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Best BBQ and best Mexican in Austin

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by SField, Feb 15, 2011.

  1. Spats

    Spats Senior member

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    reminds me so much of stubb.[​IMG]
    Although I've never been to Lubbock, of course the Lubbockians are a big part of Austin culture. Many years ago the Austin Chronicle was running a couple of bits saying "look out Austin, Stubbs is coming, he's beloved of Joe Ely et al, and he'll kick butt in Austin BBQ." Well, one sunny hot morning I was down at the scrap metal yard at 4th and Waller when a black man about 6'-4" and wearing a long sleeve denim shirt (we all wore t-shirts then) approached me and asked, "son, where do they have iron, I'm looking for a large steel drum or tank?" (that yard we were in only handled non-ferrous metals). I instantly recognized him from his picture in the Chron, realized he wanted the drum to make a "pit" out of, and I directed him to the two ferrous metal yards in town. It seems like it wasn't long after that he died, prematurely before ever really getting his joint going in Austin. I always wondered if he at least got that pit built with my tiny contribution. Later the Stubbs name was somehow aquired by "the man" and mediocre food, a nightclub, and nationally distributed bottled sauce was the outcome. I hope his heirs get a piece of the action.
     
  2. foodguy

    foodguy Senior member

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    Although I've never been to Lubbock, of course the Lubbockians are a big part of Austin culture. Many years ago the Austin Chronicle was running a couple of bits saying "look out Austin, Stubbs is coming, he's beloved of Joe Ely et al, and he'll kick butt in Austin BBQ." Well, one sunny hot morning I was down at the scrap metal yard at 4th and Waller when a black man about 6'-4" and wearing a long sleeve denim shirt (we all wore t-shirts then) approached me and asked, "son, where do they have iron, I'm looking for a large steel drum or tank?" (that yard we were in only handled non-ferrous metals). I instantly recognized him from his picture in the Chron, realized he wanted the drum to make a "pit" out of, and I directed him to the two ferrous metal yards in town. It seems like it wasn't long after that he died, prematurely before ever really getting his joint going in Austin. I always wondered if he at least got that pit built with my tiny contribution. Later the Stubbs name was somehow aquired by "the man" and mediocre food, a nightclub, and nationally distributed bottled sauce was the outcome. I hope his heirs get a piece of the action.

    that's stubb. he'd drive all the way to tennessee every couple months to pick up hickory because he didn't trust a vendor. the business thing actually worked out ok for him. it started, actually, because he was having a hard time making rent, so Joe, terry allen, some other lubbock guys and me started chipping in $100 a month to help him out. as a thank you, he bottled up a bunch of sauce (in used whiskey bottles) and sent them to us for christmas (i've still got 2 of them ... will never open them ... am thinking of making a cornell box with them and an old menu). the money guys came in right before he got sick. joe lined up representation and stubb at least made enough money to be comfortable for the last year of his life. as for heirs ... i'm not sure how that worked out. he had been separated from his wife for 20 years (no divorce, didn't believe in divorce), and was estranged from his kids. his real family was joe ely, terry allen, jesse taylor and a few other musicians.
    we used to do annual stubb benefit concerts in lubbock and in austin and the lineup was always amazing ... stevie ray vaughn, los lobos, george thorogood, ely, flatlanders separate and togther, it was very cool. anyway, thanks for the trip down memory lane. it is somewhat on topic since he really is the kind of guy people think about what they say "pitmaster"
    also: look at the stubbs website and there is a cd of him giving bbq recipes. almost completely uninformative, but it's him doing his thing over a great blues background. i gave it to thomas keller for christmas one year.
     
  3. SField

    SField Senior member

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    that's stubb. he'd drive all the way to tennessee every couple months to pick up hickory because he didn't trust a vendor. the business thing actually worked out ok for him. it started, actually, because he was having a hard time making rent, so Joe, terry allen, some other lubbock guys and me started chipping in $100 a month to help him out. as a thank you, he bottled up a bunch of sauce (in used whiskey bottles) and sent them to us for christmas (i've still got 2 of them ... will never open them ... am thinking of making a cornell box with them and an old menu). the money guys came in right before he got sick. joe lined up representation and stubb at least made enough money to be comfortable for the last year of his life. as for heirs ... i'm not sure how that worked out. he had been separated from his wife for 20 years (no divorce, didn't believe in divorce), and was estranged from his kids. his real family was joe ely, terry allen, jesse taylor and a few other musicians.
    we used to do annual stubb benefit concerts in lubbock and in austin and the lineup was always amazing ... stevie ray vaughn, los lobos, george thorogood, ely, flatlanders separate and togther, it was very cool. anyway, thanks for the trip down memory lane. it is somewhat on topic since he really is the kind of guy people think about what they say "pitmaster"
    also: look at the stubbs website and there is a cd of him giving bbq recipes. almost completely uninformative, but it's him doing his thing over a great blues background. i gave it to thomas keller for christmas one year.


    jesus christ that must have been some good meat...
     
  4. ns7

    ns7 Well-Known Member

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    If anyone can spare a couple hours to drive to Llano, I highly recommend Cooper's. Probably the best BBQ I've ever had.
     
  5. foodguy

    foodguy Senior member

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    jesus christ that must have been some good meat...

    it really was terrific. it's kind of what got me started in cooking. i was a sportswriter and would have a couple h ours off in the middle of the evening while we were waiting for late scores to come in, so i hung out there. eventually, barbecue help being what it is, stubb would ask me to help out waiting tables when somebody didn't show up. the day he allowed me to finally slice the brisket was one of the proudest days of my life.
     
  6. Kent Wang

    Kent Wang Senior member Dubiously Honored Affiliate Vendor

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    Fascinating story.
     
  7. foodguy

    foodguy Senior member

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    Fascinating story.

    don't encourage me! I've got a million of them. OK, one more:
    When Stubb left Lubbock for Austin, the guy who owned his building (a competing and very frustrated BBQ maker), took a bulldozer and within a week had leveled the place down to the pad. i went back to lubbock to visit and stubb and i were driving around. he said he wanted to go by the old place. i couldn't imagine doing that ... like visiting a grave. but he insisted so we went. we pulled up next to the slab and it was just awful. so i said "well stubb are you happy now?" and he looked at me and said "yes sir. it's like looking at the saucer where a great cup of coffee has been."
     
  8. SField

    SField Senior member

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    don't encourage me! I've got a million of them. OK, one more:
    When Stubb left Lubbock for Austin, the guy who owned his building (a competing and very frustrated BBQ maker), took a bulldozer and within a week had leveled the place down to the pad. i went back to lubbock to visit and stubb and i were driving around. he said he wanted to go by the old place. i couldn't imagine doing that ... like visiting a grave. but he insisted so we went. we pulled up next to the slab and it was just awful. so i said "well stubb are you happy now?" and he looked at me and said "yes sir. it's like looking at the saucer where a great cup of coffee has been."


    wow
     
  9. Despos

    Despos Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I had no knowledge of Stubs or his BBQ but was looking to buy BBQ sauce at the grocery store. Reading the brands and labels I see Stubbs. The label read something like " ladies and gentlemen, I'm a cook"! that hooked me, been buying ever since. Sounds like a great guy.
     
  10. foodguy

    foodguy Senior member

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    I had no knowledge of Stubs or his BBQ but was looking to buy BBQ sauce at the grocery store. Reading the brands and labels I see Stubbs. The label read something like " ladies and gentlemen, I'm a cook"! that hooked me, been buying ever since. Sounds like a great guy.

    actually, the current commercial label is almost exactly like the ones he drew up himself and xeroxed for those original bottles. his "ladies and gentlemen, i'm just a cook" was kind of legendary ... he loved musicians but had the worst musical timing of almost anyone i've ever heard. he knew like two songs ... the main one being "summertime", but he'd get up on stage and sing with anybody (and everybody was glad to have him). by the time he'd finished the first verse, the band was usually on the fifth. he'd interrupt the song periodically for philosophical soliloquies on the nature of life and cooking, always interrupted by "ladies and gentlemen, i'm just a cook." joe ely is working on a documentary film on his life. has been for a couple of years.
     
  11. Spats

    Spats Senior member

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    I had no knowledge of Stubs or his BBQ but was looking to buy BBQ sauce at the grocery store. Reading the brands and labels I see Stubbs. The label read something like " ladies and gentlemen, I'm a cook"! that hooked me, been buying ever since. Sounds like a great guy.

    The Stubb's bottled sauce available in supermarkets now is quite good for a mass market sauce. I've bought it up north and there is some in my refrigerator in Texas at this very moment. It is much better than the national brands commonly available.
    That said, you all do know that sauce on brisket is considered anathema in Texas? Some joints don't even make or serve a sauce, most notably Kreutz's in Lockhart which is widely regarded as one of the best, year in year out. The thinking goes that, if the cooking was any good you should enjoy the meat just the way it is off the fire, and I tend to agree with that. My kid puts Stubb's sauce on his hamburgers, though.
     
  12. foodguy

    foodguy Senior member

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    That said, you all do know that sauce on brisket is considered anathema in Texas? Some joints don't even make or serve a sauce, most notably Kreutz's in Lockhart which is widely regarded as one of the best, year in year out. The thinking goes that, if the cooking was any good you should enjoy the meat just the way it is off the fire, and I tend to agree with that. My kid puts Stubb's sauce on his hamburgers, though.

    absolutely, stubb put sauce on his ribs, lightly, but never on his brisket. my daughter was born in lubbock and probably her first dinner out was gnawing on the remains of a rib bone at stubb's. when she was a teenager, her favorite comfort food was "stubb sandwiches" -- bread with stubb's sauce on them.
     
  13. Despos

    Despos Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Agreed. Stub's is the best store bought I have tried. Sonny Bryans in Dallas has the best sauce of any BBQ place I have tried.

    Have wanted to try Coopers in Llano. Heard great things about the place. They have a location in Fort Worth, is it as good/same as Llano?
     
  14. Spats

    Spats Senior member

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    Have wanted to try Coopers in Llano. Heard great things about the place. They have a location in Fort Worth, is it as good/same as Llano?
    Dunno. I'm more of a "south and east of Austin" kind of BBQ eater. Cooper's has their fans, for sure. I did used to enjoy Angelo's on White Settlement in Ft. Worth about 10 years back when I had repeat occasion to visit that fair city.
    Southeast of AusTex is Lockhart, not exactly a bespoke clothing mecca but more of a BBQ mecca, although you can get a custom made (big) hat there at Texas Hatters. [​IMG]

    PS, One last word on small town vs. big city/Llano vs. Ft. Worth: one theory is that small town barbecue joints are better bets because they might not have a stringent health code or inspector. BBQ joints get kinda dirty over time, much of it not worth cleaning up every day just to smoke it all up again tomorrow, and they cook at suspiciously low temperatures too. Proof's in the pudding, I say.
     
  15. airportlobby

    airportlobby Senior member

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    Agreed. Stub's is the best store bought I have tried. Sonny Bryans in Dallas has the best sauce of any BBQ place I have tried. Have wanted to try Coopers in Llano. Heard great things about the place. They have a location in Fort Worth, is it as good/same as Llano?
    Coopers is good, especially the "Big Chop," but I'd put it a tier below Smittys and City Market. It's a cool spot, though. Still better than anything in town with the exception of Franklin. The Coopers outside of Llano are not up to snuff, I've heard, nor are the Muellers outside of Taylor (although there used to be a really excellent one in Austin, where I believe Aaron Franklin got his start). In fact, out of staters don't realize this, but Texans generally denigrate BBQ found anywhere outside of central Texas, including the stuff in Houston and Dallas. Although I was raised on Sams and go there kinda often, I wouldn't take an out of towner there for their one TX BBQ experience because I've had some very dry and/or very fatty plates of food there. I've also never had anything revelatory there, as I have at Franklin, Smittys or City Market. I'm fond of the place and hesitant to say anything bad about it.... BBQ really benefits from a busy restaurant - you don't want your meat waiting for a customer. Sam's is famous for their mutton, by the way, which is unusual in Texas BBQ. I think a lot of people recommend Sam's b/c of the atmosphere and history, which is probably fair.
     
  16. foodguy

    foodguy Senior member

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    well, thanks guys. you really lit a fire. i just pitched our travel editor on a story on central texas, its bbq and its music. who knows whether she'll bite, but it sure would be fun. in the process, i found this piece i wrote many years ago on stubb. still like it.
     
  17. SField

    SField Senior member

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    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.
     
  18. Spats

    Spats Senior member

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    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.
    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.
     
  19. Kent Wang

    Kent Wang Senior member Dubiously Honored Affiliate Vendor

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    I think brisket, pork ribs, and sausage form an essential trinity, with importance in that order.

    Pro tip: when ordering brisket always ask for it "moist", which will get you the fatty part.
     
  20. SField

    SField Senior member

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    I didn't know sausage was more traditional than ribs. I saw a lot of people eating the sausage, not the other stuff. I should have tried it.
     

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