Monk: I can’t say that I’m all too familiar with Phil Rosenthal outside of work on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” But he’s turned into a sort of Anthony Bourdain travel docuseries guide in his most recent career turn (albeit a less-knowledgeable-but-more-agreeable version of Anthony Bourdain). The show’s clearly been a success for Netflix, as it somehow just released its sixth season of episodes, including one that focuses on the Austin food scene.
Phil starts the episode in a studio talking directly to camera relaying anecdotes from when he was shopping his show to various networks including Travel Channel and Food Network. According to them, barbecue was apparently all that anyone wants to watch these days. So when he finally visited Austin in season six, Phil obliged.
Along for the ride is Daniel Vaughn, BBQ Editor of Texas Monthly Magazine, and together they embark on a barbecue crawl across Austin. But their goal is not to hit the obvious spots in the Franklins or the La Barbecues, but rather to visit the newer joints.
At LeRoy & Lewis (3:55), Phil and Daniel of course get the standard Texas platter but with LeRoy & Lewis’s “new school barbecue” including beef check, sausage, bacon rib (aka pork belly on the bone), smoked burger, and cauliflower. LeRoy & Lewis is located in a food truck park in South Austin and has reached must-visit status for any serious barbecue fans, as evidenced by it #5 ranking in 2021’s Texas Monthly Top 50 list. And word on the street is that a brick and mortar is in the works.
Next on the trail is Distant Relatives (8:30), where traditional southern barbecue is influenced by sauces and spices from Africa in addition to the usual southern traditions. Owner and pitmaster Damien Brockway currently serves at Meanwhile Brewing in an industrial park in south Austin and was recently named to the most recent Texas Monthly Top 50 list as an honorable mention.
Fast forward to 15:38 where Phil and Daniel visit Interstellar BBQ and before eating we get a little bit of Vaughn’s backstory and how he got into Texas barbecue from his former life as an architect from Ohio. At Interstellar, Chef Jon Bates serves a typical central Texas platter of typical barbecue meats including turkey, which Jon jokingly considers a vegetable at his place. Bates honors Texas barbecue with some fine dining touches here and there. While I’m sure its all good (after all, it was #2 on last year’s Top 50), this is the most classic Texas barbecue of the places featured on this episode.
After taking a break from barbecue Phil treats the friends he’s met along the way in Austin to a family meal at Salt Lick Barbecue (43:30). The famed restaurant and winery is located just outside of Austin proper and while its not going to a show up on a Texas Monthly Top 50 list anytime soon, it certainly seems to hold a soft spot in the hearts of many barbecue snobs in Texas. It was one of our first stops as the Barbecue Bros in 2012, and I can understand why.
The Austin episode of “Somebody Feed Phil” was my first exposure to the series, and I will certainly be on the lookout for any more barbecue-related content in future seasons. While no Anthony Bourdain, Phil’s likable nature makes it an easy watch.