Soul Food Scholar Adrian Miller writes about the union between July 4th and barbecue; thankfully he is “not talking about hamburgers and hot dogs on a kettle grill. I’m talking about ‘old school’ barbecue, where a whole animal carcass was skewered with wooden poles and cooked over a trench filled with burning coals from hardwood trees.”
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.
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.