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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Everything's Bigger in Texas

I was in Austin this past week visiting my parents and sister and their assorted pets. As you may or may not know, Austin is the city of my birth. Which I shouldn't probably say on this blog, since it's the security question on, like, my bank account and stuff, but whatever. Like that would be totally unknowable information if I kept my mouth shut on my blog.

Anyway. The trip was awesome! Lots of good family bonding (Simpsons-style: we watched Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Death at a Funeral, plus a Travel Channel marathon of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain) and took the dogs to several different dog parks to run around like mad. Austinites, it turns out, are insane for their dogs; pets are allowed everywhere, even in restaurants--it's like being in Paris, except you have to pick up the poop. We also ate LOTS of great food and drank liters of fabulous wine (from South Africa, no less, since Stinger wasn't there to impose his no-wines-from-below-the-equator rule) and just generally made very merry. Probably the best meal of the trip, or at least the most unique, was at an ancient, famed barbecue joint in Lockhart, TX.Smitty's Market, rated in the top 5 bbq places in the Austin area by Texas Monthly, took over the old pit when the previous and even more famous Kreuz Market moved to bigger digs just outside town. We chose to eat at Smitty's because we wanted to see what a real Texas bbq place looked like 100 years ago--because it really hasn't changed much in the last century.
You go in the back and line up next to the actual pit, fire and smoke on your face and in your hair, nearly close enough to singe. The smokehouse guys carve up your order (which you place by the pound. I KNOW.) on an overturned barrel in the middle of the room. Then you take it through to the big, open dining room where you can purchase drinks and sides like potato salad, cole slaw, avocadoes, jalapenos, butter bread, raw onions, and saltines. These are apparently traditional, and I have to say, all of them added something special. The avocado, in particular, was an unexpectedly delightful pairing.What you don't get is barbecue sauce. That, apparently, is an abomination. And really? The meat doesn't even need it.My sister, Georgia, and I were nearly incoherent with glee over the tangy-sweet pork ribs, while my parents preferred the fatty brisket, darkly browned and rich with flavorful fat. There was also lean brisket, which we all agreed could've actually used some sauce, and house-made sausages so crisp, they snapped and spurted hot sausage juice when you bit into them.
The slaw and potato salad were servicable but not great; the room was crowded and unbelievably noisy. The seating was school-lunch-cafeteria style, long tables with benches. There were no plates, no forks (I grabbed long plastic iced tea spoons for the slaw, which may have been a faux pas. Was I supposed to shotgun the stuff like tequila?) We didn't get enough napkins and made a huge mess of ourselves and ended the meal in a meat-induced coma, but it was SO WORTH IT. Lockhart, TX, is barbecue MECCA, and I would go there every weekend if I could. Tune in tomorrow for the other fabulous Lockhart institution, Kreuz Market.


No wines from below the equator?? But but! Shiraz from SE Australia! Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough NZ! He is missing so much...

You said hot sausage juice. That alone gives this post a A+. But seriously, my jealousy meter is off the charts right now. Ooo...bbq, my not so secret love...

Wow, does that look good. Wow.

Hahaha, love Nick and his wine rules. He makes me laugh so hard. That said, I often find South American Shiraz too spicy for my tastes. Did have an excellent Malbec recently, though - so dark it was nearly purple.

BTW, your hair is getting LONG!

I'm gonna have to take a trip to that place in Austin. Ten years ago I lived there for almost a year and it was a lot of fun. The SXSW festival is always fun! Thank goodness we've got decent BBQ here in Dallas!

I lived in Austin for almost 5 years (Megan was born there) and I loved it. But i have to admit, I hate BBQ!

Stinger has this thing about not being able to keep learning about wines, and since his head is already stuffed with California and France, NZ and the rest are out of luck. I have to say, it hasn't impacted the quality of my life too badly, but I enjoyed the S.African wines.

Not as much as the bbq, though! God, that was awesome. I'm hungry just thinking about it.

Darling, you really must know... Both Smitty's and Kreuz are on Texas Monthly's list of the top five barbecue places in TEXAS, not "near Austin." Which makes them on the list of the top five barbecue places in the universe. Because.

I mentioned this outing to Everett and he reminded me that his friend Oscar Romo loved Kreuz. Oscar was from Lockhart, and when he was growing up in the 1950s, it was one of the very few places owned by Anglos that also served Mexican Americans.

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