BBQ City Limits: Ray's Bar-B-Q

An ongoing series of barbecue reports from Austin. Not Llano, not Lockhart, not Taylor. Austin.
Ray’s Bar-B-Q
6301 Monsanto Drive. 385-8262, no website.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday. 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 04.04.12
2014 UPDATE: Ray's has closed.
As many times as his “Friday Night Lights” players ate here, I knew it wouldn’t take long to spot Coach Taylor at Ray’s. There he is on the wall by the counter, next to a roster for his East Dillon Lions. The TV series filmed all over Austin, especially at Ray’s, and Kyle Chandler’s framed photo is as convincing as it would be on the wall of any small-town shop with outsized high school pride.
The show’s long gone, of course. But a trailer full of forest-sized oak logs out front lets you know Ray’s is still in it to win it. And victory comes cheap. This might be the last place in town where a three-meat plate is less than $10. For that, you get shiny coins of Meyer’s sausage from Elgin, plus brisket and pork spareribs. If you can’t make up your mind, a chicken leg quarter is just a few dollars more. The smoker had turned the skin a dull copper color and it was as thin and leathery as a lapdog’s chew toy, its fat completely evaporated. The meat inside blushed ruddy pink, but it was hard like it was being cured for saddle jerky.
I could taste and see smoke in the brisket, with a tan line like a returning Spring Breaker. But it didn’t hold together under the knife, and the disparate chunks were more like roast beef cooked too high, but not high enough to break down the marble-white fat ring. For flat-out taste, the pork ribs were easy winners, but with an asterisk for sauce-aided sweetness. The bark had the lean, leather-cured texture I like, but the meat was loose and sloppy like it had been worked over before it ever saw smoke, beat to a pulp on the East Dillon blocking sled. The second rib wasn’t a rib at all, just random pieces that couldn’t hang together long enough to form a proper line.
Two sides: The soggy wet-grass color of chopped green beans suggested a No. 10 can. With salt, the swampy liquor of pinto beans with shredded meat could become a player. Ray’s also carries slaw and potato salad.
Dessert: The man behind the counter pointed to a bunch of bananas and said, “I’ve got the pudding, and I’ve got the bananas, but I forgot the cookies.” No banana pudding today. No cake or cobbler. Just a pre-made cornflake crunch bar with peanut butter better left in its wrapper.
Mike Sutter’s BBQ City Limits
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)