BBQ City Limits: Green Mesquite BBQ & More

 
 
An ongoing series of barbecue reports from Austin. Not Llano, not Lockhart, not Taylor. Austin.
 
Green Mesquite BBQ & More
1400 Barton Springs Road. 479-0485, more locations at www.greenmesquite.net.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 03.11.12
 
Mesquite wood is different, as thorny and wild and weedy as the tree it comes from. And you can taste it in the barbecue at the Green Mesquite, as sharp and grassy as an East Texas cow pasture. But the inside of this place is all Austin, tattooed with poster art from Guy Juke, Micael Priest, Danny Garrett and Ken Featherston for acts as diverse as Dr. John, Talking Heads and Commander Cody.
 
Green Mesquite draws that kind of diversity with South Austin ease. Chris Finkenbinder works here now. He was a waiter at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, and I remember him being the best part of that place. He was polished and thoroughly inked, a perfect fit for downtown. And now he’s a solid part of this green-and-white shack of a place, a chameleon whose gift with people up and down the Austin ladder symbolizes the esprit de Mesquite.
 
On to the food. The mesquite smoke weaves in and out with varying degrees of success in a four-meat plate ($11.69 with two sides), a plate I built with pork ribs, pulled pork and two helpings of brisket, one fatty, one lean. That means I missed out on sausage, but Green Mesquite like quite a few other shops gets it from the Texas Sausage Co., and I’m running out of new ways to say “good sausage.”
 
The best thing about fatty brisket at Green Mesquite is the wood smoke, because the wake-up taste of mesquite goes a long way toward forgiving the absence of a fat cap. The fat was there in the meat, traveling down long fibers that ranged in size from boxing twine to corn silk. In the lean cuts, the meat was stacked in neat cords like cured firewood, with bark the texture of the clambering pecan tree on the patio.
 
As much as I like mesquite wood for beef, I think it fights with the pork ribs. The energetic mesquite is like a hyperactive little sister buzzing around her overweight brother at a school carnival. It sets up a clash instead of a collaboration. But the rib itself was lacquered well on both sides and pulled from the bone without abandoning it outright. Smoke or no smoke, the pulled pork rattled off some rangy flavors and a cotton-candy texture minus the meltaway sweetness.
 
Two sides: Forgive me for picking fried okra and Cajun rice over slaw and beans.  The first was crisp and hot but more of an institutional experience, and for the second, think of blackened Spanish rice.
 
Dessert: Green Mesquite carries another man’s pies, but the peach cobbler ($2.50) is all its own, and it’s like a more fall-apart version of toasted poundcake with a suggestion of peaches.
 
Sauce: With wood smoke like this, you don’t need the tangy tomato red, but it might help rehabilitate the pulled pork.
 
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Mike Sutter’s BBQ City Limits
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)