BBQ City Limits: Ed’s Barbecue

An ongoing series of barbecue reports from Austin. Not Llano, not Lockhart, not Taylor. Austin.
Ed’s Barbecue
1814 Harvey St. (map); 512-236-0858. Hours: 11am-8pm Mon-Wed; 11am-9pm Thu-Sat; 11am-6pm Sun.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 10.28.13
If this canary yellow building with red sideburns and waffle-top awning rings a bell, that’s your memory calling, reminding you that this was Danny’s Bar-B-Que until late last year. That’s when Edward Swan took over the building from Daniel Wright, according to sales-tax records.
Aside from the name out front, not much has changed, according to the cook who said he’d stayed at the pits from one owner to the next. They’re doing chicken leg quarters now instead of whole birds, and rib tips are no longer just a weekend thing. Then again, neither were they a weekday thing for me or for the lady after me, whom I heard bargaining in vain for the next time they might show up.
Rib tips are the best part of the rib, and what’s left when they’ve been cut off are Ed’s short, dry, overtrimmed spare ribs, part of a four-meat plate for a value-friendly $11.89. The high-smoke char across the ribs’ thin skin put an overcooked spin on the meat underneath, a condition shared by Elgin sausage dripping with grease in a shriveled casing. Brisket took a friendlier turn, with a robust scarlet smoke ring under a smooth pepper crust, but the fat on slices from the moist end of the brisket was bright white or worse, a pinkish white, both colors in need of more rendering in the heat.
(ABOVE: Ed’s Barbecue took over where Danny’s Bar-B-Que left off late last year. Same paint, almost the same menu. But the mutton ribs, center, made a stronger case for that challenging meat this time around.)
The best of this four-meat combo was a surprise. Whereas even discerning zombies might turn down some of the gamey yellow barbecued mutton around town — including what I had last time around when this was Danny’s — the mutton spare ribs this time held 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, with the oak wood weaving among fringes of the meat like smoked gruyere cheese.
Glad for a shot at chicken without committing to a half or whole bird, I added a leg quarter for $2.50. The pit had pulled the skin back just far enough to show an even gradient from the golden bronze of autumn to the milky opal of midwinter without losing too much of the animating juices.
In the end, I couldn’t tell much difference in the transition from Danny’s to Ed’s. The beans and potato salad still came from the cafeteria canon, and with the same cook executing the same meats in the same smoker, the variations fell along fickle lines of smoke and supply realities. But if you’re a fan of Danny’s vinegar mop sauce like I am, it’s important to note that Ed knew enough to leave it alone.
Mike Sutter’s BBQ City Limits
(TOP: A sampler of meat and sides from Ed’s Barbecue, clockwise from top left: Chicken, beans, barbecue sauce, brisket, mutton ribs, potato salad, pork ribs and Elgin sausage. Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)