BBQ City Limits: Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew
An ongoing series of barbecue reports from Austin. Not Llano, not Lockhart, not Taylor. Austin.
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew
6610 N. Lamar Blvd. in the Violet Crown Shopping Center. 512-380-9199, www.stilesswitchbbq.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 9 or 9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 03.01.12
The social media ministorm that preceded the opening of Stiles Switch BBQ in December and whether it was or wasn’t related to Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor turned out to be thunder with no lightning. So strong is the Mueller brand that when one of its former cooks goes somewhere else, the smoke trails follow him like whispers.
The fuss leap-frogged Stiles Switch to the ranks of the most talked-about Austin barbecue joints of the moment, behind Franklin Barbecue and the JMueller BBQ trailer. It bumped Sam’s after last summer’s trouser-brisket scandal and the bold entry of Live Oak Barbecue the spring before. The website bio for Stiles Switch owner Shane Stiles and pitmaster Lance Kirkpatrick is squeaky-clean of Mueller references.
Brisket is king at Stiles Switch. No other meat, side, dessert or $3.75 craft-brewed pint of local beer in the big warehouse of a shop can touch it. It’s $6.99 a half-pound. Ask for lean and you get tight, dense meat similar to other earnest efforts around town, with medium smoke and a quarter-inch of rosy smoke ring under a modest, grainy black crust. Ask for fatty and you get something like beef’s version of a chocolate birthday cake. The crust glistens like frosting, and just like a cake, it’s that thick layer where the flavor gathers in greatest concentration. Below that is a half-inch of rose-colored madness, followed by meat whose velvet, fatty character doesn’t drift far from the cake metaphor, either. Always ask for fatty.
Stiles Switch could pull up a seat at the smoker and have a conversation with Franklin and JMueller about brisket. And we’d line up to listen in. Pork ribs and sausage are a different conversation. On two visits, the ribs ($6.50 a half-pound) were barely pink turning to white, undercooked beneath a skin smoked to a shadowy yellow under a heavy cloak of black pepper. They don’t make their own sausages, but the ones they get from the Thorndale Meat Market smoke up nicely, with a solid balance of popped skin, fat and spice for $2.95 a link.
The pork steak and beef ribs? I’d rather not talk about those. My pork steak was easily a pound of meat from the shoulder for a bargain flat price of $7.50, but it was undercooked to the point that the fat clung to the meat with living tensile strength, and it chewed like an eraser, almost as pink in the middle. The beef rib ($6.50 a half-pound) went the other way, charred to the bone like a lonely briquette of meat on a bone twice its size.
Two sides: A friend ordered potato salad that was like mustard-mayo mashers. But my curiosities drove me to a cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw turned glowing yellow with lemon dressing. With pepper heat and a citrus scour, it was like a culinary Wet-Nap, a palate cleanser for what’s next. By contrast, corn casserole was cornbread turned to bread pudding like sweet yellow custard, with whole kernels and a blanket of toasted cheese. Each side is $1.75.
Dessert: I didn’t see a sliced banana in a bowl of banana pudding ($3.50), but I tasted it in a swirl of vanilla pudding shot through with liquefying vanilla wafers. They had chocolate banana pudding one day I was there. Who on earth eats chocolate banana pudding if they’re older than 9?
Sauce: Thick, sweet and brownish red with black pepper heat. You get the sense they’d rather you didn’t use it, because their meat doesn’t touch the stuff until you do the deed yourself.
Mike Sutter’s BBQ City Limits
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)