Austin’s Top 8 BBQ Wild cards
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking
1. Chicken at Brown’s Bar-B-Que. This BBQ City Limits series has left chicken and turkey to the vegetarians, because most of it’s not very good. The birds run dry chasing the smoke. Daniel Brown does two things right with chicken. First, he uses thighs, the best of all the chicken parts. Second, he lets the skin do the work. “We cook it skin-side down,” Brown says. “Because what happens is the skin gets hard and holds the juice in there. It acts like a bowl.” That bowl is just starting to crisp on the outer rim, and the meat inside radiates juice and a little blush at the bone. 1901 S. Lamar Blvd. at the Corner Bar (map), Facebook page
2. Sausage at Goldis Sausage Co. Keenan Goldis is a sausage maker first, but the bags of mesquite and hickory chips beside the Oklahoma Joe smoker at his South Austin trailer lend barbecue character to his mad menagerie of sausage. Blueberry maple, green curry, apple pie, even macaroni and cheese. The Goldis Sausage above is pork and Angus beef with garlic, shown with rowdy root beer mustard. But it’s best to judge his smokehouse mettle against an andouille sausage checkered with nuggets of pork radiating pecan smoke. Paired with curry BBQ sauce, it grants Goldis an honorary pitmaster’s degree.1207 S. First St. (map), www.goldissausagecompany.com. UPDATED JANUARY 2015: Keenan Goldis is shutting down his Goldis Sausage Co. trailer for the winter and shifting his attention to retail/wholesale. Read his farewell Facebook post here.
3. Tortillas at Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ. Valentina’s handmade flour tortillas are as fat with pride as the brisket that fills them. These are tortillas with warm and doughy tensile strength, bubbled with char from the grill for pockets of sweet caramelization. The official napkin of Texas barbecue? I’ll sign the petition. Updated May 2015: 7612 Brodie Lane (map). www.valentinastexmexbbq.com.
4. Pork tenderloin at Blue Ox BBQ. Update: Blue Ox has closed.Chase Palmer puts the “tender” in tenderloin, using only the heart of the cut, then laying on salt, pepper and the caffeinated alchemy of ground coffee, the same house espresso the Buzz Mill uses for a tight, properly bitter pull gone blond with crema. Coffee and pork go way back, and this fat-grained rub asserts itself like the morning’s second cup. 1505 Town Creek Drive at the Buzz Mill coffeeshop (map), www.blueoxbarbecue.com
5. The T-Man at Bert’s Bar-B-Q. Barbecue is a band that’s always coming out with new songs, but sometimes we just want the greatest hits. The T-Man is that album, a paper boat full of beans, sweet barbecue sauce, Smokey Denmark sausage and chunks of radiant brisket. Most barbecue hounds would tell you it’s an end-run on the art, but there’s a reason we still turn it up when “Brown Sugar” comes on. 3563 Far West Blvd. (map) and 907 W. 24th St. (map), www.bertsbbq.com
6. Pickles at Freedmen’s. Let’s celebrate the artisan throwbacks like Kerlin and Micklethwait who do their own pickling and canning. But the sour power’s in full effect at Freedmen’s, from puckering dills to half-sweet slices, spiced green beans, herbed okra, candied red onions, crisp coins of jalapeño and carrot. More than palate cleansers and garnishes, they’re legitimate side dishes. 2402 San Gabriel St. (map), www.freedmensbar.com
7. Mutton at Ed’s Barbecue. Whereas discerning zombies would turn down some of the gamey yellow sheepdip that passes for mutton around here, Ed’s mutton spare ribs hold a thick balance of grassy lean and ambered fat. A different beast from a pork spare to be sure, but exotic in a pleasant, sensory-shifting way. 1814 Harvey St. (map)
8. Bread at Micklethwait Craft Meats. We take cheap white bread with barbecue for granted. Micklethwait does not. These are Pullman loaves with fluffy white centers and crusts like county fair ribbons. Free with your barbecue. And priceless. 1309 Rosewood Ave. (map), www.craftmeats.com
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(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)