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Texas BBQ

Barbecue, vodka, barbecue, vodka, rum, barbecue, we are like a broken record here at redd…..but we love our passions that keep us altered and fat, and we love bringing you our reviews.  Another for LBR Guy and his Barbecue Road travels:

Recently, we heard about a great BBQ place, so ever in search of outstanding BBQ places, we took  a short trip down HWY 79 to Taylor.  Having tried Louis Mueller’s BBQ years ago we were searching for another spot—The Taylor Café.  Housed in the oldest building in Taylor, in the shadow of the highway overpass, and literally within a horseshoe throw of the railroad tracks, lies Taylor Café.  Don’t look for a sign giving directions, hell, don’t even look for anything that says Taylor Café, just look for the worn wooden door that states “BBQ—We’re open”.

Entering the building, you are met with a low ceiling and décor that reminds you of what the place really is, an old-style Texas beer joint that serves BBQ.  The Formica counter is long on an old wooden trestle.  Old tractor seats are the stools with a few tables lining the wall.  There is a pool table in the back and next to that a juke boxbigger than the pool table.   Behind the counter are some large ancient ice chests full of ice and beer.

Placing your order to the friendly staff, they bring you your tea, sweet or otherwise on request.  Most of the people coming in were getting their BBQ to go, but we are here for the whole experience—the whole hog as it were.  My companion ordered the chopped beef sandwich and I ordered the three meat platter.  While we waited for our order, a large plastic tray appeared with sliced white bread, pickles, onions, and saltine crackers (unusual) for my platter.  When my platter arrived it was overflowing with a large pork rib, sausage and brisket, covered with sauce. The Pork rib was very tender, meat falling off the bone, juicy and flavorful, a good choice.  The sausage was mildly disappointing.  Nothing special, a little spicy, but tasted mostly like Elgin sausage thrown on the grill for a few minutes.  But the brisket was masterful.   The char ring was very present, flavorful and very tender.  I cut it with my fork.  It was the best brisket I have found so far on the BBQ Road.  The sauce was tomato based, with a little kick and was outstanding as well.  The potato salad as a side was a little under cooked, and the beans were nothing special.  We found out later that their Turkey sausage is one of their featured items.  We will try that next time.   The owner, Vencil Mares, is 87, a WW II vet who has acquired a reputation praised by entities such as Texas Monthly and USA today.  Vencil was there, supervising everything and greeting everyone who came in, most by name.

Overall, I give Taylor Café an “ A”.  The sides and sausage were an “C”, the Pork Rib a B+, and the brisket an A+.   One thing I seldom mention in these reviews is price.  Prices can vary a great deal from venue to venue.  Also the amount of food received can vary.  Taylor Café had great process for the amount of food—a bargain for your hard-earned dollars.   We will be back.  Evidently Taylor has 3 well-known BBQ places in town.  We will have to compare them all, the sooner the better!

The Road goes ever on…

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Low Budget Review: BBQ Road Revisited

On February 16, 2011, in Low Budget Review, by admin

At times I find it necessary to revisit BBQ joints that I have tried and reviewed in these fine pages.  I am looking for consistency, bad or good, in the product.  If an establishment improves, I feel it most be noted.  If it has fallen, the readers here need to know since we have a lot of local Texas readers in this blog. In this spirit, I returned to Tom’s Smokehouse, Bellmead Texas.  Bellmead is a burb of Waco, Texas.  I had previously been here for lunch and a brisket sandwich.  This time I thought I would try my normal order when reviewing BBQ. First off, this place is obscure.  it is in a non-discript building on HWY 84. This is OK, because as we Texan’s all know, Texas best BBQ often comes from holes in the wall. You walk in and it looks like someones kitchen and dining room, plush with the large screen TV on playing some fight show where they cage themselves in and beat eachother until someone bleeds.  I later found out that most of the clientele here thought this was “supercool”.  So now we know who we are dealing with here. I ordered, as usual for reviews, two meat plate consisting of brisket and ribs.  The plate came with two sides from a rather limited choice.  Now, hats off to old Tom and his pricing.  He is less expensive than most BBQ joints. I have always thought BBQ is over priced.  His prices are not only fair, but I appreciate the fact that everything is priced in whole dollars, tax included.  No more pain in the ass change.  My plate with a drink set me back $8. Very nice.

The plate is served rather quickly on paper plates. The portions are reasonable, not overwhelming. The sides I chose were Mac and Cheese and BBQ Beans. The Mac and Cheese was as bland as I had ever tasted. A total waste of calories. The BBQ Beans were reasonable, and served nice to dip the single piece of “Wonder Bread” into.  Both the ribs and brisket had a charred edge, a nice start.  Now remember, this is called a “Smokehouse” I expected a great smoke ring and taste.  Nothing. No ring beneath the charred edges and certainly not much of a smoke flavor. The meat was pleasantly tender making for ease of consumption.  But the base taste was missing somehow.  I am not certain how it is prepared:  I certainly did not have the normal mesquite or other wood aroma when I walked in, so I guess I should have known. The sauce was vinegar based. Again, very bland. All told, it made for just a boring and less than optimum dining experience. I am not certain how this work, locals around here like this place and the lunch crowd  confirmed this.  For a Wednesday, they were very busy including a group of local High School students who 1) loved the beat the shit out of each other programming, and 2) quite expectedly launched one of their drinks all over three seats.  Oh well, I guess they pay as well.

The owner Tom runs around assuring you have everything needed and frequently attempts to up sell you as you eat. The counter help was this side of rude. Not what ole Tom had in mind.  Sadly, I give Tom’s Smokehouse of Bellmead Texas a 4 out 10.  Don’t bother if you find your self in the neighborhood.

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Editors Note:  This BBQ  joint is one of the ‘famous Texas’ BBQ joints.  I have never been, but apparantly Low Budget Review Guys stopped in recently.  Read on:

A recent trip through central Texas brought us lunch-time pangs and a billboard advertizing a BBQ place I haven’t tried….seemed like a natural magnet drawing me to exit 294 and Central Ave in Belton, to Schoepf’s BBQ.  Just a few blocks off I-35, while looking vainly for the sign announcing the establishment, I noticed a low-slung ramshackle stone building with a crowd lined up outside. Could this be it?  Lowering the window, the heavenly smoke of meat in a BBQ pit wafted to me—this has gotta be it.  Pulling into the large parking area just past an auto parts store, the sign was barely visible leaning against the front of the building.  This family owned business has been serving for 16 years.  Ronnie and Staci Schoepf bought the business from Ronnie’s parents in 2007.  Everyone in the family has worked there at one time or another.   Evidently, they had some flood damage but at the time of our visit, the restaurant was fully open and jammed with customers.  Parking in the back we walked past several outdoor BBQ Pits being manned by several employees, keeping the wood going and turning the delicious smoking and roasting meats.  Behind the restaurant is a large wooded area with numerous picnic tables and a stage for warm-weather concerts and performances.  Love that live-music option.

Another Famous Texas BBQ Schoefs, Belton, Texas

Finally making our way inside, we got a chance to see the many offerings.  Brisket, ribs, steaks, pork chops, sausage, chicken, turkey, pork.  These had been transferred from the outside smokers to inside smokers, what they call a serving pit, to keep warm for serving.  A great idea!  Like many BBQ places, there was a long serving line where you placed your meat order.  Watching the servers slice the meat fresh in front of you was like watching artists at work.  They were quick, decisive with no wasted motion.  With the BBQ meat piled on our plastic tray, we proceed into another room where the varied sides were offered. In addition to the usual tater salad, coleslaw and beans, were green beans, baked potatoes, “cheesy potatoes” (like au gratin) and bags of chips.  Along with the obligatory bread loafs were homemade rolls, jalapeno and regular corn bread.  Pickles and Onions offered as well.  (in Texas, I think the law requires pickles and onions)  Deserts offered were homemade pies and several fruit cobblers.

The inside décor was “Texas BBQ joint standard”  There was wood paneling on the walls, wood picnic tables, some Formica tables, with a stand-along drink stand for tea and soda.  Various pictures and stuffed creatures lines the walls.  There was a separate “Event Room” for larger groups that was well done.

For this visit, we tried the two-meat sampler, brisket and sausage, with several sides.  The sauce came served on the side.  The brisket, while very tender and moist, had no smoke ring and no char, with little smoke flavor, making it appear as if it had been roasted on the fire instead of slow smoked.  The sausage came in four options, regular, a little spicy, spicy, and venison.  Unusual, and pleasing.  We elected for the lightly spicy version and were very pleased from the first bite.  The sausage was moist without being overly fatty and sopping with juice.  It was tender with just the perfect blend of seasoning.  It was the best BBQ sausage we had tasted in several years.  The BBQ sauce was warm and molasses/ketchup based with just a perfect blend of spices.  The potato salad was good, chunky, with just enough mustard to make it interesting.  The coleslaw was fresh, with perhaps a little too much mayo, but that may have been because they were adding mayo to the pan as we walked up.  The beans were good, slow cooked and tender.  We were too full to try the desert, but did pick up a bag of their own home-made beef jerky as a present for a family member.

Overall, I give Schoepf’s an “A-“ (A-minus).  The food was fresh, the service quick and very friendly.  The brisket, while tasty, loses some points for the lack of smoke ring and char that I expect from slow-smoked BBQ.  The sausage gets big points.  The multitude and flavor of the sides very good,   The sweet tea was good, and that is always an issue with me.   We will be back to try some of their other offerings.

The BBQ road goes ever onward!

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Once again, Low Budget Review Guy is out and about in Texas

On a recent business trip my spouse and I headed to east Texas, the city of Nacogdoches.  Having never been there before I was looking forward to this visit.  A beautiful day greeted us as we headed out HWY 79 to Centerville where I-45 crosses it path.  We were not headed towards Dallasnor Galveston this trip but picked up Hwy 7 through the Davy Crocket Natl Forest.  As we headed continuously east, the changing soils became apparent with the appearance of towering pines trees mixed in with the stately Oaks, and Sycamores lining the road.  The National Forest’s myriadhiking trails and lakes beckoned but must wait for another time, perhaps on the way home.  Through the hilly town of Crocket, and finally, after just under 4 hours we arrived in Nacogdoches.   This city of 29,000+ is a hub for east Texas.  It bills itself as “the Oldest City in Texas”.    Archeological evidence seems to indicate human presence older than 9000 years.   The Spanish were in Nacogdoches before 1542 when DeSoto explored the area. However,  descriptions of the town date from Frenchman LaSalle  in 1685.  DeLeon, in 1690, made an effort to colonize.  When the French mapped out El Camino Real from the Rio Grande to Nacogdoches in 1713 and 1716, the Spanish decided to set up settlements in the area.   Don Antonio Gil Y’Barbo built the Old Stone House in 1779, and laid out what would become the city streets.  It became a center for timber, cotton, and later oil.  In 1861 the first oil well in Texas was here.

The city was a hotbed of Texas Independence and hosted such famous luminaries as Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Thomas Rusk, William Travis.  The New Orleans Grays stopped on their way to the Alamo and legend.  The city actually had 9 different flags hoisted overhead at one time or another: France, Spain, Mexico, the Magee-Gutierrez Republic, The Long Republic, The FredoniaRepublic, The Lone Star, The Stars-and Bars of the Confederacy, and The US Flag.

Entering the city, we headed for our night’s lodging, to check in before exploring.  Our stay this visit was at the beautiful Fredonia Hotel, built in 1955.  The lobby was spacious and inviting, the light coming through the windows accented the grand piano in the corner.  Our corner room was very comfortable and relaxing.  The sports bar, at the opposite end of the lobby from the wine bar,  was a perfect place to either root on your favorite team, or enjoy a quiet glass of wine with friends.  The restaurant, J McKinneys, is well known as a delicious place for meals with an enticing menu for all tastes.  They advertize the best breakfast in town.  Just steps from the lobby, the pool area was surrounded by trees with a patio for outside relaxing.  A wide variety of live music is frequently heard on the patio, lit by Tiki torches and soft lighting.

But now it was time to explore lunch.  Always interested in BBQ, we got recommendations for several places, but settled on The Barbecue House.  (see my earlier posting for that separate review)  After lunch, we headed to the campus of Stephen F Austin University.  The beautiful campus of approx 12,000 students, was well-laid out, with lots of huge trees framing the buildings in green.  A visit to the recreated Old Stone Fort museum was worth the short time spent.  From there, it was out about 20+ miles on Hwy 21 to Caddo Mounds State Historical Site.  This site, while perhaps not appearing to be much more than some small distinct grassy hills, was fascinating once we learned the history behind the mounds from the visitors center.  The mounds all had different functions and were well over 1000 years old.  Some were burial mounds, others ceremonial mounds.  The area had been abandoned by the time “civilization” found them.  After a brisk walk around the area, we noticed the weather was turning colder, it was January after all.  Heading back the warmth of The Fredonia Hotel, we relaxed before our business meeting.

The next morning brought winter to Texas.  It was cold, raining, dark.  The forecast called for ice and snow later in the day.  Given the conditions, we packed the car and headed out.  Home-bound? Well, not yet. We still had things to see in town.  We drove around the historic city cemetery, whose oldest grave dates to 1837. We drove around the downtown square, with numerous historical markers.  We promised ourselves next visit we would take a walking tour of the area.  Many beautiful old homes lines the city streets, quiet for now, being early Sunday morning and the city hunkering down for the oncoming storm.  We drove to the Sterne-Hoya house, still closed, but felt history’s pull from the outside.  Also saw several ancient Caddo Mounds that were in the city proper, and drove past the Zion Hill Baptist Church, built approx 1879 and a state historic site.  Impressive.

However, time and Texas Winter storms wait for no one, so we headed west towards home.  The Davy Crocket Natl Forest would also have to wait for another day.  We stopped in Crockett for a break and some maintenance on our car tires, and stopped in Centerville, when I couldn’t resist “Country Cousins BBQ” (see earlier review).

Overall—a very nice first visit. Cool small town vibe, energetic but not hurried, with very friendly people.  The hotel was fabulous and we are looking forward to a schedule return trip in April.

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One again from our very own Low Budget Review Guy….eating his way across Texas once again.  He always comes up with interesting places that are easy on your billfold.

A recent trip to East Texas brought the opportunity to try some new BBQ places, always a treat.  The first stop was The Barbecue House inNacogdoches .  This large, stone building with a bright red facing, looked encouraging from a food standpoint.  Inside, we were directed to the traditional serving line where we ordered our meats, placed on paper plates on plastic cafeteria trays, then slid further down the gleaming line to the sides, where we could serve ourselves two choices  from the many options.  There was an interesting assortment of additions as well as the complementary white bread loaf.  There were individual packages of cheese, freshly made jalapenos stuffed with pimento cheese and several types of cobbler for desert.  We were a good sized group so we were able to try many sides and meats.  Upon ordering your meat choices, they were cut and placed on the plate.  A dry rub was then massaged into the order and then BBQ sauce was ladled on.  We were not given an option of rub or no rub, sauce or no sauce, but perhaps locals know what to expect so they can advise the servers beforehand.  The rub was quite good, the sauce a thin, vinegar based sauce, pale orange-almost yellow color, as most vinegar sauces are.  The overall mixture of the rub and sauce gave the flavor a spicy kick.  There was an ongoing debate as to which of the two was more responsible.

BBQ House

Barbecue House, Nacadoches Texas

The brisket was tender had a nice smoke ring, but not much charred edge.   The pork ribs were less tender but meaty and flavorful.  The sausage was bland, but not overly full of fat, like many are.  The sides were a mixed bag.  The mustard potato salad was just OK, mostly pureed potatoes.  It could use more mustard and seasoning.  And I prefer my “tater salad” to be chunky.  Perhaps they make it blander to offset the spiciness of the BBQ.  The beans were not traditional Texas Pinto beans, but more like the beans from Campbell’s Pork and Beans.  These were quite good, tasted as if slow cooked with molasses and brown sugar.  The best side dish was the coleslaw.  It was mayo based, but tasted as if it had just been made (and maybe it had been), fresh, crisp, delicious.  The best coleslaw we had tasted on the BBQ Road (so far).   The blackberry cobbler was warm, filling, a good choice.  The tea was a disappointment, commercial  and tasting as if it had been in the container for a while.

Overall, I give the BBQ House a “B”.   Meats were good, not great, earning points for the unusual flavors, losing points for not giving us the options of wanting the rub or sauce, and the sides ranged from OK to very good.  I would go back again.

Country Cousins BBQ in Centerville Texas

On our way back to central Texas, my companion spotted, “Country Cousins”  a small red building on the side of the road, just off I-45 and Hwy 7 in Centerville. On a cold, wet, raw winter’s day the place seemed to offer a warm inviting embrace of comfort food—BBQ.

Even though it was mid-morning and not even lunch time, there was already a line at the walk up counter on the wooden porch. A good sign.  While waiting,  I realized that this was a food trailer, like those that are popping up all over Texas, although this was wood not metal.  This trailer had been there long enough the owners had added the porch, some ground facing, and on the far side of the large parking area, a screened-in building that I realized had a large smoker and stacks of oak wood, getting seasoned and ready for cooking.  The aroma was enticing.  When my turn finally came, I ordered a sliced brisket sandwich and a small side order of potato salad.  The brisket was extremely tender, the tomato-based sauce warm and delicious, a perfect accompanist to the meat.  The potato salad was mostly pureed, with a few small chunks.  It was OK.   While we did not get the opportunity to sample their other options, so the grade is incomplete,  I rate Country Cousins an “A”.  It was the best sliced beef BBQ sandwich we have tried in years.  I look forward to my next trip, so I can try other items on the menu.

Now Thats A Brisket Sandwich

ED Note: This is part of a continuing feature on reddgranite.com on best BBQ joints in Texas. Each trip our Low Budget Review Guy, who normally writes about travel in Texas and other interesting items to do on a low cost basis, stops at BBQ joints rating them to standards we have set in our very own reviews. While there is a lot of debate on the best state that you can find the best BBQ, few can argue with Texas Best BBQ. Many of these are served in interesting locations throughout Texas.  In most cases, the small towns across the face of Texas offer consistently the Best Texas BBQ

Peace – ed.

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Low Budget Review Guy Has Gone BBQ Crazy!

On December 12, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

Peach Pit BBQ in Fredricksburg Texas

Peach Pit BBQ in Fredricksburg Texas

Editors Note:  Fredricksburg Texas is in the hill country of Texas.  It is a popular tourist destination stop for those familiar with Texas.  Fredricksburg is known for fresh peaches, German food, and bueatiful Texas Hill Country surroundings

Now from the Low Budget Review Guy:

Today’s review focuses on The Peach Pit BBQ in Fredericksburg, TX.  This first time visit marked a change of pace for eating choices in Fredericksburg, as usually we dine in one of the many German restaurants in this beautiful Texas Hill Country town.  The Peach Pit BBQ inhabits what appears to be an old stone building, like most of the businesses in town.  The décor is sparse, with a large flat screen on one wall, a giant stainless cooler in the middle of the floor and Formica tables and chairs.  The friendly young counter staff helped us with questions on the basic menu.  I ordered the two-meat plate with brisket, sausage and two sides, and my companion ordered the chopped brisket sandwich.  We were directed to the cooler to serve ourselves from the variety of sides, potato salad, coleslaw and next to that a hot-sides table with pinto beans, and a green-bean concoction.  We decided on the potato salad, beans and for something different, the green bean dish.  The food came out promptly.  The brisket was lean and tender, but the smoke ring that you expect from good BBQ was barely visible and only on the edges, where the char ring usually is.  This could have been from the particular part of the brisket it was cut from, but can also mean that the meat was not smoked long enough, or slow enough.   I expect more than that from a Texas BBQ place.  The sausage was lean, unusual in Texas BBQ and had an interesting spice that we couldn’t quite place.  However, the result was mostly bland.  The chopped beef was tender, the portion size large. The optional BBQ sauce, on the side, was tomato-based, and while serviceable, needed some work.  It  got some extra credit for being kept in a warming dish, so was kept very warm, which I found to be a good idea.  The sides were very good.  The potato salad, while not a yellow mustard based, like I prefer, was milder than that, but still good.  It was crunchy and flavorful.  The pinto beans were well seasoned.  The star of the day, however, was the green-bean dish.  It came in a yellow-brown sauce, almost like a stew or thick soup. There were onions and celery mixed in as well and had a tang that resonated. Unusual and quite good.

Overall score:  C+

The brisket was merely average, the sausage slightly below . The potato salad, and especially the green-been dish brought the score up from a “C”, but was not enough to bring the overall score up further.  While sides are important to the overall picture, the meat is what we are there for, and that was not the star.

The Barbecue Road leads onward….

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Low Budget Review Guy Eats BBQ?

On December 9, 2010, in Low Budget Review, by admin

Now here is a new one from the Low Budget Review Guy.  Many of you know on this web site that our LBR guy is an expert on travel reviews, rums of the worlds or regions, and a few other low cost items. But here, he offers us a review of the Texas Best BBQ….a link that I had embarked on earlier in my drives back from Central to North Texas. This review comes from his Low Budget Review on his trip to historic Texas.  All you Russians and Polish folk spamming this site, read carefully, you may learn something.  With out further ado, the Low Budget Review Guy on Texas Best BBQ

This lunch review took place last month in Cuero,Tx.  We were just passing through and stopped for a late lunch.  I love trying new places to eat, from the occasional high-dollar, to the dives, to the mom-and-pops’ places, especially BBQ.  Some of you may know that I have a few things in my life that I obsess over. Rum, football, and BBQ are three of my top 5. The other two are best discussed around a fire after a football game, eating BBQ and with a Rum-and-Something in my hand….While passing through Cuero on the main street of town, next to the railroad tracks was, “Barbecue Station”.  The building it was housed it looked as if it was 100 years old, and may have been.  The Texas memorabilia and bric-a-brac on the steps as we climbed them was not necessarily encouraging.  Some places use ambiance as the main course instead of the food.  The restaurant was bigger on the inside than it appeared.  It had long wood fence railings directing the incoming traffic to the ordering/serving line.  The menu was encouraging, written on some grease board were the daily specials and a brief non-nonsense description of the sandwiches, and plates.  Like many BBQ places you could order separately or order a two or three-meat plate that came with two sides and bread. My companion ordered the pulled pork sandwich (which is relatively unusual in beef-oriented Texas) and I ordered the 2-meat plate.  They offered a number of sides, including a rarity in BBQ spots, real baked potatoes.  However, as a somewhat traditionalist (more on that later) I asked for Potato Salad and Coleslaw.  My spouse ordered the beans.  I was offered (free) pickles and onions (yes to the pickles, no to the onions) and then was asked about BBQ sauce. (Ed Note: Good choice for this one on skipping the onions, if you know what I mean)

Now at this point I am going to digress a bit, and discuss one of my pet peeves about BBQ and some BBQ enthusiasts.    Over the many years I have lived in Texas, I have run across what I consider “BBQ Snobs”.  These folks are of the strictly “No BBQ Sauce” allowed cultists.  While I understand that the smoking of the meat, so the brisket is juicy, yet has that beautiful red smoke ring on the outside, with the crunchy char edges is damn near heaven on earth.  I understand that some folks think people should ” eat the meat, not the sauce”, and I applaud your choice, if that’s what you want to do.  Me? I like sauce, lots of it. All different kinds, from the Carolina-style vinager based, to the more tomato/molasses based.  But it ticks me off, when BBQ places/people state, “No sauce here—don’t even ask”.  I will generally not do business with them more than once.  Give me a choice.  And that’s what I applaud Barbecue Station for.  They asked, “you want sauce or not?” Imagines, actually asking the customer what he wants!  That way, both sides of the sauce/no sauce argument can get what they want.

Now I am off my small soapbox, back to the sides.  The brisket was tender but firm, great texture and flavor. Not the most tender I have ever found but very good.  The sausage had an interesting spice added that kept us guessing.  Good, but not great.  The pulled pork overflowed the warm bun and was covered with a vinegar-based sauce that was flavorful and very tender.  The mustard potato salad was fresh, crunchy, delicious.  The coleslaw was vinegar-based, and a little too stout for me. Not their strong suit.  The beans were wonderful, full of flavor (and sauce!), cooked just right.  Add a couple of slices of white bread right out of the bakery loaf, home-made Texas Sweet Tea, and friends, you’ve got some good eatin’.  Hard to get much more traditional Texas than that.

And that brings up another thought.  Like most people (Certainly Texans), I order iced tea just about every time I am out to eat. But as my spouse put it so accurately, the best sweet tea in the world is found in Texas BBQ places.  I don’t know why or how, but it is true.  If you set out 10 glasses of sweet tea, with 5 from BBQ joints and 5 from restaurants up and down the spectrum, I bet I could name 4 of the 5 from the BBQ places.  And those would be the ones I would drink.  They do it well, people.  No brag, just fact.

In summary,  Barbecue Station gets a very good grade—an A.    I would go back again next time we are in the area, and try some of their other sides.

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Seems Low Budget Review Guy grows restless these days judging by the number of reviews on traveling Texas.  Nice to see he gets out of his den of rum once in a while. And just to spite him, I will post this on Facebook as well as he refuses to use Facebook in some sort of stand against what is popular……..we leave him to his rum, but we always enjoy his LBR write ups

As a long-time history buff, I  recently took a  day trip from the Austin area to see some of the early sights of the struggles for Texas Independence.  Down 183 we traveled, past Lockhart, the BBQ capital of Texas with at least four quality BBQ places, through Luling, home of the world-famous annual Watermelon Thump festival (and has a water tower painted like a giant Chernobyl melon) to the scenic town of Gonzales,TX.  The pretty county seat of approx 8,000 people on the Guadalupe river, has one of those beautiful 1880-1900 County Courthouses that have undergone renovation.  The architecture is amazing.  It was one of the early settlements of Texas, founded in 1825 and considered as the far west frontier.  The Mexican government gave the settlers a cannon as protection from native-American tribes. As Texas Revolution sentiment grew hotter, the Mexicans sent a military force to repossess the cannon.  At a spot about 5 miles from town,  the Texas settlers faced down the Mexican troops with the loaded cannon and a flag with the words, “Come And Take it”.  The shots fired were the first of what would become the Texas Revolution and would eventually cost Mexico all the land now known as the Western US, including Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, etc. From such small actions do mighty countries grow.  There is a beautiful bas-relief monument close to the actual “battle” sight and a small road will take you the 1/8th mile trip to the actual sight.  Flyers in the courthouse will give you precise directions. Gonzales is also famous for the 32 men who left their homes and families to reinforce the Alamo in San Antonio.  It is believed they were the last volunteers to join the mission before it’s famous final stand.

From Gonzales, we traveled east about 5 miles and took a rough country road a couple of miles to see the famous, “Sam Houston” Oak.  This huge oak tree served briefly as a campsite for Houston and the ragtag Texas armed forces and civilians as they fled eastwards away from the Mexican Army.  They had received word that the Alamo had fallen from Susannah Dickinson, one of the few survivors of the Alamo.  Houston ordered the retreat in what became known as “The Runaway Scrape”.

From there it was just a short drive to the town of Shiner.  The “Cleanest Little Town in Texas” is home to Spoetzel Brewery, makers of world-famousShiner Beer (Shiner Bock, Shiner Blonde, and several others).  The town is in a river valley between the Lavaca and Guadalupe Rivers and has a population of around 2000.  Although we had dallied in the Gonzales area longer than planned, we just made the morning brewery tour, joining approximately 25 others in learning how the brewery makes its special liquid delights.  The tour was about 30 minutes and included several free beer tastings at the end.  A sip or two of their holiday season-only “Holiday Cheer” beer  along with a few others and perusing the small gift shop was well worth the trip.

While hunger pangs were starting to be noticed, we had miles to go. So back on the road we headed, with a brief stop at a local Shiner business called, “ Antiques, Art, and Beer” a truly unique business whose title pretty much sums it up.  What a great place!  We also stopped at Howard’s Convenience Store on the way out of town to grab a snack and some cokes while grinning at the  small area inside with 7 beers on tap. At a convenience store. Hilarious!

The last destination in mind was Goliad, but before we got there we stopped in Cuero for a late lunch.  Cuero is the county seat of DeWitt County and boasts another outstanding renovated Courthouse.  This town of 7000-plus has been known as a jump-off spot for Texas hunters for generations. This railroad-founded town of approx 1872   is also home to the famous “Turkey Trot” where they chase/race turkeys to the finish line.  Will have to make that festival one of these years. For you linguists, Cuero means “rawhide” in Spanish.  For lunch we stopped at Barbecue Station on the main street for a delicious lunch (A review on the BBQ will be a later post). We also stopped at the Pecan House, where you can buy a number of different types of pecans, shelled or unshelled, plus gift baskets, flavored pecans, jellies, sauces, marinades.  An unusual store. We bought a bag of sweet-cinnamon pecans for dessert while watching the giant shelling machines do their task.

After approximately 40 minutes from Cuero, we arrived at Goliad.  This town of under 2000 on the San Antonio river was the location of a Spanish Mission, Espiritu Santo De Zuniga and a fort called Presidio La Bahia. This amazing stone structure was built in approx 1747.  It was the scene of perhaps the saddest event in  all of Texas history.  After the fall of The Alamo, Col. James Fannin’s forces, under orders, left The Presidio but by the time  were only about 8 miles away, they came under fire from the Mexican Army.  The next morning found the Texans surrounded and made terms for surrender. The Mexican general advised them that he considered them prisoners of war and should be treated as such, but also said it was not his decision to make.  The Texas forces were marched back to the Presidio and kept under guard for a few weeks. On Palm Sunday, 1836  the group of approx 340 men were marched out in three separate groups all going three different directions.  A few miles away from the fort, the guards opened fire on the prisoners, and used cavalry to hunt down those trying to run away.  A few did escape.  The wounded back at the Presidio were placed against a wall and were shot.  Jim Fannin was the last to be executed.  The fort is still in great condition and the docents were helpful and friendly.  A short film explained the history and guests  can walk the grounds including the beautiful chapel.  There are even guest quarters for those brave enough to stay overnight and perhaps encounter some of the ghosts said to be haunting this ancient fort.  Near the Presidio is the Obelisk where the remains of those massacred that could be gathered were placed.  The structure is very moving.  Also close by is the statue memorializing “The Angel Of Goliad” .  The wife of one of the Mexican Officers, she managed to save the lives of several of the Texas soldiers from the tragedy.  Also nearby is Goliad State Park where the early Spanish Mission has been renovated.  The chapel with its frescoes is well worth the visit.  Goliad is also the birthplace of General Ignacio Zaragoza who lead the Mexican army in defeat of the French Army in 1862 on Cinco De Mayo.  Without General Zaragoza, we may now be drinking Mexican (French) wines instead of Dos Equis, Negro Modelo, and Corona.  The Most Interesting Man in the World would speak French and would  be less interesting….hmmmm….

As darkness fell, we headed our weary way home with memories of Texas History, BBQ, and Beer.  It’s hard to get better than that!

In Summary:  Well worth the trip.  If not into the architecture and old Courthouses, can been done much quicker, depending on the time spent at the Presidio. Traffic was mostly light, and small-town Texas residents are helpful and very friendly.

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Low Budget Review – More Best Texas BBQ

On September 25, 2010, in Low Budget Review, by admin

The Friday lunch quests continues of reviewing Texas best BBQ joints through out North Texas.  Today’s stop takes us to the tiny town of Abbott, Texas. The population sign says 300….some around here would better know this place as the birth place of old and wacky weed singer, Willie Nelson. (He know resides in Briarcliff, Texas). This little town is on Interstate 35, and overcrowded line connecting San Antonio, Austin, Waco and DFW. To this effect, there is a lot of traffic passing by.

Another of Texas Best BBQ

Up In Smoke, Abbott Texas

Up In Smoke is another of these joints with countless billboards leading to the location. This location took over a long time standing favorite on I-35, the Turkey Shop…which had been in business since I first came to Texas in the mid 70’s.  Up In Smoke has been at this location for a few years now. They did a fine job of decorating the restaurant in a Texas theme, that is not overdone. The joint is a BBQ restaurant, with a separately branded desert place inside called Sugar Babies.  You can see separate billboards for this, so not sure if they sublease space or part of the BBQ ownership.  Despite the name confusing that with a strip joint, Sugar Babies serves pies and other sweets to finish your BBQ dinner. Up In Smoke has a serving line, like most BBQ joints where you place your order and get your sides cafeteria style. Today I ordered brisket and ribs. Now it always pisses me off when the BBQ joints feel the need to weigh the meat in front of the customer. Up In Smoke does this, so my attitude started out rough about this joint. Maybe one or two less billboards, and you will not feel the need to weigh the meat (which smacks of cost control).  There were plenty of sides to choose. Cold salads included slaw, potato, and an interesting pea salad. Warm sides included several fried options: okra and something I got which I did not know what it was, but it was really good. Nice reviewer, eh? I also had the green pea salad, which was good as well.

The star of the meat was the ribs.  Fall of the bone meat with a decent smokey taste.  Not much else to say but that this was one of the better ribs I have tasted. Brisket? Not so much. For a BBQ  joint named Up In Smoke, it was ironic that the smoke flavor was largely missing. The ring was weak. I could barely detect the smoke of Mesquite wood. Now the cut was nice, and reasonably cooked to tenderness. So this part was good. As many of you know from prior reviews, this has been an issue at some of the joints. The total cost for this outing was $11.73. This included a medium drink. The pricing is fairly standard for BBQ joints.

Overall, I liked this place.  I give it 8 out of 10 boots. I may not be back, however, since most of the time, I drive the back roads home on Fridays…and it was all I could do to take I-35 home today just to review this BBQ joint.

Eat on.


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Low Budget Review BBQ Tour Continues

On September 23, 2010, in Low Budget Review, by admin

Texas Best BBQ Ride Continues

Dixie's Little Stop in Little Mt Calm Texas

Our Texas best BBQ trail continues.  Today, it brings us to the small little hamlet of Mt. Calm, Texas.  Population is less than 400. Along the rather busy state highwy that runs through this village is Dixie’s Little Stop. Now, I know what your thinking. What does the “Fried Pies” have to do with Texas best BBQ?  Turns out, very little.  But being a Damn Yankee, I had to stop to learn. What the hell is a “fried pie” and why is Dixie famous for them?  Oh yeah, I had BBQ as well. More on that later. Well my northern and Russian spamming friends, (I have taught you Russians a shit load about Texas, USA so far…so stay with me….I can stand the spamming, I just wipe you out) a fried pie is little more than a dough covered fruit pie. Think McDonald’s, Whataburger (local chain for you Russians), etc.  These are much better however, and I had to get one for desert.  People were coming into the joint purchasing these things by the dozen.  With a calorie count no less than 500, that is easily a 6000 calorie purchase. No wonder we have so many Texas in electric chairs who need them not…they all go to Dixie’s and order a dozen pies. Now they had interesting flavors.  All the fruits you can imagine, plus, pecan pie, chocolate, date, you name it.  So there is your other big challenge, go in there and order up one of everything.  There was at least 8 different flavors. Yes, they were 500 Calorie plus good.

Now the BBQ, well, remember, this is not a BBQ place really. They are more of a home cooking type restaurant offering a menu of just about everything from Mexican food to grits. Probably a little too much offering to excel at anything, really. My attempt at BBQ, to rate the best BBQ as I try to do in these posts, was met with BBQ my mother used to make in the crock pot.  OK. Literally. That is where they served the chopped BBQ from.  Bottom line, this is a chopped beef sandwich, doused in likely store bought BBQ sauce, and slow cooked in a crock pot.  So there is no smoking here.  This really is not BBQ. It was pleasant tasting enough, but not what I am on a mission from God to find.

So for the Texas Best BBQ review, I give it a boot count of, well, N/A.  I cannot rate BBQ that is not meant to be BBQ. On the pies, I give it 7 boots. These are worth trying. Oh yeah, in the 30 minutes I sat there, about 15 customers came in. I was the only one sitting and eating, the others, came in to buy pies.

The quest continues….

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