Thursday, October 10, 2013

Texas Road Trip - Part One

Warning - The next two posts will be gluttonous posts about meat.  Be wary, vegetarian friends. 

Two weeks ago, Robbie and I were in the midst of our four-day vacation.  This was the longest vacation we had taken since our honeymoon that wasn't dictated by weddings and family so it was discussed, chosen and planned with much care and attention to detail.  In typical fashion, we brushed aside the usual options of an island paradise or a long-weekend in a European capital and zeroed in on one priority - food.

You already know I have a food blog but you may not know that Robbie and I eat out a lot.  We love keeping up (as much as we can) with interesting and new restaurants in New York City.  Since I am from North Carolina, and Robbie is a warm-blooded male, we often end up at the latest bbq restaurants in the city.  I have learned to never expect to find a typical North Carolina-style chopped and pulled pork sandwich up here but I have been exposed to some delicious Kansas City bbq rubs and even a few hybrid styles of 'que. 

That being said, the piece of meat that had me at first bite was Texas brisket. 

Last week, we decided to explore Texas and the barbecue places that inspired NYC restaurants like Hill Country, Briskettown, and Fletcher's.  You see, I am convinced that without these joints in Taylor, Austin, La Grange, etc., New York City wouldn't know a piece of brisket from a pumpernickel bagel.  

After an early flight into Houston, we drove about two hours to Taylor, TX.  Taylor is about 30 minutes north of Austin, TX and on a wide side street sits Louie Mueller Barbecue. This place was not for the faint of heart.  The temperature was 94 degrees outside at the end of September (this would be a common theme the entire weekend - heat and humidity were rampant everywhere we went) and the restaurant was basically two, high ceiling rooms with the smoker in the back of one of the rooms and no air conditioner.  
Their fan placement is exactly how we cool our apartment in the summer.
I walked in and immediately knew I was going to smell like a smoker for the next week.  We ordered, got our food and sat down to a table filled with sausage links, brisket and the biggest beef rib I had ever seen.  This beef rib.  Oh, this beef rib.  It was by far the best thing I ate the entire trip.  They season the rib with only salt and pepper before letting the smoke and oak wood do their thing.  It tastes like butter.  In a good way.
Beef Rib and other lesser meats. (Good effort pickles.)
We climbed back into our Nissan Versa (bless our hearts) and headed to Austin where we explored our neighborhood (SoCo!) and met some friends for dinner.  We headed to bed early since we had to line up for our next BBQ visit bright and early the next morning - Franklin BBQ.  

Franklin is repeatedly voted the #1 bbq place in Texas and it did not disappoint.  First order of business is to get there hours before their 11 am opening or else you risk not getting any food that day.  We got there about 9:15 in the morning and were told by the lovely staff (who brought out water, beer and soft drinks for those in line) that our spot in line meant we would eat about 12 pm.  We ended up sitting down with food around 12:30 pm.  The hour or so until opening went by pretty fast but then, once folks started moving, the anticipation (and hanger) had gotten to me.  One of the owners chatted with us about New York and our favorite restaurants while he chopped us some brisket and ribs - it turns out he was a Momofuku empire fan too which was good to hear.  
The line at Franklin BBQ right at opening time.

Franklin is known for their brisket and it was equal to, if not a little better than, Briskettown here in New York.  I was surprised at how many locals were in line (do people in Austin not work?) so it must be legit if folks keep waiting in line.  

After filling up on bbq, we visited the University of Texas, Austin (hook 'em!), the State Capitol (which is so big because they thought Texas would be its own country) and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential library (where I decided I would start going by Mary Jordan Lady Bird Samuel).  After a visit to a couple of Austin's famous food trucks (one of which was made for me), we headed back to sleep off the calories (ha) before the next leg of our trip.
I think I see a Longhorn up there.

They did a good job with their State Capitol Building.

LBJ Archives.  He clearly was a reader.

Overall, I loved Austin and its eclectic vibe.  I was surprised at how there weren't many people out and about for it to be the state capital (maybe because it was too hot?) and be home to a major university.  Our neighborhood was a delight -- nearby, there were cute antique shops and an old-timey candy store (which I unfortunately discovered on our last day) but I did find the 7-Eleven within the first hour.  Big Gulps are the essential travel companion.  

Next up will be a recap of our Houston leg of the trip which completed our country-fication via a Miranda Lambert/Dierks Bentley concert and the purchase of real-live cowboy boots.  

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