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2012 - Summer Issue
¡Comidas Sabrosas!
The Barbecue Trail
Article: Joe Burgess
Photos: Joe Burgess
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Discovering the origin of barbecue is similar to pinning down who mixed the first Margarita – there are lots of tall tales and emphatic claims. Variations occur around the world but, in the southwestern United States, the long cattle drives of the 1800s no doubt influenced the development of the savory dish as chuck wagon cooks learned to utilize even the tougher cuts of meat. The slow smoking of almost any kind of meat, including sausage, has become an art form at venues ranging from upscale restaurants to football tailgate parties.

    Photo Captions

1-3 The Salt Lick
4-5 Black's Barbecue
6-7 Smitty's Market
8-9 Bishop's Brisket House
10-11 The County Line
12-13 Meyers Elgin Smokehouse
The Salt Lick - Driftwood, Texas
In my rambling search for Texas restaurants that have fine-tuned the process of consistently delivering outstanding barbecue, I may have stumbled across the mother lode. It's called The Salt Lick and it's located in Driftwood, Texas just a short drive southwest of Austin. On an average Saturday they feed about 2,000 people.

The Roberts family started selling barbecue in 1967 using oak wood for smoking. Their briskets are cooked 20-24 hours, with sauce added four times during the process. The high sugar/acid content caramelizes on the outside, holding the moisture inside. The cooking process is stopped before it is finished and quick-cooled in refrigerators for 24 hours, increasing the flavor,a process similar to the preparation of spaghetti sauce.

The Washington Post once stated, "If you are wearing cowboy boots, let them be Tony Lamas; if you're eating barbecue, pray that it's from The Salt Lick." The marbleized brisket was indeed outstanding with a definite smoky flavor enhanced by the final hours over the oak-wood flames. The ribs were meaty, moist and slightly sweet, reflecting a more Southeastern tradition of sugar in the rub. Servings were large, so I ordered the senior/child's plate to save room for pecan pie. I left happy, but stuffed.

Black's Barbecue - Lockhart, Texas
The Texas legislature passed resolutions proclaiming Lockhart as The Barbecue Capital of Texas. There are four good barbecue restaurants in Lockhart, including Kreuz Market that was covered in the first article of my barbecue series. Black's Barbecue, however, boasts the best barbecue and homemade family recipe sausage in the United States. Edgar Black, Sr. initiated the family's direction in 1932 and Edgar Jr. claims to be the "first barbecue proprietor in the United States to exclusively use the brisket cut of beef." Gourmet magazine stated that Black's was "the best BBQ in the heart of Texas and therefore the best on earth."

Smitty's Market - Lockhart, Texas
Smitty's Market, also in Lockhart, is located in the same building that has been selling barbecue, well, forever. It is in the original Kreuz Market building, opened in 1900. Nina Schmidt Sells established Smitty's Market in 1999, named for her father who had overseen the market and barbecue for many years. Her son is now pit master.

Smitty's sausage is excellent– juicy with a very peppery taste. My brisket was a little tough and I thought the beans could use a little onion and a bit of Hatch chile to liven them up. Smitty's Market, however, has been among the top five barbecue restaurants in Texas Monthly.

Bishop's Brisket House - Palestine, Texas
My articles focus on established barbecue joints, but on the advice of locals, I checked out Bishop's Brisket House in Palestine, Texas. The barbecue and sides were as good as any I've tasted, including a delicious deep-fried cabbage patty, and the cherry cobbler was outstanding. It's a family operation with Mike Bishop overseeing the meat smoking and sister Lori Bishop Young handling the baking. Other family members, young and old, chip in wherever needed.

And the family is a band – Texas Express. Lori has a strong Patsy Cline voice and plays a mean keyboard. Dad leads the group and still plucks the guitar as well as ever. With a little arm-twisting, Mike contributes vocals and sister Lindi Greenstein adds her voice whenever she's in the area. Then there are the other local talents who help turn the weekend evenings into a great musical jam session.

The County Line (Riverwalk) - San Antonio, Texas
You are no doubt familiar with The State Line, straddling the border between El Paso, Texas and Sunland Park, New Mexico. Under the same ownership, there are several County Line restaurants, one of which is located on San Antonio's famed Riverwalk. The smoked meats and sausage are slow-cooked the way they are meant to be, the staff absolutely knows how to cook beans and it's a great family experience. 'Nuff said.

Meyers Elgin Smokehouse - Elgin, Texas
Elgin, Texas is another barbecue hot spot that was included in the second article in my series featuring Southside Market. Down the street is Meyers Elgin Smokehouse. It utilizes a high-tech step in its process that results, the restaurant claims, in "the most consistently juicy, tender and flavorful barbecue you have ever experienced…barbecue heaven." The meat is placed in a stainless steel drum. Spices and water are added and a vacuum is created inside the container. The drum is then slowly rotated to lift and drop the meat to tenderize it and the vacuum draws the spices into the meat, evenly seasoning throughout.

In 1949, the Meyer family opened Meyer's Elgin Sausage Company claiming they were "…smokin' and servin' the best tasting sausage in the free world." Great grandfather, Henry Meyer, brought the recipes with him from Germany. In 1989, Gregg and Gary Meyer became the fourth generation of sausage makers.

Meyer's untrimmed brisket is indeed tasty and moist. The "original" sauce has a tangy tomato flavor and the honey mesquite sauce balances perfectly with the meat. The crème of corn side with large kernels is good, but the beans – bland. You need to bring along a couple of Big Jim green chiles or jalapeños to make them "más sabroso." ///
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