BBQ City Limits: Smokey J's Bar-B-Q

An ongoing series of barbecue reports from Austin. Not Llano, not Lockhart, not Taylor. Austin.
Smokey J’s Bar-B-Q
7008 RM 620 N. behind the gas pumps at the Speedy Stop. 331-4888, no website.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 03.22.12
There’s a woodpile in the back and the sign out front says “Bar-B-Q,” but I offer Smokey J’s as a cautionary tale for anybody who puts too much faith in either of those. It’s cheap and fast and charming if you like sitting on concession stand picnic tables behind a gas station beside one of Austin’s most clogged arteries. And if a $3.75 chopped-beef sandwich is all the barbecue you ever need, you’ve hit the jackpot. But I say if your beef needs a food processor, a cup of sticky-sweet sauce, pickle and a bun, your beef is running away from something. At Smokey J’s, it might be running away from becoming sliced brisket ($9.75/pound), which peels off like strips of keychain leather from the deli blade, which sits just a few feet away from vacuum-packed bags of beef jerky that hang like scarecrows. In school, they called this “foreshadowing.”
Smokey J’s doesn’t do ribs, so I tried to stop the downward spiral with smoked ham ($7.50/pound), but it proved to be the brisket’s cloven-hooved doppelganger, salty and dessicated with smoke along the top quarter-inch only. No help either from a link of beef-and-pork sausage ($7.50/pound), which looked and tasted like it might have been introduced to the smoker but never actually allowed inside.
Two sides: Potatoes two ways and that’s it. Chips for 75 cents or institutional-style mayo-mustard potato salad for a dollar. Barbecue-flavored Lay’s were supposed to be the fulcrum for a joke about how barbecue flavoring has about as much to do with barbecue as Mitt Romney has to do with NASCAR fans. But the chips ended up winning the nomination anyway.
Dessert: I couldn’t hear what the banana pudding ($1) was saying because it talked with its mouth full of vanilla wafers.
Sauce: Now I know where the chips got their flavor. Imagine that bag turned into a viscous gel. And it costs the same: 75 cents. Who charges for sauce? It’s like charging for ketchup with french fries.
Mike Sutter’s BBQ City Limits
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)