Monk’s Top 10 Favorite Barbecue Meals of 2018

Monk: Last year I provided a ranking of my 10 favorite barbecue meals eaten in 2017 so trying to make it an annual thing by doing the same for 2018. Happy New Year!

10. Brisket, sausage, pork ribs and a taste of the beef rib from Louie Mueller Barbecue (review)

I was a little let down by the brisket at Louie Mueller’s (as was Rudy) but I’ll chalk that up to a bad day. However, the beef rib and sausage more than made up for it. Plus, the number of of legendary Texas joints I’ve visited is quite low so I was glad to visit one of the OG’s.

9. Barbecue tray from Smokey Joe’s (review)

8. Barbecue tray from Speedy Lohr’s (review)

I hope to one day make a comprehensive list of Lexington barbecue joints, but in early 2018 I was able to knock two off the list in Smokey Joe’s and Speedy Lohr’s, with neither tray disappointing.

7. Whole hog from NC State BBQ Camp (link)

At the NC State BBQ Camp, I was honored to be a guest panelist for a barbecue roundtable led by none other than Bob Garner. After that chat, the campers and panelists all partook in a whole hog pig pickin’ with some dang fine whole hog. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch who did the smoking but whoever you are, well done.

6. Chopped pork plate and brunswick stew from Stamey’s Barbecue (last review from 2013)

My takeout meal the day after Thanksgiving of pulled pork and brunswick stew only proves that I need to make it a point to get to Stamey’s more often.

5. Chopped pork and brisket from Sweet Lew’s BBQ (review)

There are certainly big things coming for Sweet Lew’s BBQ which only opened in early December. I look forward to many more meals here over the coming months and years.

4. Big Poppa Sampler (Full Rack Ribs, 12oz Pork, 12oz Brisket, ½ Chicken) and 6 Memphis dry rub wings from Martin’s BBQ Joint (review)

I couldn’t have been more impressed with everything on our visit to the downtown Nashville location of Martin’s in late summer – from the space itself to the open air beer garden to each and every delicious meat. Speedy is quite lucky to have Martin’s as his local joint.

3. Whole hog platter with barbecue hash from Buxton Hall Barbecue (review from 2016)

A visit to Buxton Hall once every two years simply isn’t gonna cut it for me. With the consistently amazing whole hog, the fantastic barbecue hash, and at least a couple other items I haven’t even tried such as fried catfish and smoked fried chicken, it should be at least a twice per year affair for me.

2. Brisket, sausage, and chopped pork from Lewis Barbecue (review from 2017)

As confirmed by the #hogtripping crew of the Tales from the Pits podcast as well as The Smoking Ho during their travels in late August, Lewis truly is legit Texas barbecue in the lowcountry. The Carolinas and in particular the lowcountry should count itself very lucky.

1. Brisket, chopped pork, Porky Brewster sandwich, and taco from Jon G’s Barbecue (review)

My only complaint with Jon G’s Barbecue is that lately they’ve focused more on catering gigs instead of public servings. In any case, Garren and Kelly continue to kill it.

Honorable Mentions: Q – Houston, TX (review), LeRoy & Lewis – Austin, TX (review)

Louie Mueller Barbecue – Taylor, TX (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Louie Mueller Barbecue
Date: 4/7/18
Address: 206 W. Second Street, Taylor, TX 76574
Order: Monk: ¼ lb mixed brisket, 2 original sausage links,1 pork rib, potato salad, pinto beans, Big Red; Rudy: 1 beef rib, ½ lb brisket, 1 sausages, 2 slices of turkey, potato salad, 2 waters
Price: Monk: $33.15 (for two); Rudy: $70.32 (for two)

Monk: Since the last time I visited Austin (in 2012, about a month before we started this blog), Speedy has made at least two trips there to visit Rudy and rubbed it in my face each time. Well now, it was my turn…suck it, Speedy!

Rudy: Speedy and I had explored some Lockhart and also some of the better places within Austin, so I decided to take you north and to the Granddaddy of Central Texas Barbecue. Louie Mueller is always ranked as one of the best places in the state (#5 in the latest Texas Monthly Top 50) and has been the inspiration for all of the other best barbecue places throughout the state. It’s one of my favorites, so I figured it was a no-brainer destination.  It is 45 minutes outside of Austin, but when you consider there usually is not much of a line, the time to drive there and back is still shorter than the wait at some of the elite places within Austin.

Monk: Louie Mueller is just the type of joint you don’t often see in North Carolina. The open kitchen smoker has built up a layer of soot on the walls over the past 59 or so years at the current location, which is housed in an old gymnasium. The walls are lined with neon beer lights even though they don’t serve alcohol (but don’t frown if you bring in a cooler of beer). And the air is filled with the smell of smoked wood.

In a way, the one NC joint that it does remind me of is Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville which is much younger (by about 55 years) but itself is in an old skating rink with the smoker sitting in the open kitchen with little separation from the dining room.

Rudy: Louie Mueller’s is best known for their beef ribs. While I usually shy away from these because of the cost and the amount of meat, I couldn’t resist. And I’m super glad that I couldn’t because it was the best thing that I had that day. My rib was an end rib, so 3 of 4 sides was covered in pepper and had a great crust. There was a good amount of fat on the rib (not too much) that was perfectly rendered and provided the rich moistness to compliment the crunch of the outside crust.

Monk: I had a taste of Rudy’s rib and while I am definitely a newbie when it comes to beef ribs, it was darn good.

To say I was expecting great things from Louie Mueller’s brisket would be an understatement. I got a mixture of moist and lean so I could try each out and while the peppery bark was exactly as I was hoping the brisket was a little…dry? Could this really be? Rudy and I watched the guy pull out a new brisket and slice it in front of us. This was definitely not expected.

Rudy: I agree, the brisket was at best, average. I ordered the fatty cut and it was as dry as you might expect a piece of lean. I have eaten here two other times and each time been blown away by the brisket, so to say I was underwhelmed and a bit disappointed is also an understatement. I am hoping that this was an anomaly and not a sign that they’ve lost their fast ball. I also got the jalapeno sausage (which has also been a staple of my orders here) and it was just as good as it has been in the past. Great snap to the case and great flavor without too much heat. So maybe the brisket today was just off.

Monk: I agree that the sausage was a highlight and had just the right amount of heat. I also got a single pork rib since Mrs. Monk is not a rib gal – technically I ordered a ¼ lb but that’s just the one rib. It had good flavor but to be honest was a little overdone. The meat slipped right off the bone after the first bite.

Now, I feel like I should address my choice of drink (besides the Shiner we brought in). Rudy is on record multiple times in stating that he is no fan of Big Red, which he considers to be a poor substitute for the Cheerwine we grew up on in the Piedmont of NC. Having my first taste of Big Red here at Louie Mueller, I have to say that I…completely agree. It’s way too sweet and I finished it only out of obligation. Give me Cheerwine any day of the week over Big Red.

Rudy: Give me anything other than Big Red any day of the week! I was hoping that the Big Red was going to be the only disappointing thing of this trip. Unfortunately the brisket did not live up to the hype or the drive. It’s still one of my favorite places because of the atmosphere and history, but I’m not sure I’ll be going out of my way too often, or at least will temper expectations in the future.

Monk: Listen, I’m definitely not mad that Rudy drove us to Louie Mueller Barbecue 45 minutes away in Taylor. It’s a classic Texas joint that I’m glad to have crossed off my list. I may have caught them on an off day but no doubts that they are legit. If I ever make it back, I’m sure they will prove that to be true.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Beef Rib – 4.5 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Louie Mueller Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Linkdown: 4/12/17

– Robert Moss on “The Tyranny of Texas Barbecue”

– …and TMBBQ with the retort; claims that Moss is “jealous of neighbor’s popularity”

– The 15 pitmasters for the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party have been announced; Sam Jones and Rodney Scott represent the Carolinas

– Cuegrass ’17 takes over Davie Street in front of the Pit this Saturday for a day of barbecue, beer, and bluegrass

– Henry’s Smokehouse and the Greenville BBQ Trail Tour are in this Charlotte Five article on what to do in the SC town about 1hr 40 minutes away from Charlotte

– BBQ Hub also has a Charleston barbecue tour for the burgeoning barbecue capital

– Marie, Let’s Eat! is pleasantly surprised by some barbecue in Pigeon Forge from Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que

– The Smoking Ho went to the Houston BBQ Festival last weekend and took some great photos

– Wayne Mueller BBQ is eyeing a Houston-area location for expansion

– Don’t forget about the fried chicken

Linkdown: 9/2/15

– The BBC reports on black pitmasters being left out of the barbecue boom

“National press is infatuated with white, male hipster BBQ,” writes Robb Walsh on the blog First We Feast. “Believe it or not, blacks, Latinos, and women are involved in the barbecue biz too.”

– On a related note, Robert Moss’ list of the 15 most influential people in barbecue history

Here, arranged chronologically, is my list of the 15 most influential figures in American barbecue history. By “influential”, I don’t mean the best cooks or the most successful restaurateurs, necessarily. We’re talking about impact and legacy: the people who helped shape the South’s rich barbecue tradition and create and promote the diverse regional styles we enjoy today. It’s a list that cuts across lines of race and class.

– Moss also has the first part in a series for the “Best of Southern BBQ” Awards

– Just saw that Bill Spoon’s now has a barbecue food truck serving the greater Charlotte area

– La Barbecue – #1 in our recently released Austin rankings –  is moving again in order to stay open during nights for patrons of the neighborhood bars

– The Smoking Ho’s recap of the TMBBQ Behind the Pit Dinner at Snow’s BBQ

– Marie, Let’s Eat! continues his Alabama barbecue travels at Bar-B-Q Hut in Heflin and The Rocket in Jacksonville

– This list is from 2012 but worth a revisit since it has been retweeted in the past week

– The Southern Sauce Festival,  which combines the Q-City Charlotte Barbecue Championship and the Charlotte Beerfest, is one of the 10 things you must do in September, according to Charlotte Five

– From friend of the blog Johnny Fugitt, the most underrated barbecue in St. Louis

– More lists: Yahoo’s 50 best barbecue restaurants in the America by state; gotta say, some headscratchers in this one

– IT’S ALL HAPPENING:

-NPR article on how locals are turning 5-hour long lines at Franklin’s into cold hard cash

– The Daily Meal’s list of America’s 35 Best Ribs 2015 was compiled from 40 different “rib experts” and includes The Pit in Raleigh at #34; Louie Mueller takes the top overall spot (check out Rudy’s recent review here)

Linkdown: 3/4/15

– The last chapter documenting Marie, Let’s Eat!’s jaunt through the Charlotte area back in January finds them at Black’s Barbecue, among other Gastonia-area places; they also check out Anna’s BBQ in Atlanta in a newer post

– The weather may be 70 degrees now, but this yo-yo weather could strike at any moment so here’s last week’s Charlotte Weekly Yelp which ran down chili options around town, including Queen City Q

–  The Great NC BBQ Map has 5 barbecue road trips that doesn’t include just the usual suspects, which I appreciate

– While John Lewis is off in Charleston starting his namesake barbecue joint, a new head pitmaster has been named at La Barbecue

– That salad’s got nuttin’ on Western Kentucky’s chipped mutton, and Robert Moss investigates

– Alabama has kicked off their own statewide barbecue marketing campaign, dubbed the Year of Alabama BBQ

– A short post on NYC barbecue

A few weekends ago, the city celebrated the smoky flesh at the annual—and free—Hudson River Park Blues BBQ Festival, featuring NYC’s three top pits, Mighty Quinn’s, Delaney and Dinosaur, with dining music provided by five authentic blues outfits. If this is the South’s long-term strategy to take the North, it seems to be working.

– Regarding Louie Mueller Barbecue, Burger Mary has some great photos and says “If you only have time to visit one traditional, iconic and outstanding barbecue joint in Texas, Louie Mueller Barbecue should be it.”

The most underrated barbecue in Memphis, according to First We Feast

– Vote for your favorite Charlotte-area barbecue restaurants in Charlotte Magazine’s Best of the Best Awards

– ICYMI, our photos and recap of last week’s barbecue dinner at Midwood Smokehouse: