BBQ City Limits: The Stallion Grill

An ongoing series of barbecue reports from Austin. Not Llano, not Lockhart, not Taylor. Austin.
Day 23: The Stallion Grill
5201 Airport Blvd. 380-9433,
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 03.23.12
JANUARY 2014 UPDATE: The Stallion Grill has closed.
I’ve always known the Stallion as a blue-collar lunchroom with white trucks outside and meatloaf inside. It’s a part of this series because the second-biggest letters on the Stallion marquee say “Bar-B-Que,” even if the result argues otherwise. Smoked meat — and the Stallion uses a wood-fed rotary smoker — doesn’t need to taste like pork candy the way a pair of spareribs did, bringing a caramelized sorghum hide over tough, dehydrated meat with an unsettling half-rancid underglow. Ribs were part of a two-meat plate with two sides for $12.24. I have to give the Stallion credit for a better-than-average brisket, with a quarter-inch smoke ring, meat with a good fat-to-lean ratio and a well-glazed crust. But they finished it somewhere along the line with a careless splash of sauce that left the same sugary aftertaste as the ribs.
Wait, sorry. My train of thought was interrupted by the possessed and the repossessed screaming at each other on the room’s lone and loud TV in an infinite loop of stupid and loud. It’s a marked contrast to a crew that can’t do enough for you. Even though the Stallion is a cafeteria-style line, they’re regular visitors to the table, checking on water and food and “anything else we can do for you.”
Oh, sausage. They have it here, from a company in Llano. A small link is $2, and the Stallion puts a little heat to it, but they’re not to blame for its SaltSicle personality. I might have tried chicken instead, but the leg quarters on the service line looked like they’d been baked and dressed with barbecue sauce. If they were smoked, it’s the cleanest smoke I’ve ever seen.
Two sides: A saving grace at the Stallion has always been the steam table full of sides like stewed cabbage, sweet potatoes and simple buttered carrots. They also have barbecue staples like slaw and potato salad, and any of those would have been better than blotchy, flavorless black-eyed peas. But I’ve never gone wrong with stemmy collard greens stewed in tomato and fatty bacon.
Dessert: One word for a stainless pan full of steaming peach cobbler ($1.99): Resist. It’s not worth the calories for thickened canned peaches tangled in cobbler crust as stretchy and indestructible as taffy.
Sauce: Oops. A jar of tomato sauce fell into a bigger jar of Log Cabin syrup. Sprinkle some black pepper in it and call it a day. I just wish they hadn’t sauced the brisket before it got to me.
Mike Sutter’s BBQ City Limits
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)