BBQ Texas: Saying goodbye to Curly’s Carolina, TX

Curly’s Carolina, TX Barbeque
112 E. Main St., Round Rock (map), 512-537-9227,
Hours: Curly's has closed
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 09.11.14
The danger of holding onto a review for “one more visit” is that sometimes the last visit never comes. Curly’s Carolina, TX closed Sept. 14, taking with it the hope that Austin's barbecue revival had the power to convert Round Rock, too.
Owner Jay Yates posted the news Sept. 10 on Facebook, saying in part: “It is with great sadness and tremendous heartache that I have to announce this, but Curly's Carolina Tx BBQ is closing. This Sunday will be our last day. ... This breaks my heart to have to do this, but we have been left with no other choices. We gave it a great run from the trailer to a brick and mortar building, and for that I am truly thankful. ... This was the hardest thing, but the most rewarding I have ever done.”
Yates opened Curly’s last year with John Brotherton. He had been running a trailer called Curly’s Perfect Pig, while Brotherton had his own Hall of Flame barbecue trailer. They carved the new business out of a limestone building along Round Rock’s cramped historical square, capitalizing on Yates’ flair with Carolina-style pulled pork and Brotherton’s finesse with Texas brisket. They succeeded with both. Watching Brotherton work the firebox door with a golf club was the most productive use of a sand wedge I’ve ever seen. Brotherton left the business early this year, but he left a legacy of brisket that reminded me of wine coolers in college — it started out so smooth and velvety that before I knew it, I’d gone through a four-pack and fallen asleep during Pink Floyd’s  “The Wall” at the Union Theater. Memories.
I’ve come to know pulled pork in the last few years. It can be as clean as chicken or gamey as roadkill. At Curly’s, it was a silky, marbled carrier for the shop’s spice-infused vinegar table sauce, an ideal mate for pan-fried cornbread with the crust and fluff of a campfire canape. The sides were as much an event as the meat itself: hush puppies like golden teardrops, crunchy Texas caviar, sparky wasabi slaw, rich cowboy beans, bright cucumber salad. And Curly’s mustard barbecue sauce was so thick with heat and cloves it was like smoking Djarum Blacks with your bohemian roommate.
You’ll have a few more days to taste for yourself. To have a lean, smoky pork rib or a Charleston sandwich and wonder how Round Rock couldn’t find a longterm place on its square or in its heart for barbecue like this.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)