Rouses Everyday - September & October - page 17

The day’s plan was simple enough. “Meet
me at East Sixth and Waller at 10AM,” he
said over the phone. “And be hungry. We’ll
cover a lot of ground.”
Vaughn started off the morning at his home
in surburban Dallas, hit the road around dawn
and braved the eight-hour round trip drive for
a single moveable
-centric feast.
By the time we hit the tables at
Mickelthwait, we’d sampled
the wares at two local standouts
with a complicated family
The line at the popular La
Barbecue — a trailer run
by Leanne Mueller of the
dynasty — had already formed
an hour and change before
opening time. Our contact,
pitmaster John Lewis was out
running errands, and the clock was ticking.
“We got a lot of stops so we’ll circle back,”
said Vaughn after a twenty-minute wait.
“I’ll text him and have him save us a rib
before they sell out.”
We munched on our consolation prize
(a few links of hot smoked sausage) as
we headed east to John Mueller Meat
Company, another trailer-based barbecue
joint run by Leanne’s brother. The two had
recently parted ways, and pitmaster John set
up his own shop. Vaughn wanted to check
out his new setup.
Texas barbecue, traditionally, has been a
beef-centric affair, with the gold standard
of any respectable joint being the brisket,
a tough, persnickety cut of meat. Historic
meat markets in tiny Texas towns have built
bulletproof reputations on the virtue of
their perfectly-cooked brisket slow-smoked
12 hours or more, with beef ribs and
sausage playing a solid second fiddle. Many
of those joints — including the original
Louie Mueller’s of Taylor, TX — lie an easy
drive (30-45 minutes) outside Austin’s city
limits, making them easy daytrips for fans
of the form. For years you could find
barbecue in Austin, but the GREAT stuff
was just a ways outside town.
All this changed in the past decade when
the food truck/trailer scene in Austin
picked up steam and a younger generation
of pitmasters (some schooled by the
vaunted dynasties of yore) took advantage
of the city’s portable restaurant boom.
Communications technology helped as
well, as the geeky old-school grapevine was
supplemented by ready buzz on social media
and a constant flow of “Top 10 Austin
BBQ” lists from food scene websites. The
result is an explosion of new joints serving
from a variety of truck-related devices.
Franklin’s barbecue, the current pop-
culture icon of Austin barbecue, started
out in a trailer and went brick-and-mortar
a few years back. Now Aaron Franklin is
considered the old-timer of the bunch.
“When these lists come out, you can see a
trend,” Vaughn said after basically ordering
the whole Mickelthwait menu, “Nine out of
10 of the places are less than five years old.
And Franklin’s is the oldest on the list.”
Within minutes, the table was filled with
a bounty of meaty treat — slabs of tender
brisket with a crunchy spiced “bark” and
deep pink smoke ring, sliced pork shoulder,
links of house-made lamb
“Oh man, you gotta taste this. The chorizo
is fanTAStic,” Vaughn said as he hands
me a link. I’m pretty distracted by the
pork shoulder, still moist with the perfect
amount of smokey flavor, and the butter-
textured beef ribs.
After a few bites of the spicy lamb sausage,
the whole day slips into a meat-induced
hallucination compounded by a debilitating
case of the dreaded Meatgut.
I vaguely remember Daniel driving me
around town for another few hours as we
went through the ritual at three more joints.
He’d order four different meats, taste them,
take notes and load the leftovers
in Styrofoam trays that filled
his car trunk. He recounted the
ups and downs of storied pit-
masters whose lives sound like
gutbucket country ballads. He
might have purchased a medi-
um-sized Spongebob piñata. I
can’t be sure.
Then one stop — Brown’s in
south Austin — he took one
look at me and had mercy.
“I’ll get this one. You stay in the car.”
As I slipped in and out of a meat-induced
coma, he returned with a couple of
Styrofoam clamshell plates heavy with
meat. A few more minutes of tasting, notes
and cleanup, and we were back on the road.
“We’re almost done,” he said, clearly
unfazed by the day’s eating and ready for
one last course. “We’ve gotta stop back by
La Barbecue and try that rib before I head
back. You game?”
"Spell it barbecue, barbeque, BBQ,
Bar-B-Q or Bar-B-Que.... there are as
many ways to write it as there are
to cook it."
—Donny Rouse, 3rd Generation
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