The Texas barbecue research trip rolls on with this second installment from Aaron Siegel of Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ.
Day two of our barbecue pilgrimage started with our first stop, Franklin Barbecue. Since opening in 2009, this spot has become a legend in Central Texas, gaining national attention at a meteoric pace. Six days a week, every week, proprietors Aaron and Stacy Franklin have lines that stretch out the door and down the street. Eager foodies queue up as early as 7 a.m.
We arrived sometime around 10 a.m. and had about a two-and-a-half hour wait before we would get any food in us. After meeting some locals and indulging in some breakfast tacos (and some Lone Star beers), the time flew by.
When we finally sat down with the food, it was well worth the wait. In fact, I think the wait helped add to the overall experience. I think it made the food better, if not at least earned. They know exactly what they’re doing. And they do it as good as just about anybody. What I liked most about Mr Franklin’s ’cue is that he uses his rub to accent the meat. I’m not saying the barbecue on this trip so far hasn’t been incredible, because it has, but these guys have it dialed in. Just the right amount of pepper, and the sauces, although not necessary, were amazing. I couldn’t resist dousing the pulled pork with the North Carolina-style vinegar sauce. So good.
From Austin we headed slightly northeast to the tiny town of Taylor. Seventeen miles after one of the largest (and best) meals I’ve ever indulged in, and we had three more spots to hit. Phew. You can do this, I quietly told myself.
The legendary Louie Mueller Barbecue, a James Beard-award winning restaurant, was our next stop. Man, this place has character. Smoke-stained walls adorned with business cards from patrons that have accumulated over the years. Louie Mueller, who retired in 1974, passed the place to his son Bobby whose untimely death in 2008 left his son Wayne to run the pits. Wayne was off this day, so pit man Tony White helped us along in ordering some of the best beef ribs I have ever eaten — perfectly rendered fat seasoned with cracked pepper and just enough salt. Several spicy sausages were available. The jalapeño links were sold out, so we settled for the mild and extra hot chipotle. Everything was well made. Smoked with 50-plus years of family dedication and love. This place is the essence of Texas barbecue.
From there we headed down by the tracks to Taylor Café, owned and operated by Mr. Vencil Mares since 1948. He wasn’t around this day, but he’s often found at the bar chatting with customers.
Since a food coma had set in, we only ordered their specialty turkey sausage with house sauce (served warm), pickles, and onions. Ill take it. Now get me home.
Wait, Davis Grocery and Barbecue is right around the corner. Concentrate. Walk inside. There are literally groceries for sale.
Greeted by the Rev. James Davis, he knew right away why we were there. After a quick chat, he gave us a tour of the pits. I love this part of the country. So much great barbecue being made in slightly different ways by many different people. That’s what we came to see. We ordered a sampler platter of pork spare ribs, brisket, and mutton ribs. Add a little bit of his famous “come back juice” and we were eating again. Man, that’s a ton of meat. Rest time.
For dinner we needed a change of pace. We decided on Uchiko, one of Austin’s best sushi/fusion places. The flavor combinations of the dishes were inspiring.
Velvety scallops with avocado melted in my mouth. Smoked duck, Hot Rock Wagyu beef, trout, salmon belly, beef tongue. Food pairing on another level, that’s their thing. I liked it. In fact, I’m thankful we decided to go as we almost scrapped it. The stars are definitely in line for this trip.
At the end of the day, a few guys hit up the Continental Club to catch James McMurtry while the others headed to Lake Austin to rest up for another big day of barbecue.