Texas BBQ Road Continues

On August 5, 2013, in Texas Best BBQ Review, by admin

Another addition from our portly purveyor of Texas BBQ:

Today’s journey takes us to Chappell Hill, about 8 miles east on Highway 290 from Brenham ,TX.    We have passed the Chappell Hill Bakery and Smokehouse numerous times over the years and kept saying, “one of these days….”.  As we were in the area for the Chappell Hill Bluebonnet Festival, we left the festival tired and hungry and decided, this was going to be that day.  Walking in, you are faced with two entry doors.  The first, on the right, leads to the Bakery side and the left leads to the restaurant side.  There is only one large room inside , filled with tables and a few booths, with very little decoration outside of some old photos of the area from many years past.   Heading over to the restaurant side we were immediately dismayed at the long line we found ourselves in.  The line snaked past the cafeteria style servers carving BBQ meats and placing side orders on plates.  But the line moved steadily, and the wait gave us the chance to read the chalk menu board with the options and daily specials.  It also gave us time to look at the orders of folks walking past the cashier’s area, plates filled with food.

As usual at a new BBQ place, we ordered the two-meat special, with brisket, sausage, and two sides.  Then came our first big decision-what kind of sausage?  They offer 3 types, regular, jalapeno, and garlic.  We chose the garlic as it was not as spicy, and very unusual option on the BBQ Road.  The sides offered were plentiful, from Mac-n-cheese, to mustard greens, and several types of beans, but we chose the traditional potato salad and Cole slaw.  We got pickles on the side, no onions.  Sauce came on the side as well, which is a great choice for most people, who are usually on one side or the other on the great BBQ Sauce or non-BBQ-Sauce debate.  We were asked if we wanted bread, and said yes.  We received two large thick-sliced made-in-the-store slabs of warm bread, fresh from the oven.  Wonderful!

The sides were good, not great.  The mustard potato salad had a large dill pickle contribution, which made the salad tangy and crunchy.  The Cole slaw was fresh, but a little soupy.   The BBQ sauce was thin, molasses/ketchup based, with not much else going for it.   How was the meat?   The brisket had a very pronounced smoke ring, but little smoke flavor.  It was not particularly tender.  The sausage was outstanding, sliced thin and piled high, the garlic flavor very present but not overpowering.

For desert, we wandered over to the bakery side, and first passed on Blue Bell Ice Cream (No Blue Bell, from right down the road in Brenham?-Sometimes sacrifices must be made.  We did buy a loaf of bread, still very warm from the oven, and fogging up the bread bag.  We added a dozen Kolaches and off we went for more adventures down the road.

The grade?  Chappell Hill gets a “B”.  Good sides, great sausage, so-so brisket, and BBQ sides best summed up as “meh”.  The grade would have been closer to a “C”, but the Bakery raises the overall grade.  The prices and serving sizes were about average.

The BBQ Road goes ever on…….

 

Joe Bob BBQ gives this a thumbs up for two meats, 3000 calories, and followed, I am sure, by a nap

Today’s establishment asking for entry at the gates of BBQ heaven is a well-known Austin restaurant known as “County Line Barbecue”.  As noted previously, I generally stay away from chains, even small chains, but a friend asked me to dinner there to compare it versus some of the better spots I have encountered on the mission to find great BBQ.   County Line’s website lists 8 locations, plus their sister establishments Cannoli Joe’s, an Italian buffet style place, and Side Door Liquor Store in El Paso.   Eclectic corporate grouping, so far.  Started in Austin in 1975, the County Line has two locations in the Capital City, the original on The Hill, in an old “speakeasy” and the other overlooking a portion of Lake Austin.  This visit was to the lake location.  The huge parking lot had a half-dozen cars parked in front. The large restaurant is cool, the wood interior very relaxing and soothing.  The staff was friendly and helpful, but seemed to be in a hurry to rush us taking orders, checking up numerous times for status and tea refills.  It seemed the vibe was to turn the tables over quickly and get more customers in, and it wasn’t especially crowded.  After the meal, we strolled out to the huge wooden deck, to chat and watch the sun on the immense limestone cliffs looking down on us, and keeping an eye on several dozen turtles lazily hanging around the water.  They have spots for boaters to tie up when they are ready for a break from the lake.  Very cool.

As usual, I ordered the two meat plate, Brisket and Sausage, with Potato Salad, Cole Slaw,  and “baked beans”.   Hot bread, as dark as pumpernickel came first.  Slathered with sweet honey butter, was delicious.  But we weren’t at a bakery, we were there for some serious BBQ.  As our plate dinners came out I was baffled.  The Brisket serving was minimal,  the sausage quite large.  The potato salad was cold, crisp, with just the right amount of mustard.  A winner.  The Baked Beans were hot, but tasted like canned pork-n-beans heated on the stove with a touch of brown sugar.  The coleslaw was fresh but bland, merely acceptable.  The brisket itself, was moderately tender, with a small  smoke ring.  We had the option to use the sauce on the side.  The sauce was well made, moderately dense, a little peppery.  The sausage casing was very thick and difficult to cut through even with silverware.  Plastic knives and forks would have failed miserably.  The sausage flavor was mildly smoky, with some interesting spices.  I did not try the turkey, which several people have raved about.

The County Line Has Nice Surroundings

Overall, I give The County Line a “D” .  This was the most expensive BBQ place I have sampled, and from the amount and quality of the food for the price, a major disappointment.  Maybe they had an off night, it does happen from time to time, but for what they charge, the quality of the food should be the paramount focus, not getting people in and out.   The problem with chain restaurants is often they sacrifice the time necessary to make really great smoked meats and delicious sides, for speed and expediency.  The parking lot was packed when we left, which I could see for the ambiance, but not for the food.  Austin should expect and demand better.

Editors Note:  I too have opinions on this establishment. A location opened in Garland Texas, on Lake Ray Hubbard. Seems they stick with their water view.  Unfortunately, this establishment did not make it even two years, even with a killer unobstructed view of the lake.  The only positive I can say is that the County Line is one of the few BBQ  joints that serve beef ribs.  Not sure why these are not more popular in the bayous of BBQs. But they do a decent job with the beef ribs.  So if you do try one of their locations, I highly recommend those or you will be very dissatisfied.America’s Best BBQ: 100 Recipes from America’s Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses, and Restaurants

The BBQ Road goes ever on…….

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Chisholm Trail BBQ Lockhart Texas. So everyone boasts to have the best BBQ, especially here in Texas where everyone brags about anything and everything. So when our roaming correspondent and local BBQ expert hit the road once again to ingest some serious calories, they ended up in this central Texas town of Lockhart, about 30 miles southeast of Austin, Texas. Here, they claim the best BBQ in the state.  Truly, some of the joynts he mentions go back to the early 1900’s, and Chisholm Trail BBQ to the 70’s, the ‘new kid’ in town. So are they the best?  Well, read on……

Last holiday weekend brought a quick lunch trip down to Lockhart, TX, proclaimed “The BBQ Capital of Texas”.  Pretty strong words, there pardner, but can they back it up?  The answer is…Hell yes!

This small town of approximately 14,000 people, the county seat of Caldwell County has one of the most picturesque County Courthouses in Texas, completed in 1894.  This town was on one of the main trails of the Chisholm Trail, with Cowboys riding herd to drive beef to the railheads in Kansas.  That history of handling beef has taken hold with four BBQ places (and counting) that would be considered among the best in Texas.

After previously trying the better-known BBQ “joints” in town, like Blacks, Smitty’s, and  Kruez, we were determined to try “Chisholm Trail BBQ” right on Hwy  183 in town, but well past the other places mentioned above.  The low-slung, but long building is unimpressive outside, with signs advising of a wide variety of foods including chicken-fried steaks and fajita plates. We found one parking spot available out front—the place was packed. Walking in , there is initial confusion, no real directions to the service line—indeed there were two lines.  After watching a minute and then asking a local, we learned that the left hand line is for “to Go” orders and the right line was for either eat-in or to go.  The floor was commercial tile, the tables, old worn Formica, scattered about several divided rooms.  Old pictures and the occasional stuffed bobcat/coyote were the decorations.  A wide variety of choices then presented themselves—what to eat.  You can order a plate with 1 or more meats and sides, or just order various meats by the pound.  You can get a Styrofoam container to eat in or go, or just have them put it on butcher paper like other places in town.  We quickly decided on the plate lunch, either the 1 or two meat plate came with 3 sides (most places offer two sides) along with bread and onions (which I think must be offered by law in Texas).  In order to compare “apples to apples” when reviewing BBQ,  I usually get the brisket and sausage as I did here.  The sides had over a dozen choices, cottage fries, green beans, pinto beans, potato salad, coleslaw, fried okra, mac and cheese, black eyed peas, green salad, were among those offered.  My companion got green beans and black-eyed peas, and I got the ‘tater salad and coleslaw. (again, pretty standard for comparison sakes).

The green beans tasted like home-grown picked and slow-cooked with ham bits-very good.  The black-eyed peas were met with approval.  The potato salad was delicious, crunchy, firm, with celery and pimento bits included.  The only disappointment was the coleslaw.  While the presentation was good, with carrots chopped and added to the mix for good color, the slaw was bland, almost warm, vinegar-based.  The sweet tea was especially refreshing after a  busy morning.

But let’s talk about the reason for the visit—the slow-cooked meats.  The brisket was very tender, with a beautiful pink smoke ring.  Juicy but lean, it almost melts in your mouth.  The flavor both with and without sauce was close to the best we have had on the BBQ road. (Country Cousins in Centerville—watch out!)  The sausage was very good, the casing was tough to cut, but the meat inside was smoked, with interesting spices.  Not the best sausage we have had, but certainly in top 3 territory.   The brisket could be cut with a small plastic knife with little effort.  BBQ sauce was available on the side(Bonus Points!).  We bought two pounds of sliced brisket to take home with us, something we seldom do.

We found that having three sides with the BBQ plates to be a great value as well as delicious. The prices were the best we have seen on The Barbecue Road.    Great food, great prices, great value—no wonder the locals pack the place! Overall, The Chisholm Trail BBQ gets an “A”, better grades than most of the more famous BBQ brethren in town.  The food is better, the attitude is better, the place was packed with locals—all the visitors hit the other places…but the food—mmmm…..great job, folks, great job.  We will be back!

The Barbecue Road beckons…..

PS: A trip to their website indicates they will ship you meat across the county. Several of the better BBQ joints in Texas have begun to do this.  This is a way, although not the best like being there, to try some of the meats written about regularly on our bohemian site.

 


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When Will The BBQ Monsoon Stop?

On April 21, 2011, in Low Budget Review, by admin

 

We truly hope never. Wow, our man about Texas continues with the BBQ….he is literally giving you his waistline so you may enjoy these great reviews.  OK.  First a note to Google:  Dear Google, please do not cancel my adsense account. Some of the recipes in adds that you have posted as a result of your excellent search engine has literally made me click on my own ads.  Please forgive me, if you search engine was not so great, I would not have pulled off several cool recipes for one of my favorite foods…….on the BBQ Road.

Now to the review.  This place had no photo I could find, so it better be good, but read on……

My last experience on this trip was the next afternoon for a late lunch.  Mike’s Barbecue House in Nacogdoches.   Opened in 1986, the family had worked in another BBQ place across town before going out on their own.  The small parking lot was actually encouraging, but the electric sign out front worried me.  Once we walked in, though, the smell of BBQ and a little smoke was very promising.  The décor was standard Texas BBQ—wooden tables, pictures of country landscapes.  The semi-antique items hung on the walls were at a minimum, thankfully.  Really, people.  We know we are in the country, at a BBQ joint/place.  We don’t need washboards, and old rusty plows and farm implements and pictures of a Marketing Major’s version of Ma and Pa and Uncle Ernie nailed to the walls to remind us.  We know.  Now the food?  Our party ordered several different items, Pork Ribs, tasty and smoky even if not falling-off-the-bone.  The brisket had a very nice smoke ring, tender, the sausage was perhaps underdone.  The sauce was added without asking and it appeared and tasted as if a rub was placed on the meats before the sauce was added. This was similar to another BBQ place we had tried in the same city.  The result was a medium-spicy mixture, quite tasty but unusual.  We had seen that only in this town.   Some in our party did not care for the mixture, I found it different and quite good, even though I am not a spicy-foods person.  The potato salad was outstanding, in the top 3 of what we had tried in all our travels, the Cole slaw was unfortunate. Soggy, vinegar based, not encouraging.  The stuffed jalapeno’s were very spicy. The baked-bean style beans were good with chunks of beef and sauce cooked in.   The staff was pleasant and focused.  The tea was sweet and refreshing.  The blackberry cobbler was also very good.  Mike’s gets a solid B from me, although the rest of the party may not have graded so generously.  But after all, I am writing this, not them, so my grade goes….

 

The Barbecue Road goes ever on….

 

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Follow Up To Dickey’s

On April 20, 2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

It was brought to my attention that Dickey’s in the early days, used to put out slabs o cheese for patrons to cut of pieces, at their discretion, as much as they could eat. Now this does not have a lot of place in a BBQ joint, but maybe Dickey’s would sell more franchises if they resorted back to this policy, make up for only mediocre BBQ

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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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