Friday, December 30, 2011

More historic BBQ photos from the files of the Farm Security Administration

Here's another set of barbecue photos from the collection of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) photo archive. These were shot in 1940 by photojournalist Russell Lee at a free community barbecue picnic on Labor Day in Ridgway, Colorado.

After my blog post last week on FSA images of Texas BBQ, I spent some more time going through their photo archive searching "barbecue." I found an amazing set of color photos from a community BBQ in New Mexico, also shot in 1940 by Russell Lee, a rarity as almost all FSA images were shot on black & white film. I'll put up several more posts of these historic photos in the coming months.

You can click here to see a slideshow of some of the more famous FSA depression era photos on flicker.

Getting barbecue and coffee at the free barbecue at Ridgway, Colorado, on Labor Day.
Slicing barbecue at the free barbecue on Labor Day at Ridgway, Colorado.
Ringing the gong for dinner at the free barbecue, Labor Day, Ridgway, Colorado.
Serving the barbecue at the free barbecue on Labor Day, Ridgway, Colorado.
Barbecue pits and people standing in line to be served at the free barbecue at Labor Day, Ridgway, Colorado.
Barbecue pit on Labor Day, Ridgway, Colorado.
Boys' sack race, Labor Day celebration, Ridgway, Colorado.
Spectators at childrens' races, Labor Day celebration, Ridgway, Colorado.
Woman and her baby waiting in line for barbecue on Labor Day at Ridgway, Colorado.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Posse favorites: The Tipsy Texan sandwich at Franklin BBQ

The Posse is always keeping an eye out for the greatest sandwiches offered on the Texas BBQ trail. Such was the case the first time we saw the massive $2.75 chopped beef sandwich at Meshack's BBQ in Garland, the BBQ Po Boy at Loco Coyote Grill in Glen Rose or my favorite, the Brother-in-Law sandwich at Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q in Tyler.

Well, it looks like there's another contender for the BBQ sandwich elite, the Tipsy Texan at Franklin Barbecue in Austin. blogger Carrie Vasios sums up the Tipsy Texan this way, "This sandwich tastes like everything that is good." And we can't disagree with her assessment.

Aaron Franklin piles chopped brisket, sliced sausage, coleslaw and pickles between two buns to create to monstrous sandwich. It looks like you could feed two people with this beast. The Tipsy Texan was originally priced at $6.50 but now goes for $8.00, still a good deal considering the amount of that six-star brisket and sausage you get to enjoy. Just another excuse to head down to Austin this weekend!

Franklin Barbecue, 900 E. 11th, Austin, (512) 653-1187. Open Tues-Sun, 11 a.m.-until the meat runs out.

Photo by Chris Wilkins

Friday, December 23, 2011

Photos: Depression era Texas BBQ through the eyes of legendary FSA photographers

I was recently researching some historic photos in my job as a photo editor at the Dallas Morning News when I ran across the Library of Congress website for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) photo archive. Initially created in 1935 as part of the New Deal, the FSA was an effort during the Depression to document and combat American rural poverty.

The FSA photo collection houses some of the most famous photographs in history, including Dorthea Lange's migrant mother photo and Arthur Rothstein's Oklahoma dust bowl photo. Other legendary FSA photojournalists included Gordon Parks, Russell Lee, Carl Mydans and Walker Evans.

I was immediately curious if there were any Texas BBQ photos. When I put in the search term "barbecue" I got 98 hits, much to my delight. Four of the photos were from Texas, including the photo above, taken in 1939 by Russell Lee. The caption reads: Man slicing barbecue at lunch stand at the Gonzales County Fair. Gonzales, Texas.

Here are the other three FSA barbecue images shot in Texas. I'm looking forward to digging deeper into the photographic history of Texas BBQ. You can click here to see a slideshow of some of the more famous FSA depression era photos on flicker.

Caption: Negro sitting on bench at side of barbecue stand made of galvanized metal, Corpus Christi, Texas. Photo by Russell Lee, 1939.

Caption: Harlingen, Texas. Barbecue stand. Photo by John Vachon, 1943.

Caption: Barbecue drive-in restaurant. Fort Worth-Dallas highway, Texas. Photo by Russell Lee, 1942.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

First visit to JMueller BBQ in Austin

Last week, I joined Posse members Marshall Cooper and Jim Rossman for a quick roadtrip to Austin. Marshall was returning a portable smoker to Franklin Barbecue pitmaster John Lewis, who he has been helping on the national BBQ cookoff competition circuit. It was a great excuse to grab a bite at both Franklin and the new JMueller BBQ while we were down there.

JMueller BBQ was opened in October by John Mueller, grandson of legendary BBQ master Louie Mueller of Taylor. Much has already been written about the joint, including a New York Times story published before he even opened and a coveted five-star rating by Daniel Vaughn on his Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog in early November. To say John Mueller knows how to cook BBQ is like saying the sun rises in the east. It's in his blood.

The temperature was in the low-to-mid 40s when we pulled into the lot at Mueller's east Austin location, so the line was only a few deep. The joint is made up of two trailers, one for the huge smoker and one from which they prep and sell the food. There are numerous large picnic tables for you to sit and eat. We all commented how we couldn't wait to come back on a warmer day.

Here's what Jim Rossman thought about the experience:

"I really liked John Mueller's place, but strictly for the food. I think he's proving his food first and the atmosphere will come later. The day we ate the weather was sunny, but the temp was in the mid 40s and it was windy. This made for less-than-ideal outdoor eating conditions. The food cooled off in a hurry.

As for the meat, I had the brisket, beef rib and a link and it was all 5-star in my opinion. The beef rib was the star, but the sausage was a standout as well. I'll certainly be back when the weather warms up."

Here's Marshall's impression of his first visit to JMueller:

"The day I ate at John Mueller's the weather sucked but the BBQ rocked! The best beef rib I've had anywhere, perfectly cooked, fat was rendered down flawlessly leaving a moist and tender rib with excellent flavor from the perfect rub. But it could of used a bit more smoke. The fatty brisket had an excellent flavor due to the great rub and was cooked perfectly as well, even the fat was rendered down just right - but lacked a bit of smoke. The lean brisket was undercooked by a couple of hours but had the super flavor from the perfect amount of rub, which must of been sliced from a different brisket than the fatty brisket.

The sausage was hands-down the best sausage I have had, which must have been straight off the pit. Great texture, good flavors, very juicy and cooked perfectly and had the perfect snap. The pork rib had an excellent flavor, great texture but was a bit dry probably due to coming off the pit earlier in the morning. All in all everything needed just a bit more smoke. Overall some of the best BBQ in Texas, clearly a 5+ star with a 6 star waiting in the wings. Look out Franklin BBQ....."

JMueller BBQ, 1502 S 1st St, Austin, TX, 512-229-7366. Open Wed-Sat 11 am-til the meat runs out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Checking out Casstevens Cash & Carry in Lillian

Texas BBQ Posse member Guy Reynolds writes and shares photos from a recent trip to Casstevens Cash & Carry in Lillian. The joint has received four stars from Daniel Vaughn on his Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog and received a 4.5 rating from Texas Monthly. Here's Guy's dispatch from Lillian:

My mother and I have been waiting for Off The Bone to open its new location, walking distance from where she lives in Mansfield, but it's been months since the announcement and little progress has happened. So the last time I was over that way we decided to make the drive out into the country about 15 miles to visit Casstevens Cash & Carry in Lillian, not much more than a fork in a FM road in Johnson County. It's a place I only knew of because of my friend Bud Kennedy's writings about it for the Fort Worth paper. Mom knew of it too and wanted to give it a try so we picked a Friday since that's the day they have ribs.

We arrived around noon and had no trouble ordering or finding a seat in the little place. Business was steady the hour we there, mostly from what appeared to be regulars, the type who knew the help by name and vice versa.

I ordered up a slab of ribs that cost $18 and weighed in at 1.6 lbs. That's a bit of a bargain compared to the the $13 per pound standard rate. And we had a couple of slices of brisket too. I'm no cue connoisseur but I'd rate both selects as very good. The brisket had a great smoky flavor but was a tad on the dry side. I wasn't paying attention when it was sliced or I would've requested it from the fatty end since I prefer it good and moist. The sauce, served on the side, was very good but I didn't use much of it. The ribs were meaty and flavorful and required no sauce. I wouldn't say the meat just fell off the bone but it was tender and a little tug did the trick.

Of course I had to make a few pictures while I was there and it's so easy to do them with my phone and the Hipstamatic app that that's what I did. Next time I need to go in the morning to get that smoker working since all the meats were already finished.

Click here to see a slideshow of Guy's photos on Flicker.

Casstevens Cash & Carry, 11025 E. FM 917, Lillian, TX, 817-790-2545. Open Mon–Sat 5:30 am–8 pm, Sun 7 am–8 pm.

Photos by Guy Reynolds