BBQ City Limits: Lone Star BBQ
An ongoing series of barbecue reports from Austin. Not Llano, not Lockhart, not Taylor. Austin.
Lone Star BBQ
Hours: 11am-5pm Tue-Sat.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 10.23.13
Across the street from the Lone Star trailer, they’re tearing down Artz Rib House, getting ready for the Winstanley brothers to open Abel’s Rib House in its place. And a little farther north at the Genie Car Wash is Brown’s Bar-B-que trailer (the Lone Star trailer has moved; see new address above). In this environment, John and Jaylyn Morell rolled the dice opening Lone Star two months ago, the same way he rolled the dice leaving his job at Lowe’s and she put her IRS job on the back burner to fight the rain that washes the chalkboard menu clean and a barrel smoker whose temperature gauge measures in ... Celsius. But they’re here all the same, and there’s beer in the beans and beer in the sauce, and a beer in the fridge if you need one.
I’d raise that beer to toast brisket that understands Texas brisket ($14 lb.), with a nice ridge of fat on the outside that feeds on the smoke to transform into a cultured black crust that doesn’t lean too hard on pepper or any other singular spice but seems to spread the wealth. That flavor had time to express itself, because my brisket was sliced with the grain rather than against it, which not only made it harder to chew but kept me from getting a true measure of how it might compare to other briskets in this series.
Where the brisket rub was a subtle thing, pork ribs ($12 lb.) proclaimed their rebel red against the white butcher paper straightaway. There was paprika and a touch of sweetness in that aromatic rub, enough of each to say that while the smoke was familiar, this isn’t the rib from down the street or across the road. To tap the brakes on the hyperbole, the meat itself was abandoning the bones even before I lifted the ribs off the butcher paper, an act as fragile as cradling a baby bird. And a spicy pee-wee link of sausage ($2) was exactly what you might get down the road, at Sam’s Club, although those would never be as well smoked and ready to burst as this one.
Chief among the Lone Star rebels was pork belly ($15 lb.). A happy accident, to hear the Morells tell it. Their supplier gave them belly flats instead of rib sections one time, and they rolled with it. The result is long, thick, bacon-style slices, smoked instead of fried, with that paprika rub forming a kind of mohawk crown of tawny lean across the top ridge, fading gradually to layers of marble-white fat and alabaster flesh. Uncured pork belly doesn’t always know how to act in a barbecue pit, where the hot smoke brings out its lazy lovehandles. It doesn’t have the structured discipline of ribs or chops to fall back on, and my mind was racing home to fry it up crisp in an iron skillet.
While I was at the trailer, John Morell’s parents stopped by. I had already broken cover to talk with their son (after I had paid and started eating), and Mrs. Morell wanted me to mention that when the trailer has food left over, it goes to the food bank at Saint Mark’s Methodist. She’s grateful and proud of that fact, a pride that extends to her son, the one who cooked barbecue for his co-workers at Lowe’s, testing their reactions before opening a South Austin barbecue trailer cooking at a low and slow 100 degrees. Celsius, that is.
On the side: Beans, coleslaw and potato salad come straight from the barbecue canon, but they could be the templates for others to follow. Fresh-cut slaw with carrots and sweet creamy dressing. Beans with thick brown liquor fortified with beer. Potato salad cut in firm dice with cool mayo and sharp nuggets of celery. ($2 each)
Dessert: Lone Star makes its own banana pudding. Just not the day I was there.
Sauce: Just like they are with their rubs, the Morells are rebels, not content to let their sauce fit the sugar and liquid smoke model. It’s rippled with onion, a rich sundown red with apple cider vinegar like a jolt to your senses. The sauce they’ve made for pork is like unwrapping blue cheese, it’s so powerfully aromatic, with a brace of red wine vinegar strong enough to stand up to pork.
Mike Sutter’s BBQ City Limits
(TOP, clockwise from top left: Brisket, coleslaw, pork ribs, pork barbecue sauce, regular barbecue sauce, pork belly, potato salad, sausage and beans. INSET: John and Jaylyn Morell started Lone Star two months ago. Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)