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

An ongoing series of barbecue reports from Austin. Not Llano, not Lockhart, not Taylor. Austin.
Smokey Mo’s Bar-B-Q
6001 W. Parmer Lane. 918-0002,
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 03.29.12
With 11 locations in Central and South Texas, Smokey Mo’s is one of those reliably open places to fill up your tank with meat and sauce. For a two-meat combo plate ($8.95 with two sides), I went with brisket and pork ribs and asked what else they do well. “Well-done?” they joked. “We don’t do anything well-done.” And it’s all fun and games until the brisket has patches of fat so undercooked you can still see an opalescent glimmer of blood. The fat-to-lean trim was well-proportioned on the pieces that had cooked all the way through, but if you blindfolded me, I couldn’t have identified this as smoked meat. It tasted like roast, even on the slices with the dry-rub shell left on.
Pork ribs carried a nice pink meat cap with soft, almost mealy pork and a grainy red-spice rub, the main source of flavor from ribs that took some of the same lessons in taste from their brisket cousins. I added a half-link of sausage for $2.31 that left the same impression as the other two meats, mainly that they could have come as easily from a kitchen oven as a smoker. In Smokey Jo’s favor, the men behind the counter were energetic and helpful, a happy counterpart to a strip mall that feels both new and already half-abandoned. I just wish they had more to be energetic about.
Two sides: Small details hurt Smokey Mo’s, like parchment skin left on onions at the condiment bar and the bristled remains of an eye left on a piece of buttered potatoes, a side dish that if it had its own jellybean flavor, it would just be “starch,” because that’s all you get from the skin-on chunks of russet and red potatoes. School cafeterias would recognize the mushy corn on the cob here, except that it doesn’t even pretend to taste like corn. Nor anything else.
Dessert: Cherry cobbler ($2.19) looks and tastes like a fruit Danish from a vending machine, with red syrup that’s much too red, sprinkled with pastry that’s much too yellow and cherries that belong in a drink with an umbrella.
Sauce: Smokey Mo’s would really like for you to buy a bottle of sauce. I’m fairly sure those are weight-bearing bottles framing the front counter. And each small table holds four quart-size glass soldiers from the red army. You know what? It’s decent table sauce when used sparingly, a ketchupy red sweetened with brown sugar and hopped up with vinegar and hot pepper spice.
Mike Sutter’s BBQ City Limits
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)