Black’s Barbecue – Austin, TX

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Name: Black’s Barbecue (Austin)
Date: 5/23/16
Address: 3110 Guadalupe St., Austin, TX 78705
Order: 2 Meat Sandwich, Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes, Tea  (Link To Menu)
Price: $14.19

Rudy: It had been a long time since I had done a review and I had been wanting to try the Black’s Austin location. Speedy and I had visited the original Lockhart location a couple of years ago but since then they had opened a new place near the University of Texas campus. I thought lunch would be a great chance to check it out. It is located in a strip-mall type building, but does have a parking lot next door, which allowed for easy access. The Austin location is much smaller than the Lockhart one, but I thought it was much nicer and had gotten rid of the cafeteria-style set up that they have in Lockhart.  They also have a small patio outside for dining.

Monk: Was getting rid of the cafeteria-style set up a good thing or nah?

Rudy: I like it much better without the sides sitting out in the open. It also looks more like a restaurant and not a cafeteria. In the past I had always gotten larger plates with a few sides and couple different meats in order to complete a full review. This time I wasn’t as hungry, so I opted for just a sandwich and side. I selected their two-meat sandwich with moist brisket and Jalapeno-Cheddar sausage and a side of their mashed sweet potatoes. This was a great choice because it allowed me to try two different meats, but wasn’t overkill.  

Monk: Let me just remind you that I’ve previously gotten flack for only getting a sandwich but I’m with you – don’t go crazy if you aren’t looking for a full platter (particularly in the middle of the day).

Rudy: Normally when you get a brisket sandwich, it is chopped brisket mixed with sauce (which Black’s does offer) but that was not the case this time. Instead, it was a couple of full slices of brisket on the bun with the sausage ring on top. And it was amazing, because the fat from the brisket was soaked up by the bun, giving it a rich moist taste. The spice from the jalapenos also gave the sandwich some great flavor.  The brisket was the same great brisket you are accustomed to getting from Black’s, as was the sausage.  

Monk: This sandwich sounds like the turducken of barbecue, and I correct me if I am wrong but this is the first time something like this has been reviewed for the blog.

Rudy: I think it is, but if other places offer it instead of the chopped brisket, it may be the way to go in the future. Though if I had it to do again, I would not have ordered the sausage on the sandwich because the casing of the sausage was too much of a change in texture from the brisket. Don’t get me wrong, the flavor was great, I just didn’t like the softness of the fatty brisket set against the snap of the casing in each bite.  

The sweet potatoes were amazing. Very creamy and sweet with the marshmallow on top of them. They looked to have a many other good options for sides for future trips to Black’s Barbecue, which I will be making.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 Hogs
Brisket – 4 Hogs
Sausage – 4 Hogs
Side – 4 Hogs
Overall – 4 Hogs
Black's Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Black's BBQ

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Troutman’s Bar-B-Que – Denton, NC

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Name
: Troutman’s Barbecue
Date: 11/28/15
Address: 18466 NC-109, Denton, NC 27239
Order: Medium chopped pork plate with bbq slaw, fries, hush puppies, and Cheerwine
Price: $8.65

Monk: Much like Rudy I am a father of a toddler and similar to how Mrs. Rudy lured him to a pumpkin patch with the promise of barbecue, Mrs. Monk promised me barbecue if we went to a Christmas Train (yes, this is actually a thing). Located in a modest brick building off highway 109 in the small town of Denton, Troutman’s Barbecue is a 40+ year old joint that is True Cue certified, which means that it smokes pork shoulders over wood (unlike the disappointing but similarly named Troutman’s in Concord).

Denton is a little over 20 miles southeast of Lexington #1 and Troutman’s styles its barbecue accordingly. Beverage options include Cheerwine from the fountain and barbecue is served in either a tray (with slaw and hush puppies) or a plate (with slaw, hush puppies, and fries) – both keeping in line with the Lexington way of doing things.

Even at the dinner hour, Troutman’s served a pork that was moist and not at all dried out. I found it to be a decent version of Lexington-style barbecue, and it paired nicely with the excellent red slaw as well as the Texas Pete found on the table. The hush puppies were perfectly cooked orbs served in a basket hot out of the fryer with just the right amount of sweetness.

Rudy: I’ve eaten at Troutman’s several times going to Badin Lake outside of Denton. I’ve always had a good meal there. The most important thing is that I have found consistency with them. Every time I go, I know it’s going to be a good meal. It may not be the best barbecue you’ll ever eat, but I’ve never been disappointed.

Monk: So Troutman’s Barbecue turned out to be a nice find, and all in all I was pretty satisfied with the meal which was solid but not spectacular. And based on Rudy’s account, if I were to head there again I would likely find it to be of similar quality which is kind of a nice, reassuring thought. While I was appreciative that Mrs. Monk threw me a bone by getting barbecue after the Christmas Train, thankfully after this we should be good for a few months until Spring and strawberry picking season.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Troutmans Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Southside Market & Barbeque – Elgin, TX

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Name
: Southside Market & Barbeque
Date: 10/24/15
Address: 1212 Hwy 290 E, Elgin, TX 78621
Order: Southside Combo Plate (Brisket & Sausage with Slaw and Mac & Cheese), 1 Slammer, Drink (link to menu)
Price: $17.00

The calendar said it was October and the car seat in the back said I was a dad, so I was required to take the obligatory trip to a pumpkin patch. Mrs. Rudy said buying a pumpkin at the grocery store was completely out of the question and that we must drive out to the country to get one. However she sold me with the idea of being able to go to Southside Market & Barbeque in Elgin, which is right outside of Austin.  

Southside markets themselves as the oldest barbecue joint in Texas. It has a tremendous amount of history and has a great reputation. They ship sausages and other meats all over the country, so I was excited to try their barbecue. In my opinion, the reputation far exceeded what I actually experienced.

When you walk in, it feels very much like they are trying to get as many people through as possible. While that may mean more profit and more people eat their food, it also probably means that they do not have a huge focus on quality. There are two lines for barbecue and two enormous dining rooms for eating.  Southside also feels very commercialized, with lots of options to buy their shirts, hats, sauces, rubs, and really anything you want with “Southside Market & Barbeque” printed on it. The two positives for their atmosphere, and why I rated it highly, was because of pallets of wood outside (showing that they are cooking over wood) and they have a very nice meat market/butcher there where you can go and get your own meat to cook at home. If I were wanting to cook my own brisket, ribs, or sausage, this is absolutely the place that I would go.

I ordered the Southside Combo Plate, which came with brisket and sausage, plus 2 sides. The brisket had almost no seasoning, there was a little bit of a smoke ring, but no bark and no flavor. The fat was not well rendered, which led me to believe it had been cooked much earlier and had just been sitting there staying warm for a while. Very disappointing. The sausage was better, but not by much. I believe they make their sausage in house, so there are some points for that. It had flavor from the meat, but was nothing great.  

As far as sides, I got the slaw (non-mayo based for Speedy) and mac and cheese. They were probably the best part of the meal, but it was an easy hurdle to cover. I thought the mac and cheese was the best, but it’s hard to mess that up.  

The last thing I tried was a special that they were advertising on the menu called “the Slammer”. It was a sausage, stuffed with cheese and a jalapeno, wrapped in bacon and smoked. They clearly had my attention. When it came, it was much like the brisket – room temperature and uninspiring. The cheese was hard and not melted while the bacon was not crisp at all, as if it had been cooked many hours earlier and left to sit. I am shocked that someone could mess up something that’s only ingredients are bacon, sausage, cheese, and jalapeno, but Southside Market managed to do just that.  

I was completely looking forward to getting out to Elgin and trying Southside Market & Barbeque, however when you eat barbecue and the pumpkin patch is the highlight of the day, that’s not a good sign for the barbecue joint. Overall I’m glad I tried it and can mark it off the list, but I’m more happy that I didn’t make a special trip out just for it.

Rudy

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Sausage – 3 hogs
Slammer – 2 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
Southside Market & Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Bitterroot BBQ – Seattle, WA

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Name: Bitterroot BBQ
Date: 8/21/15
Address: 5239 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107
Order: The Cowboy Killer platter with pork, brisket, chicken, baby back ribs, 2 links of sausage, couple of beers, flight of whiskey (link to menu)
Price: $125

Monk: So for the first time in over a year, all three bros were reunited. Last July, we gathered at Lexington Barbecue (our collective favorite joint) and gave it a 5 hog review. This time around we were all in Seattle for our high school friend Boomsauce’s bachelor party, dubbed the #legionofboomsauce. And, spoiler alert, the barbecue was not anywhere near as good. Not even close.

Speedy: Yeah – I guess I wasn’t expecting much from ‘cue in Seattle, but with all three bros together, we had to at least give it a shot.

Rudy: I was a bit apprehensive, however it seems as though there has been a big migration of good barbecue places across the country recently. Good barbecue is not just reserved for the traditional locations, which gave me some hope.

Speedy: Walking in, I was a bit encouraged. The smoker was a big gasser inside the restaurant, but there was a fair amount of wood lying around (and one guy working stated they went through quite a bit of wood daily) so I was hoping for some nice smoky flavor. I also was glad to see a large combo meal on the menu, especially one with a name like the “Cowboy Killer.” And we ended up spending a little more because we were not allowed to sub out the chicken for sausage, so our solution was to add on two links.  

Monk: The other great thing about the “Cowboy Killer” platter was that it got the song “Psycho Killer” stuck in Speedy’s head for the rest of the afternoon. On to the meat…the pork was unanimously decided to be the worst of the meats we tried at Bitterroot. Zero smoke and no flavor. I’m wasting no more words on it.

Rudy: I agree about the pork. I was really craving some good pulled pork, so to say I was let down is an understatement. I’ve had crockpot-cooked pulled pork that was 10 times better and more flavorful than what they served.

Upon first sight I had reservations about the brisket. The biggest red flag for me was that there was NO smoke ring.  If they have a smoker and go through all that wood each day, as they stated, they would at least stumble onto a smoke ring. The pieces that I had were slightly dry, however they did have a decent bark and most importantly it was really well seasoned, giving the meat a good flavor. It may not have looked the part, but it tasted close to the part. It was the best of the meats, but it also wasn’t having to clear a high hurdle with that.

Speedy: The ribs were better than the pork, but a step down from the brisket. They were cooked decently, but I couldn’t taste a rub at all, so I was left wanting more flavor. I understand the idea of letting the meat do the talking, but sometimes you need some salt and pepper to give the meat a bigger voice. Overall the ribs are a pass.

Rudy: We ordered the sausage separately because there were no substitutions.  It was basically alright. I thought it was a bit dry and crumbly. I prefer sausage where the casing has a snap to it, which this one didn’t have. It was also a little bit spicy for my taste. I like spice, but I thought it the sausage was too overpowering and distracted from any flavor that it might have had otherwise. They could have taken some of the seasoning from the sausage and added it to other meats and improved them all. Speaking of which…

Monk: I’m not the biggest fan of chicken at a barbecue joint, but I think I tolerate it more than these other guys. Also, there were no substitutions for the cowboy killer. I found the chicken to be tender and juicy but – stop me if we’re starting to sound like a broken record – there just was no seasoning and I found the meat to be bland.

Rudy: Bitterroot offered several traditional and nontraditional sides.  We tried the greens, cauliflower, cornbread, and hushpuppies. The greens and hushpuppies were pretty good and the cornbread wasn’t bad. The cauliflower wasn’t anything to write home about.  I liked the selection but everything was just ok to a little above average.

Speedy: By far the best thing about Bitterroot was the Whiskey menu. They had an EXCELLENT selection, including some very hard to find stuff, at very reasonable prices. We took part in a flight from High West (one of my favs), but I would’ve liked to have gone back to sample some more. And the beer list was not shabby either. It was also nice that they were able to seat our group of ten easily.

Monk: Beyond the whiskey and beer selection, that huge farmhouse table that sat our party of 10 was another highlight of the meal. Notice what we are highlighting here…nothing about any of the meats or actual food.

Rudy: I think the biggest indictment of the barbecue at Bitterroot BBQ was that we had plans of trying another Seattle barbecue place the next day, and based on what was claimed to be good Seattle barbecue, we changed our plans and ate at a French restaurant instead.  That’s when you know the terrorists have won.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 0 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Ribs – 2 hogs
Sausage – 2 hogs
Chicken – 1.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs
Bitterroot BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew – Austin, TX (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew
Date: 8/5/15
Address: 6610 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78757 (Link to menu)
Order: ½ pound of smoked prime rib, 1 jalapeno cheddar sausage, side of potato salad and creamy cole slaw.
Price: $17.00

Rudy: Speedy and I had previously visited Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew but they were advertising their smoked prime rib, which they only offer on Wednesdays, and the idea of barbecue smoked and flavored prime rib drew me in. I won’t go into a full review, since Speedy and I already covered most of it, which hasn’t changed.  

I opted for the meat and two sides combo, plus added a jalapeno cheddar sausage.  I had big expectations for the prime rib, and was pretty much let down. Maybe the piece I had was overcooked for my liking, but I expected so much more. The outside had a little bit of flavor, but the smoke and seasonings never made it inside the meat, leaving the bulk of the meat pretty flavorless. The outside bites were fine, but did not make up for the lack of taste on the inside.  

The sausage, same as last time, was grea Juicy and plenty of flavor, and sure made me glad that I added it to my order. The potato salad was really good and worth getting in the future. However, I was not a big fan of the creamy cole slaw. That is not that big of a problem, because Stiles, unlike many Texas barbecue restaurants, offers multiple side order options other than just beans. So there are plenty of other options to choose from in the future.  

Stiles Switch is still a very good and above average barbecue place (as noted by their top 50 ranking by Texas Monthly) but in the future I will stick to their brisket, sausage, and their beef ribs.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4.5 hogs (half hog bump for the free beer)
Prime Rib – 2.5 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Click to add a blog post for Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew on Zomato

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Louie Mueller Barbecue – Taylor, TX

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Name: Louie Mueller Barbecue
Date: 7/18/15
Location: 206 W. 2nd St., Taylor, TX
Order: 1 & 1/2 Lb Moist Brisket, 2 Jalapeno Sausages, ¼ Lb Turkey, Peach Cobbler, 3 Teas (link to menu)
Bill: $55

Rudy: I had already visited and reviewed two of the top 4 barbecue places in the state according to Texas Monthly BBQ so I figured it was time to make the short drive to Taylor and review Louie Mueller Barbecue, who was also ranked in the top 4. This is the second time I have eaten at Louie Mueller’s, but the first time reviewing what is considered one of the grandfathers of central Texas barbecue. To give you an idea of the history and excellence that is on hand at LM’s: they won the James Beard Foundation Award for excellence, becoming the first Texas barbecue restaurant to win that award. They also are the family where many of the best Texas barbecue restaurants find their roots. The expectations for LM’s was off the charts.

Monk: Wow, they certainly fit the bill of a legendary Texas joint. The family tree aspect almost sounds similar to Warner Stamey and his legacy in Lexington-style barbecue in NC.

Rudy: LM has been in their current location since 1959 and have a great, great atmosphere. They have a large open seating area near where you line up to order, but they also have a great seating area attached that is basically a large screened porch. It has such a classic feel, which makes sense considering how long it has been in that building. Even though it is a top notch barbecue spot only 30 minutes from Austin, both times I have gone to LM’s the line is never more than 10-15 minutes. That immediately skyrockets it’s rating on my board because I have no desire to wait for hours upon hours for barbecue that is on the same level as one that takes 15 minutes to get (even on top of the hour round-trip drive).

I only have 2 knocks on LM. One is the set up they have for drinks (you get them while you are standing in line) makes it hard to get refills because you have to swim through the line. The second is the fact that it is BYOB, but there is no way of knowing that.  It isn’t listed on their website and there is no sign telling you this. However, I did count at least 19 beer signs around the restaurant, so you can understand my surprise and disappointment when I was told that they didn’t serve beer there and I had to bring my own.

Monk: Being BYOB certainly didn’t help you on this trip but now that you know it, that’s great. Will be nice the next time you stop in for sure.

Rudy: On to the food. The brisket. Oh. My. God. It was amazing. AMAZING. Perfect amount of seasoning, not too overpowered with salt or pepper. Fat was perfectly rendered, so it just melted in your mouth. Tender, but didn’t fall apart. I really can’t heap enough praise on the brisket. They provide a side of sauce that can be used as a compliment, but it is not needed in any way. Plus, they cut you a sample of the brisket when you order, so you immediately up the amount that you are planning on ordering. They haven’t been in business this long without knowing a few tricks.

The sausage left a little to be desired. The first time I came to LM’s it was really juicy, but this time it was a little dry. I have given it a lower rating, based on this visit, but I’m willing to give it another try on my next visit to break the tie.

Monk: Since *spoiler alert* you didn’t give them 5 hogs, I wonder if a better sausage next time would put them over the top for you?

Rudy: Absolutely, because everything else was over the top good – even the turkey. That’s right, this was the first time I ordered turkey at a barbecue restaurant. I just have a hard time ordering it and like to stick to brisket, sausage, and ribs. But with Rudy Jr. along for the ride, I figured I would feed it to him. It was a huge hit. He ate the entire thing and was asking for more. I tried a piece and was surprised at how good it was. The meat had great flavor, but most importantly was extremely moist and not dried out as I have seen at other places.

Lastly, we finished it off with peach cobbler and ice cream. It was a bit heavy on the breading and low on the fruit, at least the serving we got, but it was still so good. It was obvious that it was homemade and delicious.

Speedy: I’m a little late to this review party, but I just wanted to chime in that this sounds incredible. Plan on taking a trip next time I’m in town, Rudy.

Rudy: Overall, Louie Mueller lived up the the high expectations and showed why it is always ranked as highly as it is. There is no doubt that I will be making the short drive back up there in the future, and I’ll make sure I bring my own beer next time.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance –  4.5 Hogs
Brisket – 5 Hogs
Sausage – 3.5 Hogs
Turkey – 5 Hogs
Cobbler – 4.5 Hogs
Overall – 4.5 Hogs
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Micklethwait Craft Meats – Austin, TX

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Name: Micklethwait Craft Meats
Date: 6/12/15
Location: 1309 Rosewood Ave, Austin, TX 78702
Order: 1/2 Lb Moist Brisket, 1 Beef Rib, 1 side of jalapeno cheese grits, Tea (link to menu)
Bill: $32

Rudy: With a light day and some free time, I decided to make my way to Micklethwait Craft Meats, a barbecue food trailer that has received lots of high praise over the last couple of years. It has made appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live the past two years when he has brought his show to South By Southwest, plus numerous other write-ups. Plus, Mrs. Rudy had given me a gift card for my birthday, so I really had no excuse not to try it out for the first time.

Monk: Wow, good job by Mrs. Rudy. She really knows the way to her man’s heart.

Rudy: I showed up shortly before they opened for lunch and found a small line, but nothing too bad.  That seems to be what is to be expected at most of the good barbecue places now in Austin. However, once the line started moving, it took forever! This is my biggest complaint with Micklethwait, the speed at which everything seemed to move. It took about an hour to move through the 15 or so people in front of me in line (add to that fact, you are standing in the heat the entire time you wait). That might not be that bad if it weren’t for the fact that it took 15 minutes after ordering for your food to be ready. Most places cut the meat when you order and hand it directly to you, but not here. I don’t know if it is due to the lack of space or help, but La Barbecue has a similar setup and ran like a well-oiled machine compared to Micklethwait.

Even though it is a food trailer, Micklethwait has picnic tables with permanent shade constructed over it. That definitely helps with the heat while you are eating. When my food arrived, I was very hungry and ready to dive right in. First was the brisket, and it did not disappoint. It had a great bark with lots of smoke, but the meat was very juicy and tender. It pulled apart easily without a need for utensils. They offered a sauce on the side, which added to the meat, but was not needed.

In order to not have a meal of meat on meat, I next moved to the jalapeno cheddar grits. These were fantastic. They had a great jalapeno flavor and tasted of smoke, but the heat was not overwhelming. I think they were the star of the meal. They were so thick that I didn’t eat all of them for fear of filling up too much on sides.

Lastly, I moved to the beef rib. I had not ordered a beef rib in a long time, usually opting for sausage instead, and usually because of price and the sheer size of the ribs. But Micklethwait has had good reviews of their beef ribs, so I decided to give it a shot. This was a mistake. The flavoring was good, which is the reason for it getting 3 hogs, but it was way too fatty. They had also either not let the fat render long enough, or had let it sit and reset, because there were large sections of hard fat throughout the rib. You can tell from the picture that there is a big ribbon of fat that is not rendered running through the middle.

Monk: Yeesh, that is not so appetizing. So, question, upon finishing your meal, did you have any regrets in having waited so long? And where would you rank them in the Austin barbecue hierarchy. Clearly, it does not seem to be at the same level of Franklin or La Barbecue.

Rudy: The wait seemed long for how long the actual line was. And their efficiency seemed poor, especially for a place that has been established for a couple of years. One of the positives for Micklethwait is that they are open until 6:00, so you can get barbecue later in the day than some of the other places that are only open until they sell out, which is normally early. However, they do sell out of some of their meats early in the day, so they might not have everything available later. The overall quality was not on par with Franklin or La Barbecue, but the brisket and sides were still better than most places.

Overall, the barbecue was good at Micklethwait, and merits a return visit, especially because they have such good reviews elsewhere (maybe I just got a bad rib). However, I think next time I will get more brisket and try some of their artisan sausages. I also hope that their service is able to speed up, or it might not be a great option going forward no matter how short the lines could be.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance –  3 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Beef Rib – 3 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Click to add a blog post for Micklethwait Craft Meats on Zomato

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Terry Black’s Barbecue – Austin, TX

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Name
: Terry Black’s Barbecue
Date: 4/6/15
Location: 1003 Barton Springs Road, Austin TX 78704
Order: 1 lb moist brisket, half a jalapeno and cheddar sausage, 1 side of cream corn, tea (link to menu)
Bill: $30

Rudy: Terry Black’s opened up this past year in Austin and has tried to piggy-back off the Black’s name, which is synonymous with barbecue in central Texas. Terry Black is from the Black’s Family in Lockhart and his son’s have started this venture in an attempt to use the family name to attract customers. I wanted to try Terry Black’s to see how it compared to the original. Truth is, it did not compare nearly as well, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.

I started with the brisket, which had a thick bark and lots of flavor. I got the end piece, so I was able to taste lots of smoke and seasoning. However there was not a great consistency to the meat and the fat was not evenly rendered, leaving parts of the fat uneaten on the plate. Probably a good thing for me overall to not eat all the fat, but it took away some of the flavoring to the meat.

The sausage was great. I always like getting jalapeno and cheddar sausage because the spice and the creamy cheese create a great mixture. This was no different, and probably the best thing I had.

Monk: The brisket is a given, but when I make it back out to central Texas I look forward to trying all of the different types of sausage. I’d say its sneakily one of my favorite smoked meats.

Rudy: I agree. Sausage is usually my favorite too because they are so different everywhere and usually very good. Most times they are my part of my standard order.

Speedy: Rudy, I must say I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t tackle the beef rib. After the experience at Black’s, I feel like that would’ve been my number one priority.

Rudy: I understand, the two problems with the beef ribs are that they are so expensive and they are so big that you don’t have room for anything else.

Monk: Which brings up a good question. As for your “standard order” – I may be mistaken but it doesn’t seem you always go for the so-called “Texas Trinity” of brisket, sausage, and ribs (beef or pork). Is it a matter of preference (and possibly stomach space) or moreso economics?

Rudy: A little of both. Brisket prices are getting out of control here, so ordering a meal and trying multiple meats starts to get expensive. It’s not like getting a barbecue sandwich or plate in NC. I could order small portions of each but I feel strange ordering 1 rib, ¼ pound of brisket and part of a sausage. I just made a decision when I started that I was always going to try and get brisket and sausage and judge as many places on the same criteria. However there are times that I do get ribs (beef or pork) just to mix it up and try something new.

Terry Black’s, like Black’s in Lockhart serves their sides in a cafeteria style. I opted for the cream corn, which was fine, but nothing great. With all the sides just sitting out under the heat lamps, it’s not the most appetizing, but they do have many more selections that most other barbecue restaurants.

Overall, Terry Black’s Barbecue is not great, but it is pretty good. The parts that I liked the most, and will probably keep me coming back, is that there was plenty of parking, seating, and the line moved fast, meaning you get your food quickly. I know those factors shouldn’t be the biggest selling points to a restaurant, but when there are many other places in the city that have 1-6 hour waits, being able to get in and get above average barbecue without a huge hassle is a big bonus.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 Hog
Brisket – 3 Hogs
Sausage – 3.5 Hogs
Sides – 3 Hog
Overall – 3 Hogs
Terry Black's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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Pecan Lodge – Dallas, TX

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Name
: Pecan Lodge
Date: 10/12/14
Location: 2702 Main St, Dallas TX 75226
Order: 1/2 pound of brisket, 1/2 pound of pork ribs, mac & cheese, fried okra (link to menu)
Bill: $25

Rudy:  I don’t make it up to Dallas very often, so when we planned a trip to the Texas State Fair in October, a visit to Pecan Lodge was an absolute must. Texas Monthly listed it as one of the top 4 barbecue joints in the state, so I had high hopes going in. Spoiler alert for the rest of the review: my expectations were more than met.

Pecan Lodge began in the Dallas Farmers Market, but recently opened it’s own brick and mortar location. Having experienced some of the long lines for top places in Austin, I didn’t want to run the risk of getting a place too far back in line, so I got there at 8:20 in the morning.  Sometime after that, many of the employees showed up. The next person in line showed up at 9:30, and at 10:30 the line was only 20 deep. So yeah, I was a little over-zealous, but at 11:00, the line was around the block.

The atmosphere, while waiting for Pecan Lodge to open, was the most unique and the least enjoyable aspect of my visit, but something I wouldn’t hold against the restaurant. The second guy that showed up came dressed like Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, all the way down to the hat and probably the metal plate in his head, which made for great conversation. At one point he had to grab something from his car, and as a way to thank me for holding his spot, he brought me a warm homemade beer in a plastic water bottle. I politely declined.

Monk: Aw man, you should have tried the “beer.” At the very least, it would have made for a good story.

Rudy: Then about 45 minutes before opening, the store owner across the street (who is a vegetarian) began blasting cow mooing sounds. If it was an attempt to run off business, it didn’t have the intended effect. Pecan Lodge had a line all around it’s building, and this guy had nobody enter his antique store.

The best part of arriving early and being first in line, was getting to ring the dinner bell that hangs at the cash register, thus signaling they were open for business. I rung the bell, ordered, and found a seat.

Monk: Awesome! I only wish you had a photo capturing yourself doing this.

Rudy: I know, it would have been cool. When I got to the front I was worried about holding up the line, so I felt in a hurry.

One cool thing that Pecan Lodge offers is an express lane for people ordering in bulk, plus a bar that you can sit at and order as well. This is a great way to get as many people through the lines as possible.

I knew right away that the brisket was going to be amazing. It came in 2 big thick cuts, which kept it moist. There was a great amount of bark and seasoning, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The fat was perfectly rendered and just melted in my mouth. If the line wasn’t so long behind me, I would have gone up and gotten more. It was everything that I had dreamt it would be and more.

Next came the ribs. Normally I skip ribs and go for sausage, but for some reason I decided to try the ribs here, and it was a great decision. Many times they can be dry or not very meaty, but that was definitely not the case here. There was so much meat on these ribs, they were moist and had a slight sweet taste to them. There was plenty of tug on them, so they didn’t fall apart, but the meat was tender and cooked perfectly. They were by far the best ribs that I have had and would be reason enough to go back.

Pecan Lodge offered a bit more than the typical sides of beans and potato salad. I opted for the mac & cheese and fried okra. Both of them were good, but not great. I think it was hard for either of them to stand out when they were being compared next to the brisket and the ribs.

Overall Pecan Lodge lived up to all the hype. The brisket and ribs were unbelievable and it had a great atmosphere. Considering you don’t have to get there 3 hours before opening (even though I came close) to enjoy such incredible barbecue, I think they could take over my top ranking. They are every bit as good as La Barbecue and Franklin’s, I only wish they were closer to me.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance –  5 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Pecan Lodge on Urbanspoon
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Virgie’s BBQ – Houston, TX

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Name: Virgie’s BBQ
Date: 7/17/2014
Address: 5535 North Gessner, Houston, TX 77041
Order: Order of brisket and ribs (link to menu)
Price: $13.15

Rudy: Historically, Houston has not been known for having many places to get great barbecue. There are some recent places that are getting more pub, but for the size of the city, it has been traditionally lacking. The Rudy family was driving through Houston, so I knew I wanted to see if there was any truth to the stereotype. Virgie’s opened in 2005 and has been on Texas Monthly’s Top 50 list the last few years, so I figured that would be a great place to try. I was wrong.

Virgie’s is a free-standing building in the middle of an industrial park, so not the best location for atmosphere, but it did draw a decent sized lunch crowd from the local businesses.  Inside, there are bare minimum decorations, but it does have the mom & pop barbecue feel.

I should have known I was in trouble when I walked up to the counter and ordered. I wanted to try a few different meats, so I ordered a half pound of ribs, half pound of brisket, and a sausage link. The man at the counter looked at me like I had two heads. He said he had never heard of anyone ordering by the weight (which is how they do it at every other barbecue restaurant I’ve been to in Texas) and suggested that I order the “order” with ribs and brisket. I took his advice, but had no idea of how much food I was actually getting. I thought it was a bit silly how they had just a generic listing for an “order” of something on the menu.

I tried the ribs first, and they were not very good. They had a hard crust on the top, were not meaty, and were only slightly seasoned (if at all). I was hoping for something more tender and with more meat on the bone. They were ok, but nothing great. Texas Monthly had said that the ribs were the highlight of Virgie’s, so I was pretty disappointed.

The brisket was next, and it was the same as the ribs, just ok. I wanted more flavor, either from seasoning or smoke, than I got. While it was tender, it was pretty bland and unmemorable.

Monk: From what I’ve read, it sounds like you maybe should have tried Killen’s Barbecue in nearby Pearland just north of town, though not sure how far out of the way it would have been for you.

Rudy: Yes, that was my initial thought, and one that I hope to get to soon. It’s getting great reviews and is trying to turn around the Houston barbecue reputation. But I was on a road trip, and it would have taken me about 45 minutes (each way) out of where I was going. There were two others that I thought about, but one had mixed reviews and the other one was known for having long lines, so I opted for Virgie’s.

This was my first attempt at finding barbecue in Houston, and it wasn’t too successful. The food was ok, but nothing to write home about or warrant a return trip. I will say the people at Virgie’s were incredibly nice and the service was great, unfortunately, the meat was not.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 2.5 Hogs
Brisket – 1.5 Hogs
Ribs – 2 Hogs
Overall – 2 Hogs
Virgie's BBQ on Urbanspoon
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