– Grayson Currin of The Independent says that Calvin Trillin’s recent New Yorker piece missed out on the best eastern NC “barbecue” in the form of soy recreated to mimic the dish; I can’t say that I disagree with Calvin Trillin not trying it out while in NC
In fact, to my mind, he missed some of the best barbecue in the state, even if it’s not barbecue at all: soy, smoked low and slow, pulled apart by hand and drenched with a vinegar-based sauce. It is a regional delicacy, reinvented for reasons beyond upscale dining.
Name: Stubb’s Bar-B-Q Date: 7/6/2012 Location: 801 Red River, Austin, Texas Order: Minor Plate – Beef Brisket, Pork Ribs, okra, mac & cheese (link to menu) Bill: $16
Rudy: Stubb’s is known for two things, barbecue and live music. They are widely known for being able to attract decent sized bands during SXSW and throughout the year. You can also buy their sauce in grocery stores throughout the country. I’ve only experienced their barbecue, and since this is a barbecue blog, that’s the only thing that matters.
Speedy: I’ve seen some great bands come through here on the schedule. Live music and barbecue sounds like an evening in heaven. Would it be a good place to watch a show?
Monk: Yea, I remember Metallica and Third Eye Blind both playing at Stubb’s at SXSW 2009 a few years back. Maybe even a Kanye West surprise show at a subsequent SXSW showcase there too? Rudy: I saw a publication online that had it as part of the top 12 most influential (and still active) music venues in the US. I haven’t seen a show there, but it looks like a good place. I think they have 2 stages, an outdoor stage and a smaller indoor one. The restaurant part of Stubb’s has a rustic old feel to it like it has not been updated since it was opened in the 70s. It feels like a barbecue restaurant. The only negative is that it does not smell like barbecue restaurant. Because it holds concerts and other events, you don’t have that distinctive smoke smell permeating throughout the place. I think that would just be a bonus.
Monk: Agreed, years of smoke built up inside the restaurant definitely adds to the ambiance Rudy: I have been to Stubbs’s once before and got their signature Jalapeno Brisket and sausage, and they were really good, so I wanted to try something different. I settled on their standard brisket and asked the waitress which was better between the ribs or the sausage. Without hesitation, she went with the ribs. I almost always ask for a recommendation when I go eat places, and as a free pointer to all waiters and waitresses, whatever you say, say it with conviction. I really don’t care what you recommend, just come strong or I’ll be weary of whatever I’m about to get. Because if you aren’t sold on it, I’m not sure I will be.
Speedy: What about the rest of the menu? Do they serve pork? Anything else seem worthwhile? How is the beer selection? Rudy: They have most everything. Chicken, turkey, chopped beef, pulled pork, ribs, brisket, and sausage. Make sure you check out the daily specials that offer other great options.
Monk: Of which, Speedy would have ordered one of each of course…*cough*fatty*cough*.
Rudy: They have a decent beer list, but what is even better…Stubb’s is one of the few places in Texas that serves sweet tea. I pretty much skipped over the beer all together when I saw that.
Monk: Tough call, but being in the sweet tea desert of the midwest and now Texas for the past few years, I can’t fault you for that choice. Not too much better non-alcoholic drink-wise with barbecue than sweet tea (except maybe Cheerwine).
Rudy: Please don’t bring up Cheerwine. The only thing they have here is something call Big Red, and it is only similar to Cheerwine in the fact that it is red, AND NOTHING MORE… At first look, the plate did not seem that impressive, two ribs and a few cuts of brisket. But after eating through it all, it was way more than enough. I started with the ribs, which were not sauced, and really didn’t need to be. They were extremely tender and had tons of flavor. I could not have been more pleased with the ribs – I just wanted more of them. If the waitress had not recommended them, I would have gone with my usual sausage and missed out on this greatness. Next came the brisket, which next to the ribs, just didn’t stand up. It was tender and juicy, but it had no flavor. It tasted like a piece of prime rib, just tender bland meat. You couldn’t taste any smoke or see any char on the pieces that I had. I added the Stubb’s sauce, and that was better, but good brisket shouldn’t need sauce to have flavor.
Speedy: You said you’ve had the jalapeno brisket before. Is that any better?
Monk: Wow, jalapeno brisket. That sounds kind of amazing.
Rudy: The jalapeno brisket was much much better. They even have a special jalapeno sauce to use with it. Spectacular. I should have gotten it again, but I was going for something different this time. It is their Friday special, and my memory is telling me it was special.
Like I said earlier, Stubb’s sells their sauce in grocery stores, so you can have it outside of the restaurant. It is a thicker tomato based sauce like many told in stores. I had their original (they sell 6 different sauces, 4 marinades, 5 rubs, plus other cooking items for any gift giving occasions) which I really liked. It was not too sweet and had a good flavor. The ribs didn’t need it, but when I added the sauce to them, it did not overpower their flavor.
Monk: You’ve given us a good idea of how the meat was, so what about the sides? Rudy: The sides were sides. I had the okra and the mac & cheese, which were good but nothing that blew me away. The star of the night was definitely the ribs.
Monk: So next time I happen to find myself in Austin, say possibly for the F1 race in November, should we head to Stubb’s?
Rudy: That depends on if they have a good show going on then or not and where you are staying. It has a great location near 6th street, but there are at least 2 other places (yet to be reviewed) that are near there that are comparable. But it is iconic and still very good barbecue for this area. You might be able to do better, but you definitely could do much worse. Ratings: Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs Brisket – 2.5 hog Ribs – 4 hogs Sides – 2.5 hogs Overall – 3 hogs