BBQ West South Central Region
Scroll through the West South Central states, or click a new region on the map.
Q Tips, a new section lists unsolicited BBQ restaurant recommendations that showed up in my email. Congratulations to my wife Connie for coming up with the name. Q Tips.
Iron Works Barbecue (November, 2011)
100 Red River
Austin, TX 78701
The Iron Works is several blocks south of 6th Street and, like every other place I found in Austin, in a suitably rat-shack building. This one looked like an old factory building – e.g. an iron works. You order in line and pick out the beer, soda, etc., from two washtubs. There seemed to be quite a few conventioneers in line who didn’t know the rules for ordering, so the people behind the counter seemed a bit testy. Try to review the menu board before you get up to the counter.
Iron Works’ menu had the usual items plus sausage, ham, and turkey, this being Texas. I got the Sampler plate, brisket, sausage, and a beef rib, with potato salad, beans, pickle, onion, and cornbread. The brisket was excellent, falling apart tender, except for a surprising amount of fat that I had to trim off. The sausage was excellent. The rib, which could have come from the Flintstones, was outstanding – crunchy on the outside and just a bit chewy. The sides were basically there…
Overall rating – Just a shade short of excellent, brought down by the fattiness of the brisket.
Thanks to Mike and Ryan at TLTA for the recommendation. Nice work, guys.
Texas Chili Parlor (November, 2011)
1409 Lavaca Street
Austin, TX 78701
The TCP lies in that gray zone between authentically rat-shack and rat-shack by industrial design. But, according to my waitress, the place really is a rat-shack where two main clienteles go to drink – state government employees during the day and the local drunks in the evening. The initials carved into the top of my table seemed to bear out the rat-shack look. A good start to my dining adventures in Austin…
I had chicken and sausage gumbo, with a side of mac and cheese. The gumbo was excellent, just hot enough to be entertaining with big chunks of meat. The mac and cheese was excellent but, as usual, needed salt. One new thing was the sliced jalapenos in the mac and cheese. I think they overpower the cheese, but this Texas, where they put jalapenos in everything.
Overall rating – Excellent, for the combination of the food and the atmosphere.
Stubbs Bar B-Q (November, 2011)
801 Red River
Austin, Texas 78701
Stubbs is two blocks north of 6th Street, which means it’s authentically rat-shack and also seems to get some of the spillover of the 6th Street night life. Stubbs also hosts concerts and, when I walked in, I was hit by some of the loudest music I’ve heard anywhere. Be warned…
Stubbs’ menu had the usual items plus sausage and turkey, this being Texas. So I got the Stubb’s Minor plate, two meats and two sides – brisket and sausage with mac and cheese and mashed sweet potatoes. The brisket was excellent, falling apart done. The sausage was also excellent. Ditto the mac and cheese. The only disappointment was the mashed sweet potatoes, which were bland to the point of being flavorless.
Overall rating – Just a shade short of excellent, brought down by the sweet potatoes.
Thanks to Mike and Ryan at TLTA for the recommendation. And thanks to Nicky Bleiel for the company, and for cheerfully walking past the fight(?) in the alley.
Back Country Bar-B-Q
6940 Greenville Ave.
Dallas , TX
Easy to get to – about half a mile off Rt. 75S, below 635 between DFW and Dallas, with just a few quick turns. Map it out carefully if you go at dinner time; traffic on that stretch is heavy and fast.
A cafeteria-style place with wide-board wood floors and wood walls, and lots of stuffed heads on the walls, including several moose (one wearing a green cowboy hat), deer, elk, a bison, several cow skulls, and two snarling javelinas (wild boars) above each side of the front door.
The place had a large selection of meats, some standards like ribs, brisket, chicken, and pork, and some that seem largely or uniquely Texan – sausage, hot links, ham, and turkey. I usually get ribs and something else but, this being Texas , I went for brisket and sausage.
The brisket was very good – tender and with a good smoke ring but little smoke flavor, hence the downcheck from excellent. The sausage was excellent, as sausage in Texas invariably is and without the overly-thick casing that you sometimes run across. The sauce was excellent – thick and just hot enough to be interesting without overpowering the food.
The place has a wide selection of side dishes ranging from traditionals like potato salad and macaroni salad to unusual ones like hot beans (baked beans with jalapenos) and fried jalapenos. No macaroni-and-cheese though. In an unusual touch, you help yourself to the sides as you go through the line. I settled for cole slaw, which was the finely chopped style and excellent.
There’s also a selection of deserts ranging from chocolate cake to fried pies. I got a fried apple pie on principle but tried Kathryn’s chocolate cake and liked it.
Overall rating – A shade under Excellent, based on the over-mildness of the brisket and the lack of macaroni and cheese on the sides menu.
Thanks to Kathryn Poe, who decided that a northern boy needed real BBQ and picked the joint, her husband Stephen, Arroxane Ullman, Elisa Miller, Jo Byrd and her husband, and Susie Fox, all of the Lone Star STC chapter – a noisy, good-natured, and thoroughly enjoyable bunch to go out with.
Sonny Bryan ‘s Smokehouse
302 N. Market St .
Dallas , TX 75202
Located in Dallas ‘ touristy West End. Not the original store but who cares? Atmosphere is great – wood booths, lots of neon signs for low-rent beers like Rolling Rock, and a waitress who seemed to be about 18, with talon fingernails, and a no-nonsense attitude, who called everyone “honey”.
Excellent, tender brisket. Nice smoke ring about ¼” deep. Pulled pork was okay but had the usual problem of a slight mushiness. Very good, mildly pungent sauce. Very good macaroni and cheese – even had enough salt on it for a change.
Overall rating – Excellent.
Danny D’s BBQ
565 Bedford-Euless Rd.
A single restaurant rather than a chain, and one which my client thought had been around forever. (The place apparently opened in the last 1960s, so that almost is forever in restaurant terms.) A small, rustic looking building on the right side of the street as you’re heading east from Precinct Line Rd south of the Airport Freeway.
Nothing really distinctive about the inside. Standard ordering procedure – order at the window and they bring the food to you.
The place had the usual large selection of meats – a vegetarian would be in serious trouble in Texas – with the standards like ribs, brisket, chopped beef, and chicken (no pulled pork) and the Texas touches of Polish sausage, hot links, ham, and turkey. I got a three-meat platter – brisket, sausage, and turkey. All excellent. The brisket was firm enough not to fall apart when it was cut but tender enough to cut with a fork. The sausage and turkey were both excellent -tender and juicy. The sauce was very good – thin and slightly runny (Texas-style) and less tangy than Dickey’s. The meat didn’t need the sauce, but the sauce made it better. The sauce was also the same level of afterthought as other Texan BBQ places. You could get sauce on the meat as you ordered or out of a tureen at a central station, but there were no sauce bottles on the tables.
The place has a decent selection of side dishes – cole slaw, potato salad, beans, green beans, corn on the cob, onion rings, and fried okra. No mac and cheese though. I got the cole slaw – good, tangy, and with a nice flavor by itself (even better when I dripped BBQ sauce into it) but basically an afterthought to the meat.
Overall rating – Excellent, based on the quality of the meat, period.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
1858 Precinct Line Rd.
A small DFW-area chain with six stores. The one in Hurst is easy to get to – about a quarter mile north of Airport Freeway at the Precinct Line Rd. exit.
A cafeteria-style place with wood floors and walls, and big white lone stars on the backs of the booth seats. Nice touch.
The place had a large selection of meats, standards like ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and chicken, and the usual Texas touches like Polish sausage, hot links, ham, and turkey. This being Texas, I went for brisket and sausage. And you get a lot of meat. (I wound up going back the next night because another place that I wanted to try was closed, so I got brisket again and turkey. So this is sort of a combined review.)
The brisket had a very good smoke ring and was very tender, too tender according to some people because it fell apart as they were cutting it. It was also too mild and needed sauce and/or salt. The sausage was excellent, as sausage in Texas invariably is. The turkey was excellent. The sauce was very good – thin and slightly runny but a bit too tangy. It also seemed to be something of an afterthought. You could get sauce on the meat as you ordered it or out of a tureen at a central station, but there were no sauce bottles on the tables.
The place has a wide selection of side dishes – cole slaw, potato salad, BBQ’d beans, pinto beans, mac and cheese, corn on the cob, green beans with bacon, and au gratin potatoes. I went with a cheese theme – mac and cheese and au gratin potatoes. The mac and cheese was good, with a thin sauce and using shells rather than elbows, but needed salt. Ditto for the au gratin potatoes. As seems to be normal in Texas, you help yourself to the sides as you go through the line.
Overall rating – Very good, based on the quality of the sausage and turkey but reduced by what I thought was the over-cooked brisket and the need for more salt or spice flavor overall. Basically, you wouldn’t go wrong by going to Dickey’s but I thought the brisket was better at Danny D’s, above.
Smitty’s Market (August 2014)
208 S. Commerce St.
Lockhart is a small town with big BBQ about 25 miles south of Austin. On entering town, the first thing you see is the Kreutz Market building to the right below an overpass, then Black’s about 100 yards later, then Smitty’s about 100 yards past Black’s. Smitty’s has a dirt and gravel parking lot with two sidewalk-level signs.
The building looks like an old red brick factory with a small entrance ramp off the parking lot. As you get closer to the door, the smell of meat and smoke gets stronger. Once inside, the waiting line snakes past an open fire at one end of four connected smokers, then up to the counter where you place your meat order. Smitty’s is different from my usual BBQ hangouts in that there’s no real menu. Instead, there’s a list of the available meats with the price per pound; you can order anything from a quarter pound to multiple pounds. Meats included fatty beef brisket (which apparently just means that there was some fat left on for moisture), beef shoulder (which I think is lean brisket), turkey, sausages, and several other things that escape me. You order and pay by weight. It’s very hot while you’re ordering but no one cared. The meat comes wrapped in butcher paper with white bread, crackers, and a plastic knife.
You then head into the dining room, a large, no-frills, cafeteria-style room with family-style seating at long trestle tables. This is also where you can get onto a second line to buy soda, beer, iced tea, etc., plus your choice of pickles, pickle chips, onions, tomatoes, pinto beans, cheese wedges, pies, candy bars, T-shirts, and other things that I may have missed. It works, but the line does back up because the meat side moves faster. I also thought that the meat would get cold while I was in the second line but it stayed surprisingly hot in the butcher paper.
I got fatty brisket, turkey, and a sausage. They were all outstanding. The brisket was tender enough to cut easily but not falling apart, with a nice bark (crust) and smoke ring, and a deep smoky/salty flavor. The turkey was tender, salty, and sweet and wonderful when dunked in the juices from the brisket. The sausage was great – grainy and tangy with a casing that was just thick enough to snap when you bit into it. There was sauce available but I never got around to it and saw almost no one trying it.
It also seemed like a good-natured crowd, with the locals eating and the tourists cheerfully comparing notes on how they got to Smitty’s. I wound up being invited to join one family from Tampa, FL that was on a quest to find the world’s greatest BBQ. (As the husband said, “it’s the journey that counts”.) What struck me most about Smitty’s was the total absence of cuteness – no cute logos, mascots, or sayings. The place just serves phenomenal BBQ in a no-frills atmosphere.
Rating – For the food and the ambiance, simply outstanding. This may be the greatest BBQ place in the universe. At least so far…
My thanks to Mike Wethington at Solar Winds for finally making it possible for me to get to Smitty’s and for suggesting enough other BBQ options that I clearly need to find more clients in Texas.