A surprisingly competent barbecue how-to video on Texas beef ribs and brisket from Austin-based director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Sin City, Once Upon A Time in Mexico, Spy Kids). This is actually taken from the Planet Terror bonus features and also containing similar grimey production values.
Rudy: Lockhart, Texas, is a small town (population around 12,000) just outside of Austin that is known all over the country for producing some of the best barbecue in the world. The Huffington Post recently listed it as the #1 best city for barbecue in America.
Speedy: I made a visit to San Antonio, so Rudy and I decided to take in 2 of the big 4 barbecue places in town.
Rudy: I don’t want to say there is a trend, but Speedy has come twice to taste some of Texas’ best barbecue, yet no signs of Monk.
Monk: Hey now! I mean I’d love to have been able to come one or both times, but such is the life of a new dad. Not that I need to tell you…
Speedy: Rudy solved that problem by bringing his son with. More on that later…with so many great spots so close together, we figured this would be a good time to try a barbecue showdown and see which place was the best. We chose Kreuz’s Market and Black’s Barbecue. Both were ranked in Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas The World!
Rudy: …Don’t blame me or get territorial, that’s the name of the article. Anyway, this would be some great eating.
Speedy: So let’s break it down into the different categories, give a winner for each category, and then we’ll crown the overall champion.
Rudy: This one isn’t even close. Kreuz Market looks like an old barn from the outside, and has a great barbecue joint feel to the inside. Even though they moved into a new building in 1999, lots of old photos and memorabilia hangs on the walls to give it a historic feel. They have plenty of signs around stating their slogan “No Sauce, No Forks, No Kidding.” After standing in line for 15 minutes, we walked into the smoker. That’s right, you walk right into the room where they are smoking the meat and they cut your order right in front of you.
Speedy: Black’s looks more like a cafeteria line, where you come through and spoon your own side. Like Kreuz’s, they do cut the meat right in front of you, and throw it on the scale to price out. There’s a fair amount of seating indoors that feels very “diner-ish” (as opposed to the plethora of long picnic tables at Kreuz’s) and very minimal seating in an outside area that, frankly, isn’t well kept up. Like Rudy said, from an atmosphere standpoint, we have a blowout.
Winner: Kreuz’s Market
Rudy: Kreuz is serious about their slogan that they don’t offer any sauce or any forks. And it really doesn’t matter, because neither is needed. I had the fatty brisket, which had great flavor, a good smoke ring, and a good amount of tug. While I liked it, the bark had no crunch to it and seemed to have little pepper in the seasoning. The brisket was good but not great.
Speedy: Agreed. One of the guys I was visiting in San Antonio ordered the lean brisket (amateur…) and it was very dry. Kreuz’s advertises that they don’t carry sauce because their brisket doesn’t need it, but this lean brisket most certainly did. With that being said, I was not disappointed at all with the moist brisket – it seemed to be cooked perfectly, but I think Kreuz’s takes the “let the meat speak for itself” thing a little too far. Rubbing on a little black pepper before the smoke never made anything taste worse.
As for Black’s brisket, I have no suggestion for how the brisket could be improved. It was perfect. It had just the right amount of tug, a good smoke ring, excellent flavor, and the right amount of bark. Being the brisket novice that I am, eating Kreuz’s and Black’s brisket back to back really let me see the difference between good brisket and great brisket.
Rudy: Kreuz is famous for their sausage and ship them all over the world. They serve 2 different types of sausage, plain and jalapeno cheddar. I had both and thought, while both were very good, the jalapeno cheese was much better. Both had great flavor and a good amount of snap to the casings. The spice from the jalapeno, combined with the creaminess of the cheese was fantastic.
Speedy: I only had the plain sausage, which I thought was fine. I wouldn’t place an order to have it delivered to NC or anything, but I did enjoy my link. As Black’s was the second stop on our BBQ tour, neither Rudy nor I had the stomach room to try the sausage there.
Rudy: At Black’s I opted for the giant beef rib. When they weighed it and brought it to me, they said “Congrats, you got the 2 pound rib!” Getting the large portion is a normally a good thing, except when you are buying meat by weight and have already eaten the equivalent of two full meals. This rib was unbelievable. The meat was tender and flavorful. There was a great bark, and the fat was rendered evenly throughout the rib, resulting in every bite being tender and juicy. The only complaint that I have about it is the same one that I had about the brisket: I would have liked a little more pepper in the seasoning and a crunchier bark. But even without it, this rib was great.
Speedy: I had a similar rib, though mine was only one pound (which was still more than enough). I have no complaints. I thought it was perfect. Members from our group also got pork spare and baby back ribs. The baby backs were awesome – perfectly cooked and super tender. The spare ribs were good, but not great.
At Kreuz’s, the only ribs they serve are pork spare ribs. Honestly, I thought these were better than the spare ribs at Black’s, but not as good as the baby backs. And I don’t think anything on Kreuz’s menu could touch the glory of the giant beef rib we had at Black’s. It was that good.
Speedy: Since I knew we were visiting two joints in the span of a couple hours, I didn’t waste any stomach room on sides, save for a couple of bites of jalapeno corn bread at Black’s. But I’ll tell you who did: Rudy, Jr. RJ went to town on some mac and cheese at Kreuz’s. He must’ve eaten a pound of that stuff. When offered brisket, he would just throw it aside and dive right back in to the mac and cheese. What’s up with that, Rudy? Your son can’t eat some meat like a man? How are you raising this kid? I’m really starting to question your parenting skills…
Rudy: I can’t really explain it either. I was a bit ashamed of him turning away the brisket, but I guess it was good because that means there is more meat for me. However, if he loved barbecue, that would give me more ammo for taking him to more places. This was his first experience eating barbecue, so hopefully he’ll pick up on how it’s done before next time.
Monk: Well, congrats guys. Well done. You’ve officially made me even more jealous of the trip than I was before. Really wish I could have been there.
Winner: Who cares?
The group consensus is that we all liked Black’s better. There was a noticeable difference in the quality of the food, which more than made up for the lesser atmosphere.
Name: Stiles Switch BBQ Date: 5/11/13 Location: 6610 N. Lamar, Austin, TX, 78757 Order: Speedy: ½ pound brisket, 1 link Thorndale (mild) sausage, 1 link Switch original (spicy) sausage, lemon vinaigrette coleslaw Rudy: Combo plate with brisket and jalapeno cheddar sausage, corn casserole, mac & cheese, beef rib (link to menu) Bill: Speedy: $20, Rudy: $20
Speedy: A bit of news in the Barbecue Bros family, as Rudy welcomed a new junior Barbecue Bro into the family and Monk welcomed a new junior Barbecue Bro-ette. Congrats, Bros! So I used meeting Rudy’s new son as an excuse to go visit Austin and eat some barbecue Texas style.
Monk: Thanks! Of course, with a 2 month old I unfortunately wasn’t able to make the trip with Speedy to Austin for a Barbecue Bros reunion but at least I get to live the trip vicariously through this review.
Rudy: With Speedy in town I had to try and show off our great selection of barbecue, so the pressure was on to choose a good spot and I think that I picked a winner. When choosing the right place, it came down between LA BBQ and Stiles Switch, which I had seen some really good reviews of lately. I would have taken him to Franklin, but a 3 hour wait with a little one was not a good choice. Also, LA BBQ (which I hope to visit soon) is a food trailer, and you never can really tell about the wait. So we went with Stiles Switch.
Speedy: I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to eat Texas barbecue, so I was definitely excited to visit Stiles Switch. My excitement only grew when I got out of the car and could smell the wood burning smoker working its magic. Walking inside, my excitement did not wane. Stiles Switch has a great atmosphere. You order at the counter, and the food is cut and weighed for you then and there and you go down almost a cafeteria style line to get your sides and drink. There’s plenty of seating indoors, but also an outdoor patio with several picnic tables.
Rudy: There were so many options, especially with the sides, that I had a hard time determining what I wanted. I always go with brisket because that is what every place should be judged on, and I also typically go with a sausage. I had not tried a beef rib yet, even though I have been dying to, because it is usually hit or miss if a place will offer a beef rib (also known as dinosaur ribs at some places because of the size). Since I saw it on the menu here, I figured it was as good a time as any to dive right in.
Speedy: I decided to move away from the combo plate, mainly because none of the sides really excited me.
Monk: So this is like basically the opposite of going to a barbecue restaurant and ordering a salad a la Mrs. Monk, right?
Speedy: Exactly. I wanted to try the spicy and mild sausage, as well as the brisket, of course. As we all know, white slaw is my biggest pet peeve at a barbecue joint, so I was happy to see that Stiles Switch offered lemon vinaigrette slaw as well. And to top it off, of course I had to have a Lone Star!
Monk: Man, I could go for one of those right now…
Rudy: I thought the brisket was pretty good and had a great rub which provided a great bark. The only issue that I had with it was that I thought it might not have been prepared that day because the bark was not crisp, but instead was a little mushy. It still had great flavor though. I was not a huge fan of the sides that I got or the sausage. In the sausage’s case, I think it was because I was getting full on all the rest of my order, so I am not going to knock it too much. The best part of the meal was the beef rib. It wasn’t as big as I had seen in other places, but the flavor was amazing. The bark on it was crispy and melted in your mouth. While the taste was great, the only deduction that I will make is because of the size of the rib.
Speedy: To me, the brisket was good, but not great. It had a good pull, but I didn’t really like the sauce that came with it (on the side). It tasted more like gravy than barbecue sauce to me. The sausage I thought was very good – particular the Switch original link. It had a definite kick and great flavor. To me, it was just the right amount of spice. The slaw was good, though I still prefer true red slaw.
Rudy: Overall I thought it was a great place that served excellent barbecue, and now with a little one in tow, the shorter lines and the inside dining make it a great place to go.
Monk: I can fully appreciate that concern now when picking a place to eat, barbecue or not. I’m not trying to waste time standing in line when there are potential dirty diapers to change and feedings to be given.
Rudy: A couple of days later, my selection was confirmed when Switch Stiles was named one of the Top 50 Barbecue Restaurants in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine. I’m glad Speedy was able to come and experience some of the best we have to offer.
Name: Mac’s Speed Shop Date: 6/22/2012 Location: 2511 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203 Order: VTX Chipotle Smoked Wings, Combo Platter (St. Louis style ribs, brisket, pork, sausage), Kansas City Beef rib, mac & cheese, baked beans, collard greens, brunswick stew, hush puppies (link to menu) Bill: ½ dozen Smoked wings – $5; Combo Platter (included two sides) – $16; Beef rib plate (included two sides) – $16
Speedy: Our next visit was the Charlotte staple, Mac’s Speed Shop. When I first moved to Charlotte, Monk and I used to be pretty regular visitors to Mac’s, but truth be told, that was partly due to a lack of better options than anything else. In fact, I don’t think either of us had been since Midwood Smokehouse opened up. In fact, our guest for the evening, Sus, was trying to convince us to skip Mac’s in favor of the Smokehouse. More on our buddy Sus later…
Monk: Mac’s is a “biker bar” and while it does attract a biker crowd, there’s nothing there that would make your average yuppie squirm or feel uncomfortable. In fact, I’d argue that yuppies are really the true target demographic for Mac’s. Since we’ve started coming here, it has expanded its patio seating to one of the better patios in town and thankfully we were able to sit outside on a Friday night with no wait. One of the things I’ve always dug about the place is the great beer selection – this is the only bar or restaurant in Charlotte that I am aware of where I can get my longtime favorite beer, Rogue Hazelnut Brown (in a 20 oz. bomber, nonetheless). They have a wide variety of beers on draft and bottle, and were even doing the canned craft beer thing before it was fashionable to do so, so credit to them for that.
Speedy: Our order here was actually a pretty difficult choice. We obviously were going with a combo platter, but wanted even more variety beyond that. For some reason, Monk took a shine to the Kansas City beef rib on the menu, so that was ordered as well, along with an appetizer of smoked wings.
Rudy: I can’t decide if I feel jealous of the fact that you guys are always getting wings at your barbecue places. While I love wings and I love barbecue, I have never been to a barbecue place that offers wings. I think I am going to have to find some and try them at some point.
Monk: I guess that’s a good thing about going to these “barbecue fusion” places – you get things like wings on the menu. I hadn’t had a beef rib in I don’t know how long (I missed out on them at Buz and Ned’s) and we don’t really see them on most menus, so I thought it might be something worth checking out. This was our buddy Sus’s first time taking in a barbecue spot with us since the blog started, and he couldn’t have been more lost. Between me stepping away to take photos and us wanting to sample just about everything, he eventually decided to focus on his beer and let the pros handle things.
Speedy: The wings came out pretty quickly – and we got 7 even though we only ordered a half dozen…suckers. They were quite good – properly smoked and the sauce had a decent but not overwhelming kick. Definitely one of the best parts of the meal.
Monk: The entrees didn’t take long before they were brought out and HOLY HELL IS THAT A BRONTOSAURUS RIB?!?! The beef rib was by far the largest one I’ve ever seen. I mean, it was comically large – as in straight out of the Flintstones or something.
Rudy: That was one of the things I had to get used to in Texas coming from North Carolina. I thought you ordered a rack of ribs, but they were selling them by the pound… and a single rib was a whole pound! I think they are very good, but I also feel strange when I order them because I think they look comical.
Speedy: As for the meat, I think we both agree that the brisket was just bad. It was tough, overdone, and lacked flavor. I couldn’t have been more disappointed. I know brisket is tough to cook, but it amazes me how bad some of these NC places are at it. Mac’s was probably the worst. I’ve had the brisket there before and don’t remember it being that bad, so it could’ve been an off-night, but I think it’s best to just steer clear.
Monk: While the pulled pork had decent bark (at least what I pulled onto my plate did; Speedy had some complaints), the meat was dry and begged for one of the three sauces on the table – Carolina BBQ, Red BBQ, and SC Mustard. Ok, well not really the SC Mustard – I mean, who would add that to pulled pork?
Speedy: I have no idea why these places insist on serving it. I definitely have opened up to different barbecue style over the last several years – mainly due to being able to travel to Memphis, St. Louis, and Texas and sample all that’s there. However, I’ve also spent lots of time in South Carolina (and had some great barbecue there), but I’ve yet to budge on my opinion that mustard just does not belong on barbecue. But anyway, off my soap box and back to the food.
Monk: As for the beef rib, well…I liked it a bit more than Speedy did but it was quite fatty. We were expecting a platter of beef spare ribs, not a huge slab of meat connected to a single bone. Looking on the menu online now, I do see that it does say “rib” singular. Other than the hilarity of how big it was, in hindsight it wasn’t the best decision to order.
Speedy: I thought the St. Louis style ribs were pretty good. They probably could have been a little more tender, but I did like the sauce quite a bit. If I went back, this is probably what I’d order.
Monk: I would agree. As has been documented here, I’m becoming more and more a fan of Texas sausage. So much so, in fact, that it’s now pretty much an automatic order if I see it on the menu. The sausage here was a bit dry and required the mustard sauce that it came with, but it still had good flavor and was one of the better parts of the meal.
Speedy: I was disappointed that the combo platter only came with one sausage link (to be fair, we did order the small platter), and I thought the sausage was pretty good, so I ended up ordering a sausage sampler and some hushpuppies for dessert.
Monk: Mac’s serves sides of honey butter along with the hush puppies (of which I am a huge fan) – so big ups on that.
Speedy: The sampler came with Texas beef sausage, andouille sausage, and kielbasa. All were good, though I think they were overcooked slightly. The mustard based barbecue sauce worked well with the sausage. I also had a hard time distinguishing between the three types. Initially, I thought ordering this extra plate was a mistake, but when Sus decided to pick up the bill, it suddenly was a great idea again.
Rudy: The only thing better than barbecue is FREE barbecue.
Monk: I couldn’t agree more! Speaking of Sus, while Speedy and I were comparing notes aloud on each meat during the meal he simply couldn’t understand why we didn’t think everything tasted as amazing to us as it did to him. To be fair, he is more of a burger guy, but c’mon Sus not everything was “ZOMG AMAZING YOU GUYS.”
Speedy: I guess not everyone has a sophisticated enough palette to be a Barbecue Bro, Monk.
Monk: True, not everyone can hang. So, Speedy, other than the atmosphere of the outdoor patio is there much of a reason for you to recommend folks come here if they are looking for good barbecue?
Speedy: No – not really. Like you said, the beer selection and atmosphere are really the best things about the restaurant, and while I appreciate that, it’s not what you want from a barbecue joint. So if you’re looking to have a beer or two with friends in a fun spot on Friday night, by all means, go to Mac’s. If you’re looking for good, authentic barbecue, there’s definitely better options.