As a Texan, barbecue is one of the basic food groups in our diets. It isn't seasonal, it is just part of our weekly routine, like red beans and rice on a Monday is part of a Louisiana family's routine. Where cajun and creole recipes compose the heart of a native Louisianan, bbq feeds the soul of a true Texan.
In our family it has an even deeper meaning. Our youngest son was very difficult and stubborn to wean. My wife and I tried many approaches, including the cold turkey approach when she and our daughter took a quick weekend trip away leaving my son with me and no breast milk! After a few temper tantrums, the life saver was Texas style bbq.
At that time we were living in Denver and the best bbq in the city, without question, was the Roaming Buffalo Bar B-Que. The Roaming Buffalo served each day from 11 am until they sold out. Waking up at 5am, the trick was waiting until 11 am before I could get my little man some ribs. If my son couldn't have his mother's breast, he was going to have ribs. Today, at 5 years of age, he will never say no to ribs and will often eat more than his 24 year old brother.
Texas BBQ - In Texas, we find the best bbq to be at the small family run restaurants and shacks located outside of the big cities.
The first thing you have to know about Texas bbq is that the brisket comes either dry or moist (lean or fat). I am a sucker for the moist brisket and a rack of baby back ribs. Most places also offer sausage and chicken, together with a delicious array of sides from coleslaw to sweet corn to collards, followed up by great pies and cobblers. White bread also comes on the side with pickles and onions. The fine dinner ware is just good ol' butcher paper.
The bbq process and differences all come down to the rub. There are some great bbq joints that love to use a lot of pepper. We typically avoid these places in favor of a more modest peppery taste with other local secret rub ingredients.
Its All Good BBQ in Spicewood is one of our favorites. When we lived on Lake Travis, this restaurant became our Sunday after church treat. I love all of their meats, but especially the a rack of baby back ribs. The rub doesn't even need any sauce as the meat is deliciously flavored and falls off the bone.
Cooper's Old Time Pit in LLano, Texas is also a family favorite. You literally can't drive through LLano without smelling their incredible meats. So, of course, you have to stop the car. The lines can be long, but it is definitely worth the wait. PS. The wait is not as long as the famous Franklin's BBQ.
Franklin's BBQ in Austin is perhaps the most famous joint in the Austin area. Getting special attention in the movie Chef where actor, Jon Favreau, seemingly melts as he tastes the brisket. That scene makes everyone's mouth water, except of course those unhealthy Vegans and Vegetarians amongst us.
Carolina BBQ? - Having spent a summer as a law intern in North Carolina, I became familiar with what people in North Carolina consider bbq. I guess if you have been deprived and don't know Texas bbq, you may find this food reasonably good. For my tastes, however, the vinegar, mustard and ketchup seasoned pork in the Carolina's takes a back seat to good ol' Texas bbq.
Memphis and Kansas City - Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to visit Memphis or Kansas City, so I will leave any opinion on their bbq until such time that I can explore their joints. This is a trip I would love to make as I understand some of the steak houses in Kansas City are the best in the world. I gotta taste it to believe it, but I am game.