Aaron Siegel gives his first update from his Texas barbecue research trip. 

As we began our descent into Austin, our excitement and anticipation was starting to get the best of us. After tons of planning and plenty of battles on the plane about the final itinerary of the trip, it was time to get it on! We arrived in the Austin airport around 3 p.m.

Taylor has been our logistical leader as far as arranging accommodations, so we took directions from the little “big man” as only Taylor can deliver them, which means we followed him through the airport like a bunch of lost puppies as he barked orders and told us not to bump into each other like a bunch of uninformed tourists. We got to the rental car (not a minivan like we had thought but instead a Suburban, which is working out just fine), and we were on our way.

As we drove away from the airport, I would be lying if I said there weren’t a few high-fives in the car. We headed to our sweet rental on Lake Austin (about 15 minutes outside of downtown Austin in the hills), stopping for some provisions along the way. You know, the usual stuff: water, fruit, cereal, two bottles of good bourbon, some Texas tequila, and some Lone Star beer. As we walked into the liquor store we were greeted by a nice gentleman who looked real familiar to me, but I didn’t think much of it. When we were finally locked and loaded in the liquor store we approached the counter.

The gentleman behind the counter who’s name was Todd looked at us and asked where we were from. We did kind of stand out, six dudes filling a shopping cart with booze all with giant smiles on our faces. We replied that we were from Home Team BBQ in Charleston and he told us he’d played at our place several times. We all recognized him immediately. Unbelievable coincidence to pick a random liquor store in Austin and find a dude that has played our joint in Charleston! We were feeling like this was a good sign for the rest of our trip, what a small world

After loading up at the store, our first barbecue stop was Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew, which is housed in the oldest shopping center in Austin. It is also occupies the space in which the pool hall scene from the movie Dazed and Confused was filmed where Matthew McConaughey declares the truth about high school girls:  “They just keep gettin older and I stay the same age.” 

Stiles is walk-up service and has some ties to Louis Mueller BBQ in Taylor. Not sure if those ties are tied or untied at this point, but the place came highly recommended. Our crew unloaded from the Suburban and piled in, but I ended up stuck outside dealing with a restaurant issue at Sullivan’s for what seemed like forever. I finally got inside and found our table full of every item on the menu and Coors Banquet Beer.

The Grub:

Spare Ribs: nice smoke and a salt and pepper rub. The meat pulled off the bone with a nice snap.
Beef Ribs: real good! Smoke ring and a salt and pepper crust. They were like butter.
Brisket: ditto.
Frito Pie: I have a damn good feeing you will be seeing this at both of our restaurants real soon. Soooo good and simple. We need this in our lives. 

Will was the man running the pits, and he was nice enough to take us back to check them out. It’s always an awesome sight to see custom-built smokers. They looked like the Hunley with a fire box. 

All in all we felt great about the trip to Stiles. The food was good, and the people were nice. Isn’t that just about all you can ask? 

Next was Freedman’s Bar about a 10-minute ride from Stiles. Again, nothing but nice folks and good solid barbecue. Their smoker resembled a barrel smoker with an offset fire box. The atmosphere was great. It reminded us of our place in West Ashley with gravel and picnic tables and festive hanging lights outside. We were fired up to hang out here, and the food did not disappoint.

The Grub:

Brisket: great smoke with nice bark and chew at fat content. I don’t know about y’all but good brisket fat reminds me of ribeye fat. It’s one of my guilty pleasures.
Sausage: the summer sausage on the charcuterie plate stole the show. Perfect fat-to-meat ratio, and the cheddar cheese was welcome after all that animal protein. 
Pork Belly: last but not least. This was great. No brine. Just straight up salt and pepper rub and great smoke. Really good. So tender and moist. 

Day one, and we were two for two. We headed back to the house to talk shop and drink the night away. Good times. Tomorrow, we’re off to Franklin BBQ at 8:30 a.m. to wait in line for the barbecue that’s on the top of the list for most people these days in Texas.

Adios until day two as the Home Team Crew continues #Messin’ with Texas.

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