Hey, I got your barbecue right here
By Mike Leggett
Tell Iím me old-fashioned. Tell me Iím stupid and hard-headed and a chauvinistic Texan BUT donít tell me thereís a list of the 10 best barbecue joints in the country that doesnít include at least one Texas spot.
No Cooperís or Kreuzís, not even a Daddy Samís.
And donít tell me the Austin American-Statesman ran such a list in Sundayís paper and didnít qualify it in some way. Just a random filler on the Travel page.
No Louie Mueller, no Hard Eight, not even a Salt Lick.
Say it ainít so, guys.
But it is so, at least according to Bon Appetit magazine.
Often itís best not to dignify stupidity by pointing out the stupidity but a list of the best barbecue joints in the country that has no Texas spot on it is just blasphemous. And four of the five places are Yankee hellholes; two of those from Michigan alone.
One of the places on the list, Rolling Bone BBQ in Atlanta Iíve actually visited and it was pretty good. But it was that southern stuff, slathered in sauce. Those guys think they know pork but I would venture to say that I could lay out a smoked pork butt for pulled pork sandwiches or tacos that would be just as good as theirs, even better because it would have a hint of mesquite smoke layered under the hickory.
I know I havenít eaten at every barbecue place in Texas but Iíve been to a bunch of them. Some werenít so great some were really special.
I tend to stop at places that are on my way to other places or that are convenient to where we live. And if I like one, I go back there as often as I can. Iíll alter my trip slightly to get to them, even if itís just a couple of slices of pork loin or a sausage wrap I can eat in the truck.
So, hereís my list of the best places the get barbecue around Texas. Itís by no means definitive. Itís by no means inclusive because there are so many places I havenít visited because they just arenít on my way.
This is the Leggett Barbecue list based on the roads I travel. If I havenít been there more than once, it wonít be on the list. They are mentioned in the order in which they jumped in to my head. Hey, it works for Bon Appetit.
1) Cooperís in Llano: First because itís closest to my house. Yes, itís expensive and yes the lines can be long in a hot summer sun but the cabrito and the ribs - pork and beef are great. I like the beef ribs because theyíre meaty and tender. The pork ribs havenít been cooked off the bone. They still have some bite to them. And the cabrito is melt-in-your-mouth perfect.
2) Daddy Samís in Carthage: Second because itís closest to the house I grew up in. Dennis LaGrone grew up down the road from us and he does hickory-smoked barbecue that brings back special memories of East Texas. Try to chopped beef sandwich: sweet sauce, chunks of smoked brisket, fresh bun. Throw in a glass of sweet tea and youíre in heaven.
3) Kreuz Market in Lockhart: Third because Rick Schmidt is a friend of mine. Classic Central Texas barbecue thatís best because itís dressed down to its simplest form: meat and bread, or crackers. Try a link of sausage with your ribs. Or better yet, buy a 10-pound box to take home.
4) Hard Eight in Stephenville: This place is modeled after Cooperís. Mesquite smoke, buy off the grill, pay by the pound. But at Hard Eight, they have a bacon-wrapped chicken chunk thatís pretty darn good and a sirloin kabob thatís wonderful. They dip it in a butter sauce before they throw it on the plate. Really good.
5) Salt Lick in Dripping Springs: I wasnít a fan after my first visit. Donít know why. Every time Iíve been back since, the food was great. Love the big pit. Love the sausage. Like the pork ribs, again because they donít get cooked off the bone.
6) Louie Mueller in Taylor: This is an institution and not without reason. Big old, smoke-stained building, no air conditioning, order at the counter, pay by the weight. And they always give you a pepper-loaded chunk of brisket to gnaw on while youíre waiting for your order. Try the beef ribs. Huge and smoked in a different way than Cooperís. Pork loin is good, too. Donít go here if you donít like black pepper.
7) The Little Place on the Highway in South Texas: I swear I canít remember the name of this place but I think itís on Highway 281 down close to the Valley south of Falfurrias. They did a beef rib plate that was amazing. Huge, fatty but still with plenty of meat on them. I ate there once and couldnít for the life of me tell you the name. Stop if you go by, though.
8) Luling City Market in Luling: Best place in the world after a long float down the San Marcos River. Iíd just go finger foods - ribs and sliced brisket ó and lots of sweet tea. 9) Cattle Call in Amarillo: I looked this up on the Internet because it used to be called Sutphenís and I heard Sutphenís went out of business. Thereís still a Sutphenís in Borger. If itís the same guys operating the Cattle Call, the family style, all you can eat barbecue would be a wise choice. Get the onion rings.
10) County Line in Austin: I like beef ribs so this works for me. Other things tend to get a little commercial. They had one in Colorado Springs for a while that was a welcome stop on a long trip to the mountains to hunt but itís closed now. Texas Ďcue doesnít play in the Rockies, I guess.
And finally, Iíve been blessed to eat from the pits of some of the best smokers and grillers in Texas, whether itís a cowhand on the King Ranch or a guy on a deer lease in Shackelford County. Iím willing to bet Bon Appetit never tasted those or theyíd have to revise their list.
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