Sounds like you did OK. I forgot about the "other meats" they have there, and I suppose the first thing an out of towner thinks of is to try them all. But I don't think that is how most locals eat bbq. Around Austin, it's really "brisket and sausage" 90% of the time for 85% of the customers. The fat in almost all central texas made sausage (Elgin, Tx. usually) is enough to balance out any deficit in your beef (what they call the sliced brisket). So you walk in and order, say, "half pound of sliced beef and a link," or some variant of that. If you're fussy, peer over the counter and look at the brisket he's about to cut. If it looks too dry, ask him if he has something with a bit more fat on it. If it looks too fatty, ask him to trim away some of the fat or to cut from a leaner piece (brisket is quite variable in that regard). But as I say, if you have a piece of slightly too dry beef, you take a bite out of the sausage on your butcher paper next, with or without a piece of bread along with it or wrapped around it, and be careful not to squirt any on your tie.
I suppose it is also true that a brisket that has sat half served for a few hours on a low fire will be drier than one that is sliced and served up in 15 minutes; so yes, a busy joint can be good. On the other hand, if they have a long line and it's your turn, you're more likely to get a few slices of whatever is up next off the brisket and that might not be to your liking, so you have to have an eye for what you like and a man carving who is willing to indulge your whims (don't be too much of a dick, he's got a big knife in his hand).
A lot of traditional joints often have nothing but sausage and beef every day, saving ribs, chicken, pork loin, etc. for certain days. I probably have ribs at Sam's every fifth time or so. Forgot they had chicken, and haven't had the mutton since 1978 (it IS cheaper, but tastes a bit like lanolin on brisket). Sam's always has ribs though, and a lot of places don't. Beef ribs are a gimmick at The County Line, I think. A pork loin or chop at Kreutz's Market in Lockhart is NOT to be missed if you ever get a chance. Barbecued turkey is best left sitting wherever you find it. Best barbecued chicken I ever ate was in the back parking lot at Harold's Lounge (where the Four Seasons hotel is today) one Friday afternoon when some electricians were whooping it up early. I forget what the occasion was, probably nothing. But chickens cooked over an oak wood fire for seven hours can't be picked up by the bone sticking out of the drumstick, I remember that.
Originally Posted by SField
I went to sam's at about 10pm last night. I was the only pale face for miles which they apparently found shocking. I was expecting ghetto but not THAT ghetto.
Extremely friendly, big guy running the place (I'm guessing Sam was his dad.) Only other dude there was some random mexican guy eating.
I tried 3 meats, should have gotten mutton too. It looked interesting. I love how the first thing the guy does is to wrap some white bread in foil. I had no idea what one does with that.
Parts of the brisket were not bad, some dry. Some of the ribs were very nice, others not. Honestly, the stand out that day was the chicken, which is odd I suppose but I found it quite nice. It was a mountain of food for like 12 bucks, obviously couldn't finish it. I'll go back again for the mutton, and to see how the food varies. It honestly wasn't the mind blowing experience I was expecting, but I was far from disappointed.
Had breakfast the next day at one of my favorite austin spots, the 1868 cafe at the Driskill, which also happens to be one of my favorite hotels in the US. I always have a great time there and it's just a lovely place. Unfortunately the Bar got rid of their impressive old Scotch collection.