Sunday, November 11, 2012

Austin Food Highlights: Part 3, BBQ!

Before we left for Austin, I asked around for suggestions of places to eat and drink in the area.  One of suggestions that kept recurring was barbecue at The Salt Lick in Driftwood, about thirty minutes outside of Austin. Friends and acquaintances raved about how great it was, while food blogs and reviews on the internet were telling me the Salt Lick was touristy and overrated.  So I knew that there was only one way to get to the bottom of this - I had to see it for myself.

We went for lunch on Tuesday, which made it the perfect time to go, since there was no wait for table.  When you first walk in you get to see the meats cooking here:

We ordered the Rancher plate, which is a sampler of brisket, sausage, turkey and ribs that you see in the lead photo.  When we ordered it, the waiter dutifully asked, "Do you have a preference on brisket?"  Being a barbecue novice, this question baffled me.  Apparently, there are three choices when ordering brisket: lean, moist and burnt ends.  We ordered a little of everything to get the full experience.

Overall, the food was solid.  My favorite meat was the sausage, which moist and flavorful. I learned that my preferred form of brisket is "moist" - the burnt ends were a bit too crispy for me, and the lean was just bland.    The turkey went very well with the barbecue sauce that kept in a squeeze bottle at every table.  While this was hands down better than any barbecue I had in the North, I could see why some may call it overrated.  The barbecue was very good, but it was mass produced, and didn't seem very special.

So after talking to locals a few days later, we learned about Lockhart, the self-proclaimed "BBQ Capital of Texas."  One google search on the smartphone and we cruising down the fastest highway in the country to Black's Barbecue.  Here's some of what we ate:

What you see here are pork ribs, beans, potato salad, a deviled egg, and what is the largest beef rib I have ever seen.  Here's a close-up of this giant beef rib:

This rib was massive, and delicious.  It easily eclipsed the Salt Lick.  The rest of the food was great too.

The difference in the barbecue at Black's was that it had punch, it was in your face, it had personality.  When you ordered your food over the counter, you could see the guy behind the counter cutting your meat right in front of you.  It just had more of a personal touch than the mass produced meat at the Salt Lick, where the meat was basted using a mop.  Don't get me wrong, the Salt Lick was good, but if I had to choose one for barbecue, it would be Black's, hands-down.

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