I hadn't intended to post further, but you guys were so sweet, you're making me nostalgic for something that's gone. So here you are:
We hit seven barbecue places in Texas, four in one day. In addition, there was fried chicken (Bubba's, Dallas), live Looziana crawfish (Flying Fish, Dallas), and a Jewish/Episcopal wedding featuring bizarre, mediocre catering.
Angelo's, Fort Worth
Sonny Bryan's so-called original location, Dallas
City Market, Luling
It is simply impossible to say which place has the best barbecue based on a single visit, any more than it is to say anything about the consistency of Michelin three stars based on single, or widely spaced visits. That said, we can eliminate Sonny Bryan's, which we stopped by just as a relic curiosity. We can also separate out Lambert's, which is a lovely, creative restaurant on 2nd Street tended by a young chef, Larry McGuire. We ordered wood-grilled chops and steak following house-made charcuterie, and a very good composed salad of watercress, pecans and Fredricksberg peaches. When the chef learned that we had been on the barbecue trail, he sent some over. It was very good, but it was not the same as the destination temples of meat. No mistake, though: Lambert's is a delightful place with very good food that can be recommended with confidence.
We chose the strategy of arriving early. At Angelo's, a place that never gets first tier ranking, the place was full and much beer was being consumed at 11:30 in the morning. When we reached the head of the line, I told the server we had come from New York especially to eat at Angelo's, and what did he recommend? Sliced brisket, of course, "off the high side." This expression, which I hadn't heard before, turned out to be the key to the entire experience. It means the thickest part of the point, or second cut, which yields a slice that includes the flap, a seam of fat, and the flat. So the carver obliged with several slices from a piece right off the smoker. It was simply incredible. Juice, fat, taste and texture (no sauce, no point) combined for an epiphany of taste. 9.5 out of 10, with 10 reserved for the Platonic Ideal. I had no idea that barbecued brisket could be this good. If you think Angelo's isn't in the game, you aren't playing the place right.
Down to Lockhart. At the first stop (because it's first on the road into town), I was put off by the new-made-to-look-old building at Kreuz's. We ordered sliced brisket, now confidently requesting it off the high side and getting a nod of understanding in return, again, right out of the smoker at 11:15 in the morning; prime rib, because someone said we had to, and a sausage. The brisket was perfectly juicy, with a very slight smoked flavor. The prime rib was simply a novelty that I wouldn't repeat. I didn't notice any special texture as the result of a low and slow treatment, if that is in fact what it got. The sausage was good, but it was an after thought. A bonus was some exceptional German sauerkraut. If you get there, don't miss this.
Next, Black's, where, whaddya know, a big fat brisket had just come out of the pit. Same interaction. Among a wealth of barbecue riches, we thought this was the best of the trip. Just the right smoke and that same incredible taste and texture. Here they are:
And guess what else? Black's ships (a lot) of 'cue to a certain NYC place that would otherwise attract little attention as destination. This was like finding out that Pierre Herme ships his macarons to an anonymous bakery in Astoria.
Smitty's: by far the most picturesque. There is a new eating hall, but the older portion survives, as does the original butcher shop. The sliced brisket was delicious but not memorable.
Same for City Market. It should be emphasized, though, that in these parts, City Market and Smitty's are still a solid A/A-, where Black's on this day and Angelo's were A+, with Kreuz's at an A.
We have a list, topped by Southside and Salt Lick in Elgin, but including Ironworks in town and a bunch more, all for the next time.
I noticed next door to Black's the Reyna Mexican bakery. Well, you can't keep me out of a bakery, so we passed by on the way home. they had closed just minutes before. A pantomime entreaty got the (adorable) young lady to open up for me. When I asked her which two items still remaining best represented her work, she chose a "concha", a shell-shaped, just very slightly sweet bread topped with a dusting of cinnamon flavored confectioner's sugar, and a pumpkin-filled empanada that was a masterpiece.
After that, we stopped to buy some Fredericksberg peaches, which were extremely delicious. We had the last one for breakfast this morning.
A couple of notes on Austin; the Driskell Hotel is an historic beauty. Antone's blues night was a joke. The big bank building that dominates the skyline is prodigiously ugly. The stadium at UT is unbelievable. The Texas History Museum, apparently a solid granite structure, makes a nice visit. You can walk right up Congress and straight through the Statehouse. The 'dillos are great free transportation. On one of them, we met a young woman who was a community college student, and a member of a roller derby team providing entertainment for the Texas Bikers' meeting in town this weekend.
Last, visiting the hometown Whole Foods was a bore, but a personal tour of Central Market from Foodie, who has what must be the best job ever, was delightful.