10 facts we learned (and re-learned) at this year’s Texas Monthly BBQ Festival
Each year, Texas Monthly magazine throws a raging meat fest and invites their top 50 favorite barbecue restaurants to participate while the rest of the country lets out a wistful collective sigh (looking at you, New York). Don’t worry -- we ate all the succulent meats so you didn’t have to. Read on for our research-based findings.
1. Barbecue is its own food group in this stateAnd everyone has a strong opinion on which joints are the best. Tread lightly.
2. Texans will stand in hopelessly long lines for smoked meatOh, thought you might be able to buy an $80 ticket to this festival and skip the epic wait for Franklin Barbecue? Not a chance! This is just one tiny segment of the crowd that lined up for Aaron Franklin’s notorious brisket. La Barbecue also had its own winding snake of humans for most of the fest, as did Snow’s BBQ. At one point, I thought I was waiting for Louie Mueller’s famous beef ribs, then discovered I was actually in the line for the port-a-potty.
3. This much meat requires multitaskingThree hours to visit 25 pitmasters -- you do the math. Plus, the lines move faster if you’re constantly eating and drinking in them. Meat, eat, repeat. Got it?
4. Women can smoke with the best of 'emThe barbecue scene is undoubtedly male-dominated, but 79-year-old Tootsie Tomanetz is showing the world that it’s not just a boy’s club. She learned the art of meat-smoking in 1966 at City Meat Market in Giddings before running a meat market in Lexington, where she’d smoke her freshly butchered meats on Saturdays. In 2003, she and her husband opened Snow’s and carried on the Saturday tradition, which is the only day of the week her coveted brisket can be obtained -- if you arrive before it sells out. Texas Monthly named Snow’s the Best Barbecue in Texas in 1998, and they are now tied with Franklin for the title.
5. The best barbecue families are not without dramaIn 1999, The Schmidts made headlines with a family quarrel that resulted in Kreuz Market moving and Smitty’s opening in its original location. The Mueller family is almost as famous for their smoked meats as they are for their barbe-feuds through the years. Wayne Mueller carries on his Dad’s tradition as the pitmaster of Louie Mueller Barbecue, while LeeAnn Mueller owns La Barbecue (where John Lewis is pitmaster) -- their brother, John Mueller (owner and pitmaster at Mueller Meat Co.), was sadly missing from this year’s fest. And most recently, Black’s Barbecue has been drawing media attention for their own meat squabbles concerning the family name. The original (helmed by Kent Black) represented at the fest, while just a stone’s throw away on Barton Springs Rd his nephews slung their own ‘cue from Terry Black’s Barbecue, which they just opened last month.
6. You snooze, you loseThe famous tater tot casserole from Opie’s Barbecue didn’t last past the first hour. I took consolation in their butter beans, but vowed to make a drive out there soon for the raved-about tot creation.
7. Smoked meats can clean up real niceWhile there’s nothing like a perfectly smoked brisket or a snappy jalapeño sausage, several smokers got deliciously creative. Louie Mueller served saucy lamb pops, while The Granary 'Cue & Brew plated dressed-up coriander and cumin-rubbed pork belly with jicama slaw & smoky salsa negra.
8. Everything IS bigger in Texas (including the smokers)Smoldering smokers encircled the site like some kind of carnivorous Pagan ritual, bathing us all in an oaky perfume. Killen's giant contraption really stole the show though: barbecue fans snapped photos in front of the thing like it was some sort of beefy hot rod.
9. There is endless potential for double-meat-entendres... as proven by the shirts at Lockhart Smokehouse, as well as all the "that’s what she said" jokes floating around this sausage fest.
10. Beer goes down real easy with barbecue, but so does tequilaDon Julio’s mobile speakeasy served four different cocktails on draft, including a subtly floral Lady Bird Iced Tea (Don Julio Blanco, lemon, ceylon tea, house pomegranate hibiscus soda) and the Lil’ Smokey Sour (Don Julio Reposado, lapsang souchong, lemon, cabernet sauvignon), which was much like a Texafied sangria.
Sign up here for our daily Austin email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.