Barbecuing Around Texas Review
By Richard K. Troxell
On the Hunt
If you enjoy eating barbecue, you will happily comb through the detailed reviews and ratings in the book Barbecuing Around Texas. Author Richard K. Troxell brings together a full plate of barbecue restaurants, focusing especially on the meats and sauce served, as opposed to the vegetables and desserts.
The author explains in his forward how he apparently awoke one morning with the urge to travel thousands of miles sampling and reviewing restaurants around the state. The divides the book into seven geographic regions, and reviews a good mix in all the cities. He does not review all barbecue restaurants (pity the person who attempts to ambitiously eat at every standing barbecue restaurant in Texas).
The forward goes into a fairly good primer of barbecue terminology, like rubs and barbecue pits. Texas Cooking readers should already be very familiar with these aspects of barbecue thanks to the numerous articles on the subject by John Raven.
Troxell establishes a ratings system for the restaurants. I found his system to puzzle me sometimes. Some places where I've enjoyed perfectly good barbecue received lower then average ratings. But on the whole, places with very high quality food received an 8, on a scale of 1 to 10. Establishments with a 7 rating are numerous, and they serve fine barbecue as well. (Fortunately in Texas we enjoy plenty of barbecue)
The stories of his servings and reception at the many restaurants are often interesting.
Troxell especially likes the food served at the County Line restaurants of San Antonio and Austin. For me, I've always found their service too fancy for my taste. But on the whole, if you want a book that shows lots of good places to eat, buy Barbecuing Around Texas.
City of Lockhart - Black's BBQ - Rating: 8
A sign reads, "Black's BBQ. Est. 1932. Texas' oldest and best major restaurant continuously owned by the same family."
Wrong? Prause's in La Grange wins the family longevity battle. But Black's did throw in the word "best." According to the courts, everybody has the right to call their whatever the best. I think Black's BBQ was thinking about Kreuz Market down the street when they had the sign painted.
My suggestion is that Black's should drop Texas' and insert Lockhart's. I entered Black's after the big lunch crowd. I zipped right through the line, picked up my usual samples, and took a seat. Only a couple of other tables had occupants, and they stared at a sports game on the TV.
My slice of brisket had a 5/16-inch pink ribbon. Good sign. It took slices with my fork to sseparatethe meat. No fat appeared. The atoma was faint, and my bite disclosed superior flavor. I gave it a 7.
The barbecue sauce had the basics with a mysterious something extra. Was it pickle juice? Sides: coleslaw, creamy potato salad, and pinto beans. Dessert: peach and cherry cobbler, apple pie, pecan pie, and banana pudding.
The dcor said Western. I looked at raw wood paneling, a great collection of longhorn horns, some nice mounted deer head trophies, and pictures of Lockhart High School football teams going back to 1909.
Owner Edgar Black Jr. was out, and I talked with Nat Castillo, as employee about their brisket. He showed me their two long and open brick pits. After staring at so many rotisserie pits, these looked beautiful to me. Nat said they used post oak and smoked briskets eighteen to twenty-four hours. They did it in two steps. They put in sticks and brisket and fired up the day before. Early the next morning, they added more sticks. It was a manual operation. No gas. No electricity. No gauges. No thermometer. Barbecuing that satisfies the soul and not the machine.
He said the only rub they used was salt and pepper.