Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *Austin*

Texas BBQ Showdown

“You can all go to hell, I’m going to Texas”. The same is true for Texas barbeque. We pride ourselves over our barbeque and everyone seems to put their own flare to this Texas staple. Whether its brisket, ribs, sausage, chicken or even turkey, duck and pork, Texans have been grilling it up for generations. Everyone looks for a different thing when eating barbeque. Some look for the smoked and seared flavor while others look for the moist and tender texture. Some prefer their barbeque dry and lightly seasoned and others like it swimming in sauce. No matter how you like it barbeque is king in Texas and in the state capital of Austin they are smoking the city with some of the best barbeque in the state. This journey on the 2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip had me looking to find the best of the best when it comes to barbeque. I was looking for something that made my heart melt and mouth water. I wanted great seasonings, moist texture, smoky flavor and savory sauce. When eating barbeque you can’t forget about the sides. I wanted to find the perfect complement to go pair with the succulent grilled meat. There are a number of great barbeque joints in Austin but I was an outsider so I had to do my research. When I put the word out that I was coming to town emails came flooding in about different spots in town. We had our plates over filled so we could only pick three. Some will say we should have tried this or we should have gone there but we picked the spots the received the most praise. Once we finally decide on the places to try it was time for a showdown.
Austin, Texas is a place known for both great food and great music. Just a couple blocks off the infamous 6th St on Red River sits Stubb’s Bar-B-Q. Here you can have some delicious barbeque some cold beers and catch a great concert all in one place. Stubb’s is smoking the some of the best barbeque in Austin and has gained worldwide attention. From legendary musicians such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Willie Nelson to United States Presidents and even Queen of England. All have praised Stubb’s on his barbeque. I felt like this was one of the best choices to start my showdown. I figured the best way to sample it would be to get the Stubbs Minor, 2 meats with 2 sides. I went with the pork ribs and turkey with potato salad and pinto beans. As the food arrived I felt honored to try the barbeque that was adored by so many musical icons. The barbeque looked very moist and tender. The smoky scent of hot grilled meat made my stomach rumble. I was ready to start the show. As I took a bit of the turkey it seemed firm yet tender. It was semi moist but had a great flavor. The ribs on the other hand were seasoned very nicely. Not too saturated with seasonings I had to admit I really liked the ribs. One complaint if any was that it was a little tougher than some others and the meat didn’t exactly fall off the bone. I compliment the combo with the potato salad that was a good but had that factory made taste that kind of killed this down home cooking vibe. The pinto beans were firm and cook nicely but the flavor fell a little flat. Don’t get me wrong Stubb’s was good but to me the food seemed like I was at a chain restaurant more than a landmark for great barbeque. It was a very filling meal and I wouldn’t say it was bad. In fact I really like Stubb’s but I have been on other occasions and found a better meal. I don’t know if this has what it takes to take the title just yet and I still have two more to go.
Next on my stop I was ready to find something a little different. I was looking for a place that was a little more tame and homey. I found Green Mesquites. From the outside it had that down home cooking road side attraction look. This place without a doubt seemed like it belonged right in the middle of Austin. As you walk in you can smell the sweet and smoky wood burning. Everything about this place screamed great barbeque. They even had an autographed poster of the Food Networks, Guy Fieri. I knew that I had picked the right spot. Like many others I came to Austin to enjoy the nightlife as well as the food and I had planned to partake in some drinking so I was looking for a meal that could carry me over. I felt a nice barbeque Po’Boy filled with brisket and pulled pork could be perfect for the job. Served with Cajun Rice and Potato salad I sat back and relaxed with a beer. The scent of barbeque makes your mouth melt while you wait. When the food arrived the presentation was nice. At this point I was hungry and ready to eat. So much so, that I forgot to get a picture of this big sandwich. As I started to dissect the meal I was beginning to get that not to fulfilled feeling. Sure the bread was soft and toasted but it was just your average bun that you could get from the grocery store. While to meat was good it reminded me barbequing in my own backyard. Nothing was overly season and I felt a little let down because I couldn’t taste that reputable mesquite flavor. While the meat was moist and tender it failed to spark that wow factor. As for the sides they seemed like some family pack you would pick up at the store as well. Green Mesquites was good but I felt that it really let me down in some areas. The prices were good as was the selection. It had a nice family atmosphere with a very decent patio but I think it just doesn’t have enough the take the title in this fight.
Lastly, I was beginning to grow a little tired of barbeque. I felt like maybe Austin didn’t have what I was looking for. Maybe I just didn’t choose my locations wisely. Whatever the case I had one last spot to try. Just a couple blocks away from Green Mesquites on Barton Springs I found Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que. The name alone had my attention. Even if they didn’t have the best barbeque I knew I could atleast get a chance to sample some good beer. From the outside the neon lights seem to draw you in like a moth. Once you walk inside you feel at ease. It seems more like a bar than a restaurant at first. It has very low lighting and a large bar area. As the hostess takes us to our table I felt like we got the best seat in the house, right next to the brewing room where the large beer steels shine. There is nothing better in my opinion than great fresh beer and some hot and smoky barbeque. I was really digging this place. I ordered up a beer sampler and looked over the menu. The selections were pretty good and the prices were bad either. There was so much I wanted to try. We decided to get a little of this and a little of that, a pound over there and a pound over here. When the food arrived it looked as if we ordered for a family. Thank God we had a refrigerator back at the hotel! The pork ribs were so moist they just fell of the bone. I ended up making a rib sandwich out of a couple. The flavor was so delicious I didn’t even need to use barbeque sauce. For a slight moment I felt as if I was in barbeque heaven. I had to say this was one of the best ribs I had ever eaten. Next I dug in on the Jalapeno Cheddar Sausage. The outside skin was a little tough but it didn’t bother me. The mild spicy accents with the sharp cheddar made this sausage a winning combination. The cheese was a perfect blend with the jalapeno and neither were too overpowering. Even the pulled pork scored high in my book. It was so juicy and most. One thing that I loved is that it wasn’t saturated in barbeque sauce. While I liked the taste of the barbeque sauce they had, I didn’t find the need for it. The smoked juices and the natural flavors from the mean made this almost perfect. The brisket was heavily smoked and carried that rich and powerful smoked taste but it wasn’t over done. It was still very flavorful and delicious. Even the sides were something to envy. The potato salad was made with red new potatoes and they we prepared perfectly. It was a nice combination of soft and firm. I was ready to throw in the towel but I still had green beans and macaroni and cheese. Green beans have never tasted so fresh. The color was rich and vibrant. They were cooked with bacon and caramelized onions. This made eating your greens a privilege. The Mac N Cheese was something else. Elbow noodles mixed with a queso style cheese. It was so creamy and rich, topped with crunch bread crumbs. I was stuffed. Between the both of us it looked as if we had barely made a dent. Could Uncle Billy’s take it all or was there something missing from this whole showdown?
After a weekend of eating barbeque I felt nauseous looking at ribs or slab of brisket. I was overwhelmed but not beat. I tried some really great places here and I don’t regret the restaurants I visited. I think in the end they all had great food but it really depends on what you are looking for. For atmosphere you have to go with Stubb’s. If your looking for that backyard barbeque taste Green Mesquites would be your type of place and if you are looking for a place to grab a bite to eat and sample some home brewed beer Uncle Billy’s if your favorite family member. On this trip I wanted to find the best of the best in barbeque. Sure there are a lot of spots out there and picking three isn’t the most accurate way to choose a winner but out of these three one did rise above the rest. I was looking for textures and tastes while judging the showdown and I wanted something that really blew me away and with that on the 2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip in Austin, TX. We have picked Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que our winner for the Texas BBQ Showdown. There really wasn’t anything I could find about this place that I didn’t like. The service was great, the prices were fair, the portions were large, the beer was cold and the barbeque was outstanding. You know you have a great recipe when sauce isn’t needed. Everything about this place made me fall in love. From the fall off the bone ribs to the fresh colorful sides, Uncle Billy’s is a must when visiting Austin for barbeque. Nothing washes barbeque down better than cold beer. I highly recommend the six beer sampler. These guys have a winning recipe for both food and beer. Cheers!

Stubb's Bar-BQ
801 Red River St
Austin, TX 78701-3312
(512) 480-8341

Green Mesquite BBQ & More
1400 Barton Springs Rd
Austin, TX 78704-1011
(512) 479-0485

Uncle Billy's
1530 Barton Springs Rd
Austin, TX 78704-1013
(512) 476-0100

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