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I went to Uchi recently and LOVED it.  The sushi was amazing.  I sat at the sushi bar, and the sushi chef was super nice and friendly.  And the sushi was amazing.

I also went to Qui and was impressed by the service, but the food was not as memorable.

Whislers (near Qui) was a cool cocktail bar.

And if you don't want to brave the line at Franklin's, try La Barbeque.  Still a line, but not as long (near Whislers and Qui).

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Micklethwait Craft Meats

Is this what Franklin Barbecue was? A blog time ago, before becoming the most popular barbecue restaurant in the country, back when Aaron Franklin was serving modest crowds out of a non-descript trailer?

If so, everyone in Austin should be enjoying the chance to eat at Micklethwait in its current form. Even after three years of operation, walking up to their trademark yellow trailer during Friday lunch hour puts you in a line only a dozen customers deep, and with the full menu available (driving past Franklin Barbecue a half mile away, masses were still waiting to get in their door).

The criminally short wait belies one of the best meals in Texas.

The brisket ($18/pound) is excellent if you're judging the standard of Central Texas barbecue, pork spare ribs ($17/pound) are better than most, and the beef rib ($20/pound) has everything you look for in a beef rib. It's the other meats where Tom Micklethwait stands out, however -- starting with a selection of house-made sausages that rotates often. On my trip it was a kielbasa ($16/pound), rich in sage from their garden, and the best sausage I've ever eaten in Austin, Taylor, Lockhart or Dallas. Absolutely perfect in every way and worth a trip on its own.

Beef strip loin ($18/pound) is an uncommon selection at a Texas smokehouse, but the beautifully pink slices, wrapped in a crusty bark, would fly out of a steakhouse at $40 a plate. The barbacoa ($14/pound) is a nod to South Texas barbecue; find a stack of warm tortillas and you've got the most delicious street taco ever. Pulled goat ($18/pound) is a Saturday-only special I missed, but I can't imagine it being any less than amazing.

Side dishes are must-orders here, which is another departure from most barbecue spots (Franklin included). Lemon poppy seed cole slaw ($2) is a mayo-less refresher amidst all the meat, with a little kale and citrus going a long way. Potato salad ($2) is traditional yet better than a majority of places, thanks to the fresh dill and bits of red pepper. Ranch-style beans ($2) are phenomenal. The barbecue sauce seems a bit too vinegary on its own, but balances wonderfully when mixed in a chopped beef sandwich. Even the standard white bread and pickles are baked and pickled on-site.

A house-made chocolate moon pie ($3.75) takes you through the finish line ribbon with arms raised in glory.

I've waited in line at Franklin (three years ago I showed up at 9 a.m. on a weekday and was among the first dozen; reports of people now lining up before 7 a.m. have me doubting ever returning), regularly eat at the excellent Pecan Lodge, and visited most of the Hill Country old school temples (Louie Mueller, Black's, Smitty's, Kreuz"¦still missing Snow's). But if anyone was to say that Micklethwait has the best overall barbecue in the state, I wouldn't disagree.

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Qui

The namesake and flagship restaurant from the James Beard Award-winning, Top Chef-conquering Paul Qui has been on my must-visit list since its inception. Nearly three years after opening, the nightly Instagram paparazzi has faded, service has been polished, and the confusing small plates plus family-style menu streamlined into two tasting options. The newness has worn off and systems have been put in place -- making it the perfect time to finally dine here.

Of course, the man himself no longer has to lead the kitchen on a Friday night, and I'm assuming his absences are more normal than his visits. Also not present was the chef de cuisine, Jorge Hernandez (formerly of Minibar), but it seems like Qui has learned from his senpai and attracted a deep roster of talent: his sous chefs handled the open kitchen during my meal without a hitch.

The dining room at Qui is tasting menu only ($70 standard and $55 for the vegetable option). There is also a six-seat counter that does a different, more modernist tasting menu ($120) which is available through ticketed reservations.

Gin & tonic / Ford's gin, Takara plum wine, Bittermens "Commonwealth" tonic cordial, Topo Chico ($14) -- Topo Chico in a gin and tonic! A palm-to-forehead moment for not realizing this amazing combination a half-decade ago.

Hiyashi chawanmushi, almond dashi, smoked trout roe, marcona praline -- Beautifully plated and ingredients that read like a winner, yet lacking any memorable flavor. The cold custard was flat-tasting and only a dab or two of the roe added anything to the dish.

Whipped lardo, carrot, jamon iberico, goat milk yogurt, chervil -- At this point I was scared for the rest of my meal. The foamed lardo was nondescript, washing over the muted carrots and bits of supreme quality ham with bad synergy.

Confit sunchoke, pork blood, coconut vinegar, black lime, pickled garlic -- Just as they were about to lose me, pig blood comes to the rescue. This was a basically a few sunchokes with garnishes, but the velvety, rich pork blood sauce was phenomenal. The first "wow" moment of the night.

Confit hen of the woods, egg yolk, sal de gusano, rosemary­ -- A delicious bit of confit fungus. "Mushroom with a few drops of egg yolk and toasted bread crumbs" would be a simpler description, albeit less sexy.

Arroz caldo, crispy pig face, Island Creek oyster, pasilla chile -- Congee served with delectably crunchy pork bits wafting throughout. A plump oyster hidden at the bottom of the bowl was a pleasant finish.

Strube Ranch ribeye, grilled brassicas, rat tail radish, sakura beef broth -- This one didn't work for me. A ribeye involtini that was difficult to cut and not especially flavorful. The wrapped brassica was nicely done, however, and the well-attended, extremely clear broth was the best part of the dish.

Maja de camote, sweet potato pudding, ginger yogurt sorbet, binchotan seared meringue -- One of the best desserts I've ever had. The presentation was also fun, as the meringue topper is seared table-side using a white-hot piece of Japanese charcoal (maybe not the best practice for the liability insurance). The hot and cold, restrained sweetness, balanced composition -- all perfection.

I had talked myself into doing both tastings beforehand, so with very little prodding by the wait staff it was time to tackle the vegetable side of things. At this point I also have to commend the exemplary service. Despite a "laid-back", "unpretentious" reputation, the service procedures were what you would expect from a formal fine dining experience: tables wiped down with a hot towel between courses, unobtrusive but feedback-seeking servers, and pace-of-meal adjustments to your liking (I preferred the courses come out faster).

Before I had even mentioned a second tasting, one server brought up the suggestion himself -- thoughtfully delaying the dessert of the first menu until all savories were finished. There was never that lingering moment where you think to ask for something, because they always anticipated your needs.

Coliflor con migas, brown butter, pea tendril, caper -- Purple cauliflower served room temperature with a little extra umami. A pleasant start.

Lettuce, crème fraiche, apple, brassicas, pine nut -- This was a standout among both menus. The lettuce had been smoked (or grilled?), mixing beautifully with the rest of the ingredients.

Trumpet royale, hedgehog, yamaimo, purple mustard, mojo de ajo -- Another mushroom plating, but far superior to the regular menu. The herbed mojo sauce was addicting and went brilliantly with the roasted mushrooms and yams.

Smoked beet, black vinegar, toasted seaweed, shiso -- Not much new to be done with beets these days. A 12-hour smoke and Asian garnishes were a decent try.

Rice noodle pancit, shiitake, cabbage, black garlic, grain broth -- I haven't eaten many Filipino noodles before, but I imagine these were among the better versions. Rustic and comforting.

Sweet potato, smoked goat feta, onion, heart of palm, miso, tumeric -- Hearty, and reminiscent of a pasta course: grated cheese on top, onion in the background, and textures that mimicked marinara. Make the sweet potatoes into gnocchi and it'd be great Italian fusion.

Parsnip panna cotta, toasted farro ice cream, huckleberry, toffee, honey tuile, walnut -- I wish I could give proper credit to the pastry genius behind these two spectacular desserts. Monica Glenn led the department as recently as last summer, but there's no mention of her on the updated website bios page. Regardless, the dessert itself was another masterclass in textures (best ice cream in town), balance, and simply elegant composition. I am not a fan of impractical art display desserts, or the quenelle plus scattered crumbles and shards plating.

Cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich ($12) -- Perhaps as a dare after 14 courses, I was presented the pulatan a la carte menu, which is usually restricted to the bar and patio spaces. Challenge accepted. One of two dishes from the opening menu still hanging around, this was an ice cream cookie sandwich made memorable by the salty cheese filling and airy waffle crackers encasing it. Presented with a warm towel because you should only eat this with your hands.

Jamon iberico -- A gift from the chefs working the six-seat $120 tasting menu. So much better than the dish it was being used for, and a great gesture as well.

Qui seems at its best when the chef reaches into his Filipino handbook and adds his own style. Pork blood dinuguan, rice porridge, spicy noodles, cheese ice cream (a national favorite)"¦it's almost as if Qui is a fine dining Filipino restaurant without trying to be one. There were a few examples where high-level technique did not translate into high-level flavor, so I understand the criticisms, but I enjoyed the overall experience quite a bit by the time I walked back out to 6th Street. A unique restaurant worth consideration.

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I'm heading to Austin in November for a conference and was wondering if there are any recommendations for a group dinner (6 folks) in the $75 a head (all in) range?

Also, as I'll have an evening there basically solo - any recommendations for bourbon or craft beer bars?

Thanks in advance!

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la Barbecue

For a couple of years la Barbecue was known as the trailer where true Austin residents went for their barbecue. It was opened by Louie Mueller’s granddaughter, LeAnn, and one of her first acts after kicking out her brother was to hire John Lewis -- who worked for Aaron Franklin at the time.

It was a great backstory (Lewis wouldn’t agree to become pitmaster if LeAnn kept the Mueller name, so she came up with a compromise using her first name), and the meats lived up to the origin. Enthusiasts bragged about going to la Barbecue, with shorter waits and briskets that were as good or even better than Lewis’ mentor.

Lewis is long gone, however. He moved to Charleston and opened his own place, cornering the Central Texas barbecue market in South Carolina while being able to put his name on the door. In the (roughly) two years since Lewis left, Mueller is on her second pitmaster -- Dylan Taylor, an early twenties kid who trained under Lewis himself.

And so the cycle continues. The brisket at la Barbecue is still exceptionally good, and while I haven’t been to Franklin annually to compare (once is enough at this point), I can’t imagine there is much of a gulf separating the two. This is brisket at its most hedonistic -- the difference between lean and fatty is negligible at times, because it’s *all* fatty. That’s a byproduct of the arms race around Texas barbecue joints, as everyone tries to buy better grades of meat and render the most fat per inch. It’s gotten to the point where I’m asking for lean at the chopping block these days, as getting through even a slice of moist brisket can be nap-inducing.

To be honest, my favorite part of la Barbecue is their ribs. They require just the right amount of jawing at, with the reward being a smoky, balanced bite that lingers in the memory. I’m not sure how they glaze them, or what spices are used, but it’s an incredible end product. I’d even say they are the second best pork ribs I’ve eaten in Texas over the past several years (City Market being the best).

Lewis was making his own version of hot guts sausages before he left, and the last time I had them they were quite solid. Not super spicy or remarkable otherwise, just a very good in-house sausage. Their beef ribs aren’t going to disappoint anyone either, although my previous ramblings on brisket fat marbling apply tenfold to these things.

Sides are mere palate cleansers here; worth a shot if you’re interested but don’t go overloading on them. Their potato salad is the kind where you can use an ice cream scoop and it won’t lose its shape for the rest of the day, so you know where you stand on that. Pintos are fine. Chipotle slaw is a southwest tweak but not really my thing in this case.

Lastly, the line. Although I mentioned la Barbecue was sort of an insider’s haven when it first opened, the wait on prime days has long been brutal, and only eclipsed by Franklin. So you can easily melt away 2-4 hours on a Saturday. That said, Franklin is *always* busy, and I’ve managed to be one of the first dozen in line at la Barbecue on a chilly weekday right at 11 am.

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5 hours ago, will_5198 said:

la Barbecue

The brisket at la Barbecue is still exceptionally good, and while I haven’t been to Franklin annually to compare (once is enough at this point), I can’t imagine there is much of a gulf separating the two. This is brisket at its most hedonistic -- the difference between lean and fatty is negligible at times, because it’s *all* fatty. That’s a byproduct of the arms race around Texas barbecue joints, as everyone tries to buy better grades of meat and render the most fat per inch. It’s gotten to the point where I’m asking for lean at the chopping block these days, as getting through even a slice of moist brisket can be nap-inducing.

We stopped by several weeks ago while on a weekend jaunt to Austin with the boys.  The line was about 1.5 hrs at noonish when we were there, but it was a beautiful warm weekend day.  The brisket at LA Barbecue was among the best I've had.  I'd love to have it side by side with Killen's in Pearland, and Houston newcomer The Pit Room.  We ate at Louis Mueller's a couple days before, but I opted for the beef rib there (which lives up to its legendary status), so can't compare the two places directly.  The pork ribs at City Meat Market (the one in Giddings) still rank at or near the top of my rib list, but I haven't been to City Market in Luling just yet.

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Here's a question about waiting in lines, which I hate to do for food or beer but will if necessary.  Next summer I will be going to Austin for the first time but will only be there for two nights and one day.  I have a hard time justifying to my wanderlust self that with a whole city to explore and one day to do it, anything more than 30 minutes waiting in a line for BBQ is worth what I'd be missing out.  Is it unavoidable for really good BBQ?    Are the places without the long waits not nearly as good?  Is Micklethwait Craft Meats my answer (or one of my answers)?

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8 hours ago, Seanchai said:

Is Micklethwait Craft Meats my answer (or one of my answers)?

Summer is probably a little worse, but I just ate at Micklethwait last Saturday at 11:30 am and there was about 20 of us total. Took about a half hour from getting in line to receiving my food (a few sausages, jalapeno cheese grits, a divine version of Frito pie with brisket on top, and a noteworthy slice of pecan pie). It was also only 30 degrees, so there's that.

Stiles Switch is about six miles north, and is a full sit-down restaurant I've had good experiences at. It’s not the best barbecue in Austin, but it’s very good -- and tastes even better when considering the ample indoor seating, friendlier hours (open until 9 p.m.) and a lack of line-waiting endurance training. If you drive up right when they open you'll be among the first served, and immediately. 

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5 hours ago, will_5198 said:

Stiles Switch is about six miles north, and is a full sit-down restaurant I've had good experiences at. It’s not the best barbecue in Austin, but it’s very good -- and tastes even better when considering the ample indoor seating, friendlier hours (open until 9 p.m.) and a lack of line-waiting endurance training. If you drive up right when they open you'll be among the first served, and immediately. 

I couldn't deal with long lines in 90 degree and humid heat when I was in Austin a couple of years ago. I got carry out from Stiles Switch and quite enjoyed it. They were named one of maybe 20 best barbecue places in Austin by some local publication for whatever that's worth.

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Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

When chefs in New York clamor to open their own barbecue restaurant ("Brooklyn-style BBQ"…and people say Texans are arrogant), and 30-somethings plan vacations around Pujol instead of Noma, it’s a wonder why smoked meats and Mexican cuisine haven't developed a deeper relationship within Texas itself.

Sure, there are brisket enchiladas and tacos, but those are filled with pot roast, not true ‘cue (delicious as it is regardless). Smoked barbacoa is also found in a few places around the state, but that’s another rarity.

Enter Miguel Vidal. The San Antonio native opened Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ (his daughter’s name) in 2013, a food truck that would meld the state’s favorite two cuisines. And that he’s done, to amazing results.

The first great aspect of Valentina’s smoked brisket taco ($5) is that you can order one at 8 am. Real barbecue before lunch hour is a minor miracle, and that alone would make a visit compulsory (shout-out to Snow's).

Aside from making mornings a better place for everyone, the taco itself is perfect fusion: a friendly portion of chopped moist brisket, smashed avocado, hint of lime, and a large, handmade flour tortilla that dutifully cradles it all. Salsa roja that’s heavy on cilantro and serranos comes on the side, and a necessary addition.

Taken together, and a number of swirling questions enter the mind between every incredible bite: Why hadn’t we thought to put guacamole and salsa on a fatty slab of smoked brisket yet? Why have we confined beautiful brisket to boring sandwich rolls, when a warm, griddle-kissed tortilla can do the same job? Why haven’t I visited this trailer until now?

If that masterpiece doesn’t do it for you, breakfast hours (until 11 am) offer The Real Deal Holyfield ($6.50) as a dare. For this version the brisket is sliced regularly, laid atop a combination of beans and potatoes, then topped with a fried egg and slice of crisp bacon. Yes, that’s all correct. To me it’s almost too much, but I support the fact it exists.

As stunning as both those tacos are, my personal winner is the carnitas taco ($4.50). Another heaping portion of meat, this time the juiciest smoked pork you can imagine, resting over sautéed onions and topped with fresh cilantro. Don’t forget to liberally apply the tomatillo salsa and you have one of the best tacos in Austin city limits (or anywhere, for that matter).

Brisket by the pound, beef ribs, and the usual barbecue sandwiches are also available if so inclined. One note: although Austin is a post-oak world, Vidal goes mesquite in his pit -- despite the traditional naysayers, I never tasted an errant bitter bite. Plus it adds another layer of uniqueness to the entire operation.

The real reason to be at Valentina’s is the tacos, though. They are a simple idea executed brilliantly, and provoke an urge to return the very next day, order another round, then try everything else you haven’t had yet. Which is the best endorsement anyone can give to a restaurant.

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Barley Swine

Four years ago I had one of the best meals of my life in a little 35-seat restaurant off South Lamar.

Since then, Barley Swine has only gotten bigger and better. In January 2016 they moved into a brand new space at Burnet Road, which is on the other side of Austin, and were able to upgrade everything. Seating has doubled. There is a bar program now (no liquor was served at the original). The open kitchen is three times the size, with dedicated grill and pastry sections that barely existed before.

Chef Bryce Gilmore remains front and center, however. I make a point to visit yearly, and each dinner has left me with a deeper appreciation for what he does. Despite running another successful restaurant at full steam (Odd Duck), Gilmore bucks most trends by relentlessly improving his flagship.

Barley Swine 2.0 now has two-tops (the original was communal tables and bar seating only), a private patio, a la carte as well as a full tasting menu (previous versions were either or). Yet the place to be is still the chef's counter, a long row that looks directly into the open kitchen. You’re right in front of the garde manger, flanked by the busy grill and with a great view of the center island that constitutes the pass. That’s where Gilmore will be, and I’ve never seen him without a mechanical focus on every single process going on in his kitchen.

Kooper Family Rye ($10)

Austin-made rye. Very light, and smooth.

Chef’s tasting ($90)

There are several fantastic options a la carte, including a shiitake pasta and pig skin noodles (both are not as simple as they seem) that have remained on the menu since the restaurant’s relocation. Also make sure to order any fish entrees if they’re available; a filet of red snapper with koji butter eaten here remains one of the best dishes I’ve had in lifetime memory.

The tasting menu is my preferred option, though.

Sweet potato, goat cheese, smoked trout roe

After a complimentary glass of sparkling, this amuse was more of a technique-exhibit than anything. A puffed sweet potato bite filled with goat cheese and topped with roe. Basically a loaded potato chip.

Beet-cured mackerel, sugar snap pea

Not sure how much beet flavor is imparted, but a beautiful slice of red-stained fish in a pea broth. I guess winter peas in Texas is a thing, due to the extremely hot temperatures in early spring and late fall combined with a lack of frosts. Delicate and delicious.

Sunchoke custard, fried skins

Anyone else tired of sunchokes yet? Gilmore uses them even more than most chefs, but I always find his versions enjoyable. This was a super-concentrated custard, served with fried sunchoke skins dabbed with devil egg topping. Starchy fried skins are something I've seen at other places, and I get why they’re popular. Here was a great example of every component being perfectly seasoned and delicious on its own, but even better and not overwrought when you put them in a single bite.

Ember roasted squash, mesquite, toasted seeds

A single slice of squash with its charred skin left on. The assertive roasted flavors were unabashed here, but what set this off were the bits of chocolate miso sauce on top. Sweet, smoky and bitter all in play and harmonious. Barley Swine pays attention to vegetables, and it shows.

Red shrimp, cauliflower, tangerine

Wow. A single exemplary shrimp, surrounded by a pool of cauliflower sauce that had been previously roasted and aerated just a bit at service. Gilmore has long used these slightly foamed sauces, giving them a lightness without verging on the abstract. The tangerine sauce was incredibly vivid, dotting the white cauliflower for a beautiful contrast in visuals and taste.

Dry aged beef, broth, seeded loaf

The best part of this dish was a separate cube of flax seed loaf. The outside was baked to an addicting golden brown crunch, with a moist crumb dotted with nuts. On top was a slab of extra cheesy arugula pesto. Combined it ate like an abstract steakhouse side; the heartiness of bread and butter mixed with a pesto mimicking a spinach gratin. Oh yeah, the steak was nice as well. Served in a bowl with oyster mushrooms and bone broth poured tableside.

Pork belly, cabbage, gulf XO sauce

Sous-vide then finished on the grill. Sausage filled with shrimp mousse -- or rather, shrimp mousse wrapped within a sausage. More technique exhibition, but tasty.

Duck, broccoli, fried duck egg

A stunning final savory course. Duck breast lacquered and rosy rare to the best anyone can do it. A single piece of grilled broccoli. Another foamed sauce, blank white but tasting exactly of fried egg. Perfect bites that’ll be remembered.

Apple, lemongrass, koji rice pudding

Approachable but still creative. Rice pudding was served cold, topped with a quenelle of ice cream and crunchy bits. Koji has been splattered over every tasting menu the last year, but I haven't found a reason to complain yet. Pastry chef Susana Querejazu has been with Gilmore since 2014, running desserts both here and at Odd Duck, and is extremely talented.

Dark chocolate, winter nuts, milk jam

Traditional dark chocolate tart done extremely well. A little sea salt, caramel corn, candied orange peel. I favor lots of cacao and small portions when it comes to chocolate, so this was speaking to me.

Mignardises

Macaron and a pate de fruit.

Gilmore uses preparations and flavors seen at other trendsetting restaurants world-wide, but there’s a sincerity to every dish that you can’t get from copying technique. Each bite is perfectly seasoned on its own, but even better together and never overreaching. I have yet to taste anything here that's less than fabulous.

Gilmore is long overdue for a James Beard award (this year will be his fifth straight nomination for Best Chef Southwest), and is still running Barley Swine with the utmost command and precision. If you visit Austin, you must go. This is the best restaurant in Texas.

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On ‎6‎/‎16‎/‎2011 at 2:41 PM, edenman said:

Franklin's BBQ. Moved about a year ago from a converted trailer to an actual brick/mortar at East 11th and Branch (just off I-35). Best fatty brisket I've ever had. No contest. Just amazing. Go.

A MacGyver of Slow-Cooked Meats at Franklin Barbecue, by Pete Wells, March 14, 2017, on nytimes.com

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I was in Austin this weekend and arose early Saturday to make the trek to Snow's BBQ. Snow's is located in Lexington, Texas - a very small town about one hour east of Austin. It has also been named 'The Best BBQ in Texas' by Texas Monthly magazine on two occasions, last year beating out Franklin's for the title. They are open only on Saturday mornings and are typically out of meat by noon. 

For those few who haven't ready about Snow's, their story is as remarkable as their barbecue. Snow's pitmaster is Tootsie Tomanetz, an 82-year old woman who arrives at 2:30am every Saturday morning to smoke meat for the masses. During the week, she works in the maintenance department at the local school district. This spring, she was nominated for a James Beard award. A reporter who reached out to her after the nomination had to explain to her what it was. 

We pulled up at 6:30am sharp, and I was the 11th person in line. In front of us were a group of five men from Los Angeles who were doing a BBQ tour of Texas, hitting several places in a single day. By the time Snow's opened at 8am, there were roughly 60 people in line. The line provides a good view of the open pits, and I noticed Steven Raichlen was there, following Tootsie around and taking lots of notes. I wanted to say hello, but he was gone by the time we got our food.

Entering a small shed, you have a choice of ribs, chicken, turkey, sausage, pork butt, and brisket. I went with the brisket, sausage, pork butt, and some chicken to share with my companions. There is coleslaw and potato salad to buy, and free barbecued beans. I tried none of them, not wanting to waste valuable stomach space. There are a few tables inside, but ten picnic tables outside next to the pits are where you want to sit. 

The brisket was great, with good smoke and nicely rendered fat. Some of the lean parts were a tad dry but that is to be expected. I've read they use small briskets (5-6lbs) and only cook them for about six hours. The pork butt is the real star. They cut it into steaks about an inch thick, then cook it about 4-5 feet over hot coals for about six hours. Then the meat is carved into slices before serving. This is not a tender cut, but is salty and fatty with a nicely caramelized crust. I had read many people say the chicken is their favorite, and it is very good. It has the 'bite through' skin that is so important on the competition circuit, is nicely crispy and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. I thought I detected a hint of citrus in it (maybe lemon pepper?). The sausage was good as well, though not particularly noteworthy.

Was it the best barbecue I've ever eaten? It was up there, but probably not quite the best. Was it the best barbecue meal I've ever had? Unquestionably. 

You arrive in a tiny Texas town at sunrise. Exiting your vehicle, you can hear the cows rustling and mooing in the nearby cattleyard during the coolest part of the day. From your seat, you can look over the nearby fields while feeling the heat and smelling the smoke from the fire and watch these pitmasters at work while enjoying the fruits of their labor. It is an encapsulation of everything about Texas barbecue, and a reminder that meals are about experiences as much as food. I can't wait to return.

 

 

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Headed here for first time soon - any recommendations? preferably places that are kid friendly and also have vegetarian options too. Thanks

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Having been in Austin numerous times over the last few years, I've been meaning to post some of the (many) places we've liked. This post was a good reminder to do that. I unfortunately don't have much insight into vegetarian options, but many of these places are very laid back and pretty kid friendly:

"Buzzier" places

  • Kemuri Tatsu-Ya: Really cool place that mixes Japanese Izakaya type food with Texas barbecue. Phenomenal, unique food, and absurdly reasonable prices by DC standards. The brisket ramen is a standout, but a ton of good stuff there. 
  • Suerte: Mexican place specializing in masa. Some of the best Mexican I've ever had, and highly recommended. Goat barbacoa and squash tamale both excellent.

BBQ

  • Micklethwait Craft Meats: Just down the street from Franklin BBQ, and while I have no doubt Franklin is excellent, I have never had the slightest inclination to wait in that line given the quality of Mickethwait's. Fantastic Texas barbecue with top notch brisket, but they also do a lot of high-quality sides and some interesting specials (pulled lamb, excellent homemade sausages). Free beer while you wait in line, but if you hit it at like 11:30 on a Friday you won't have to wait much.
  • Valentina's: Honestly this might be one of my favorite places to eat, of any type, anywhere. Phenomenal Texas barbecue, but then done with a Tex-Mex spin into incredible tacos and tortas. The best flour tortillas I've ever had, and it doesn't get much better than their brisket, pulled chicken, and breakfast tacos. This place is pretty far south and it's a bit of a hike to get to, but is 100% worth it. If I could put any place anywhere in the DC area, it might be Valentina's.

Tacos

No shortage of great spots, but have enjoyed most:

  • Ñoños Tacos: In a gas station in north Austin. Excellent corn tortillas and highly traditional tacos. Closed Sundays.
  • Dos Batos: Also in north Austin. Less traditional, but with a good smoky flavor on everything.

Brewery/Winery

  • Jester King: Fantastic farmhouse brewery a bit outside of town in a gorgeous setting. Everything from great IPAs to some really cool sours and barrel-aged beers. Great place to spend an afternoon.
  • Lewis Wines: I enjoy wine, but am not remotely a wine expert. That being said, I was impressed by Texas wine country which had some (to my taste) really enjoyable wines, especially doing some Spanish and Italian varietals well. And just as good is that, while they seem to get grapes from all over Texas, many wineries are out in the Hill country which makes for an excellent day trip from Austin. And much more reasonable prices than the (absurdly priced) VA wineries. Lewis Wines has solid wine and an amazing setting with an open pavilion in an oak grove. The people there are super nice and it's about a very relaxing place to spend an afternoon. Also near Pedernales Falls state park, which is a great spot for a hike beforehand.
  • Hilmy Cellars: Not as relaxing or pleasant a spot as Lewis Wines, and much busier, but excellent wine (better than Lewis).

This of course barely cracks the surface of what's in Austin, but just sharing some places that have been highlights.

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