQ Posse headed to the finish line at City Meat Market in Giddings, the last stop on our Central Texas 5-Star BBQ Tour II.

We walked in around 3pm and ordered sausage and pork, the two meats remaining on the smoker. Both were tremendous and well worth the wait, a perfect end to a great tour celebrating our first anniversary traveling the BBQ trails of Texas.

Over the next couple of weeks we'll be writing detailed blog posts on each stop and the tour as a whole, followed by Gary Jacobson's story in The Dallas Morning News and a slideshow on dallasnews.com.

(Photos by Chris Wilkins)

Central Texas BBQ Tour II day two: Three joints down & heading to the finish line at City Meat Market in Giddings

The line was long, almost heading out the door when we got to Zimmerhanzel’s Bar-B-Que in Smithville around noon. The posse headed around back of the orange metal building to see three huge smokers dwarfed by one of the biggest live oak trees we'd ever seen.

Back inside we joined the line and asked the locals what was best on the menu. SInce we had already eaten twice that morning, we were looking to order very strategically. Chicken and ribs seemed to be the favorites, but ribs sold out right before we made it to the counter. The chicken was worth the wait though, smokey with good spice, but more on the dining experience in a more detailed post.

Stay tuned for our last updates from day two on the barbecue trail. Our final stop, for a total of eight joints in two days, is City Meat Market in Giddings.

(Photos by Chris Wilkins)

Central Texas BBQ Tour II day two: A walk back into BBQ history at Prause Market in La Grange

Stop number two took us back in history to Prause Meat Market, a fourth generation meat market and BBQ joint.

Gary Prause runs the business with other family members. He took the time to show us family photos and explain the history of the meat market, which started in another location on the old town square in La Grange in 1904.

Stay tuned for more updates from day two on the barbecue trail, our next stop is Zimmerhanzel’s Bar-B-Que in Smithville.

(Photos by Chris Wilkins)

Central Texas BBQ Tour II day two: Breakfast at Snow's

We left Taylor around 7:20am and headed east to the little town of Lexington, starting day two of our Central Texas 5-Star BBQ Tour II. The sun had just risen when we pulled in and parked next to the grain elevator across the street from Snow's BBQ, one of the best BBQ joints in the universe.

The line wasn't too long yet and 10 minutes later we were having the breakfast of champions - a Snow's sliced brisket sandwich. Having just had Franklins BBQ's brisket the day before on our first stop, a vigorous debate broke out. These are the two best briskets in the world, but which is better?

Stay tuned for more updates from day two on the barbecue trail, our next stop is Prause Meat Market in La Grange.

(Photos by Chris Wilkins)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Central Texas BBQ Tour II day one: Nightcap at the Taylor Cafe


We capped off an amazing day on the BBQ trail with a visit to the historic Taylor Cafe. As usual, there was owner Vencil Mares sitting at the bar, the same place he's been 7 days a week, from 6am to 10pm, since he bought the joint in 1948.

We made a third stop of the day earlier at Southside Market in Elgin, mainly to sample the sausage. Then onward up Hwy. 95 to downtown Taylor, to the little BBQ joint located under the Hwy. 95 bridge beside the railroad tracks.

Members of the posse immediately gravitated toward Vencil, who is undoubtably one of the true giants of Texas BBQ. We said hello, made some small talk and ordered some cold beverages and settled in to sample some brisket, sausage and chicken.

After dinner, Vencil came over to our side of the bar and started talking barbecue technique with Marshall Cooper, David Woo and me. It was a lesson I would have paid big time to sit in on. He pointed out a flaw in our brisket cooking technique, wrapping the brisket with foil during the resting period. Vencil uses butcher paper and proceeded to tell us why it's better. We can't wait to try it as soon as we get back to Dallas.

Stay tuned for more updates from day two on the barbecue trail, our next stop is Snow's BBQ in Lexington at 7:45am tomorrow morning. Brisket for breakfast at one of the greatest BBQ joints in the world!

(Photos by Chris Wilkins (top) & David Woo)

Central Texas BBQ Tour II day one: Two down, six to go

The Texas BBQ Posse loaded up and headed south to Austin this morning for our Central Texas 5-Star BBQ Tour II. This is the first anniversary of our inaugural tour to central Texas last November.

We were 13 strong when we pulled into Franklin BBQ at 1pm. As usual, they were sold out by shortly after noon, but we called earlier in the week and owner and pitmaster Aaron Franklin held back one brisket, some sausage and a rack of ribs for us to sample. The photo above shows the amazing spread of meat we devoured.

On to Lambert's BBQ in downtown Austin for round two. We toasted our anniversary at the bar and enjoyed a sample plate of meats and some of the best mac and cheese you'll ever have.

Stay tuned for more updates from the barbecue trail, our next stop is Southside Market in Elgin, then to Taylor for an overnight stay and dinner at the Taylor Cafe.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's our anniversary this weekend: Heading back to central Texas for the world's best BBQ

One year ago this week the Texas BBQ Posse made their first trip to central Texas, where we discovered the way, the truth and the life of barbecue. Nothing has been the same for any of us since then.

We've been on BBQ journeys north, east, south and west of DFW in the year since then. We've tasted the good and the bad and the ugly, but the bar for great barbecue is set in central Texas, perhaps the greatest cue in the world.

Here's our plan of attack:

CENTRAL TEXAS 5-STAR BBQ TOUR II Nov. 5-6, 2010

FRIDAY NOV. 5th
10am Leave Dallas
1pm Arrive for lunch at Franklin Barbecue, Austin, the little trailer that could, Full Custom BBQ blog’s first ever 6-star joint.
Mid afternoon Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, Austin, fancy but good.
8pm Dinner at Taylor Cafe, Taylor, a Mecca for Texas barbeque history buffs.
Overnight in Taylor

SATURDAY NOV. 6th
8am Arrive for breakfast at Snow’s BBQ, Lexington, the BBQ Posse returns for round two, breakfast at Snow’s
Mid morning Prause Meat Market, La Grange, "Through a non-descript metal door is the entrance into the pit of this joint with over 100 years of history.”
Late lunch Zimmerhanzel’s Bar-B-Que, Smithville, "The tender moist ribs were huge and meaty."
Late afternoon City Meat Market, Giddings, "The ribs were the best and smokiest offering with a heavy salt and pepper rub over a deep red crust."
6pm Head back to Dallas

Click here to see a google map of our upcoming tour designed by BBQ Posse member Bruce Tomaso.

Stay tuned, we'll keep you posted with live blogs, videos and photos along the anniversary BBQ trail.......