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Hill Country, TX


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Arguably the best beef bbq in Texas (which for most means the world) is only an hour or so out of San Antonio in Luling at the Luling City Market. Either google this or look at one of the many lengthy threads of eG about TX bbq. This place is THE standard which most agree on. Rudy's has the "experience" and ambience out near Six Flags Fiesta Texas but most of the Q is far behind what can be found in Hill Country or about halfway between San Antonio and Austin. Over the years I've eaten at most of the bbq joints/groceries/roadhouses/farms (Salt Lick) mentioned in books or on boards. Yet today, when I have the time, I'll drive the two + hours roundtrip to Luling and return to the City Market. This link is from Roadfood's website: http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Writeup.as...D=583&RefID=583 Excellent photos and note the total agreement that it is worth a 100 mile pilgramage, Roadfood's highest compliment!
It seems like all this discussion of places outside of San Antonio, along with my recent visit to the area, merits a separate thread.

I had my heart set on some brisket from the City Market, especially after a long drive from Houston. Alas, the City Market is closed on Sundays, a detail not readily available on the websites where I looked for information. However, arriving in Luling the week after the annual "Watermelon Thump" gave us the opportunity to check out the huge variety of watermelons for sale in the open air market across the road. We even got to see the year's winner - a 77 pounder! We took one (not 77 lbs, but still pretty big) for the road.

After heading off (in what turned out to be the wrong direction) toward Lockhart in search of Kreuz, we wound up at the Gristmill in quaint Gruene (pronounced Green). This old gristmill (as one would expect) has several outdoor decks perched above the Guadalupe River and a large menu with a variety of American and Tex-Mex items to choose from. We had to start with the obligatory "Texas Torpedos" (aka jalapeno poppers) - a perfectly satisying version, stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in a crispy breading. I went with the Tomatillo Chicken for my main. I really enjoyed it - a large breast grilled to a perfect state of juiciness and topped with a tomatillo verde sauce. The chicken was very flavorful and the sauce was tangy and slightly spicy. The best part for me was the spicy bean sauce on which the rest of the dish was floating. Not quite refried beans and not quite borracho beans, the smoky/spciy coarsely pureed pintos (I think) were a great complement to the chicken and the "green-ness" of the sauce. For a side I went with the "Gruene" beans - a bit too salty and overcooked for my taste. My traveling/dining companion went with the special of a half rack of ribs and a side of the cold baked potato salad. The ribs were huge, beefy, and cooked to not-quite-falling off the bone doneness. The meat was moist, the sauce was rich and flavorful. The potato salad was just as the name implies - cold, with all the things you'd expect to see on top of a baked potato. For something approaching $40 (3 beers included), this was a very good value in a lovely setting.

Now...as for these claims of the best 'cue...I think they have competition in the form of "Riverside #9, just south of the Crossing #2 on the Guadalupe River. This guy can smoke some brisket! And for $3.00 for a HUGE sandwich, you can't beat it. Even better, it can be reached by car or by tube ;) I even had to fight off what I'm sure is a budding foodie for my sandwich. The young man beached his tube and beat a path up to the canopy-covered table asking for 5 sandwiches and making a move for mine as the proprietor started to set it on the table. He was told to wait his turn, which fortunately wasn't too long coming. Soon we exchanged appreciative glances and nods as we both enjoyed our lunch. The smoked sausage (only from Granzin's meat market in New Braunfels) was a tasty 50-50 beef/pork combo with a coarse texture, perhaps a bit too long in the smoker, but still pretty darn good and $4.00 for a wrap. Smoked in a steel tank dating from the early 1900s, this was some of the tasty brisket I've ever had. The walls of the tank are so thick that only one fire pan of wood (sorry if this isn't the correct terminology) is needed for the overnight smoking process.

In Startzville, the Comal Cafe offers good, cheap Mexican food for breakfast and lunch. I wasn't brave enough to try the lengua or tripita tacos ($1.20 each) but the Migas breakfast was filling and the Huevos Rancheros satisfied the +1's need for something closer to a standard breakfast. The homemade tortillas and refried beans accompaniment ensured that breakfast lasted well into the afternoon.

The Old Sattler Bakery and Cafe looked like they served up a nice variety for breakfast and lunch, with dinners also available on Friday and Saturday. We just grabbed some baked goods - the pecan rolls were huge, gooey, and had a generous sprinkling of pecans on top. The Ranger cookies...OMG, they were excellent - crispy, chewy - no idea what's in 'em, but I can't wait to have the one I brought home with me.

Well, City Market wasn't open on the way in, but they were hopping on the way out. We brought home a pound each of ribs and brisket and a couple sausages. All, as Joe H. has described, some of the best out there (but I do think that guy I mentioned above may be putting out just be as good, if not even better, brisket). A huge part of it is definitely the atmosphere. There's something about walking into that back room that feels like you're entering a secret clubhouse. The very nice man who fixed us up wondered "What do you all do for food back there" when we told him where we were from :P . We told him it wasn't the same, but we managed to get by on a few places that are pretty good (Mighty Midget) and some friends that can smoke a mean butt on occasion :unsure: . Gotta run, that brisket's warm and I'm hungry!

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