Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue

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Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/13 11:42:49
Billyboy, I think we'll take you up on that offer some time. I've loved the reports you've posted of your NYC tours. I know that Lori would like to revisit New York, and if we do, I'd love to dedicate a day to foodery.
ann peeples
Sirloin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/13 11:48:59
Don't know how I missed this, Ralph! Awesome report....
CajunKing
Sirloin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/13 17:57:50
Ralph and Lori -
 
Your report thus far rivals BB's epic Burger trip with Cousin Johnny.  I love your descriptions of the places and the food.  The animation on the queen of pies was quite cute.  You have truly hit some deeeelishus spots and looking forward to your lockhart section.
 
Unfortunately you just never know where TTM will show up next (you know we love you steve), and to enjoy Chris & Amy's presence too, you are batting .1000.
mhill95
Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/13 18:38:09
I missed this one also, Great Report!
 
mike
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/17 22:33:39
Monday was the day that most embodied the title of this report.

We started with a request from Amy: she was keen to visit Summermoon Coffee, because they offered coffee that was roasted with a wood fire. I don't drink coffee often, so the sips I took just tasted like coffee to me; perhaps Amy can contribute an opinion of whether this makes a perceptible difference.


I've added this table card to my collection of Roadfood signage because of the edit that was made; one small edit can make a great deal of difference to the implications of a sentence. (Though "toy" more accurately represented what I saw.)


Our breakfast destination was one that Chris had particularly asked for: Gourdough's donuts. I'd rescheduled this trip from Saturday morning because of Chris and Amy's late arrival, but when I had rescheduled it, I hadn't checked my notes for their opening times. I remembered that they opened at 8, but I had forgotten that they only opened at 8 on Saturday. So we arrived at 9:40 to find that Gourdough's opened at 10am. (They are open until midnight on most days and 3am on weekends - many food trucks seem to cater to night owls.)


So with a bit of time to kill, we turned to the adjacent taco truck, Mellizoz Tacos. This was just as well, because Chris and Amy hadn't yet had a chance to eat a great breakfast taco.


We ordered the 04, which included eggs, bacon, avocado, beans, and cotija cheese. This was amazing, and the picture does not do it justice. The avocado and cheese made it very rich and luscious, and the bacon helped make it super flavorful. This was definitely the best breakfast taco of our trip, and this is the taco whose memory makes me salivate two months later.
It was also very messy, though - through some trick of geometry I haven't wholly figured out, a tortilla that is large enough to contain a taco's worth of fillings cannot be cut into two half-tortillas large enough to contain a half-taco's worth of fillings. 


As we finished that taco, Gourdough's had put out their menu board:


We ordered two donuts and split them each four ways. I was tempted to order more because there were so many interesting flavors, but this was a good choice - one taco and two donuts were more than enough to keep us full for quite a while.


The Miss Shortcake was topped with cream cheese icing and fresh strawberries, and by my lights, anything with that many strawberries has got to be good. But it was much better than I expected, because under a pile of frosting and strawberries the size of my face, there was a really light, crisp donut. A lesser donut such as one from Krispy Kreme would have gotten crushed under the toppings; this was capable of playing off the toppings to make a really delicious combination of tastes and textures.


The Flying Pig ("bacon with maple syrup icing") was a great success as well. I tend to be suspicious of layering bacon with donuts because of the problem of layersquish. If you layer a soft donut (again, think Krispy Kreme) with a piece of bacon that requires a bit of gnawing or sawing to sever, the donut will be crushed and tattered by the process of cutting the bacon. But the Flying Pig soared over that trap - the bacon was crisp enough to break easily with a fork, and the donut was strong enough that it was easy to get all three flavors in every bite.


Everything we ate that morning was fabulous, and I'm so glad that there were four of us to share everything - Gourdough's donuts are so massive and filling that I don't think I could have done justice to more than one if it had been only Lori and I eating.
CajunKing
Sirloin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/18 16:54:21
MY GAWD I am in love with those donuts THEY ARE HUGE
 
well probably not because you were in TEXAS and EVERYTHING is bigger in TX.
Sundancer7
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/18 17:20:01
Beautiful doughnuts with strawberries.  Double outstanding but you have to understand that folks in the south really love their Krispy Kreme.  A great write and very good pics.  Not a issue but the bacon did not look crispy although you indicated it was.  Must have been superb cooking.
 
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
icecreamchick
Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/18 21:29:36
I admit, when I saw the Gordough's creations, my eyes just about popped out of my head! They were ginormous!  I am sure that one would have been more than enough for Ralph and me on our own. But, we had good people to share them with.
 
Summermoon coffee was really lovely. I don't drink enough coffee to talk about the specifics, but I really enjoyed my latte. 
love2bake
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/18 21:46:18
I can practically smell that frying dough from the trailer.  Wooooo!!!  What a treat you had there.
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/19 10:49:19
Sundancer7

Beautiful doughnuts with strawberries.  Double outstanding but you have to understand that folks in the south really love their Krispy Kreme.  A great write and very good pics.  Not a issue but the bacon did not look crispy although you indicated it was.  Must have been superb cooking.

 
I enjoy Krispy Kreme myself, but it's on the soft and squishy end of the donut spectrum. It would be the wrong sort of donut for a heavily-topped donut like this. 
 
I also thought that the bacon did not look cooked enough to be crispy. It was a pleasant surprise.
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/23 09:18:22
After Gourdough's, we took a break from food for a trip to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

I had high hopes for the Wildfower Center; it was my last best hope for broad fields of Texas wildflowers. These hopes didn't quite come true. There were some very nice flowers, but they came in portions that were garden-sized instead of field-sized. I found myself acutely conscious that it wasn't quite measuring up to my hopes, and hoping that Chris and Amy weren't too disappointed.



I have tried to research just who was responsible for the name "Horse-Crippler Cactus", with no success. This means that I can neither confirm nor deny my idea that it was named by an botanist who carried a grudge. (It is apparently also called "Candy Cactus", which carries much less bitterness.)


The color garden did offer some swaths of flowers, but they didn't extend as far as the eye could see.








 
  

California poppies apparently grow in Texas too. I love their intense orange.
 

In a little building at the far end of the gardens, there was an exhibit of some very beautiful art made in pressed paper. Unfortunately, photographs were prohibited.

Indian blanket is one of the wildflowers I expect to see along Texas highways.



Yellow and pink primrose complete the set I expect to see on the roads.
 

The lily pond showed a bit of wildlife in the form of snakes and turtles.



This is the variety of honeysuckle that grew on the neighbor's fence when I was a child.. We used to pluck the blossoms, bite the bases off, and suck out the nectar inside.


My mother fought against trumpet vine for many years.


  

Yes, I have an inner fifteen-year-old snickering at this.


We took one of their walks among the fields outside the more cultivated part of the center. It did have patches of bluebonnets.


And from the top of the tower, you could get a real sense of Austin landscape.



(We took many more pictures there, but I tried to present just my favorites. I invite you to click through and look at my Flickr collection.)
agnesrob
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/23 11:07:31
Outstanding pictures! I love your honeysuckle memory, I used to do the same thing as a kid!
Twinwillow
Sirloin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/23 11:22:27
Damn, I love Texas! As they say, I wasn't born in Texas but, I got here as soon as I could (1963). 
 
A most fantastic, Texas sized report with great pictures. Thank you!
leethebard
Sirloin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/23 12:39:10
Some great photography here...thanks so much.
Sundancer7
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/06/23 12:54:34
Ralph, I personally thought the gardens were beautiful.  They appeared small enough to be maintained which is difficult to do with the Texas weather.
 
I also have seen fields of beautiful Texas wildflowers but they were seasonal.  The gardens seem to have a wide variety that has something interesting going on about all year.
 
One of the better displays of native Texas wildflowers was driving into the entrance of DFW but those were maintained with lotsa water and fertilizer and monies from the many fliers of DFW that contribute to the airlines that contribute to DFW.
 
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/20 15:15:57
"We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.." —The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


In Lockhart, we visited Kreuz Market (pronounced "krites") and Smitty's, two of the restaurants that have earned Lockhart the title of "The Barbecue Capital of Texas". (I didn't put Black's on the itinerary, because the one time I visited Black's, I had a severe allergic reaction a few hours later. I don't know that one caused the other, but I didn't want to take the chance. And though I offered in complete sincerity to take the rest of our party to Black's, I knew that I would be very likely to say to myself "well, just a nibble probably wouldn't be too risky" - if I think I should abstain, it's easiest for me to not even step inside.)

Kreuz Market and Smitty's are closely related. Smitty's location is the original location of Kreuz Market. But when the patriarch of the Schmidt family died, his son Rick Schmidt owned the business, but his daughter Nina inherited the building, and Nina's terms for rent were unacceptable to Rick. (My source for this is an interview with Rick at http://southernbbqtrail.southernfoodways.org/texas/kreuz-market.shtml . Rick said very clearly that there was no feud between him and Nina, but I suspect that there were at least a few stern looks.) So Rick moved Kreuz Market to a big new building north of town, and Nina established Smitty's in the old building.

The biggest difference between the buildings is that Kreuz Market looks like a building that was crafted as a barbecue parlor, but Smitty's looks like a place that "just happened". I've experienced a handful of other restaurants with that uncrafted quality - and a slew of restaurants that try to imitate it. For example, T.G.I. Friday's and a bunch of other chain restaurants try to imitate the "junk on the walls" quality of a place like Chiodo's - but the junk on the walls at Friday's feels deliberately chosen and placed, whereas no curator's hand ever guided the selection of the brassieres thrown to the ceiling at Chiodo's.

Another example: there is a company named The Irish Pub Company that specializes in the design and manufacture of Irish pubs around the world. I'm sure they have done their homework, they know what makes an Irish pub work, and they try to create an Irish pub experience as authentically as possible - but I've been to several Irish pubs in the US that felt like I could turn them over and see a "made by the Irish Pub Company" stamp on the bottom.

And in the same way, Kreuz Market's building looks like what you would get if you contacted the hypothetical Genuine Texas Barbecue Joint Company and said, "I'd like the extra-large economy size, please." There's no doubt that the creators knew exactly what sort of place they were recreating, and I would not say that Kreuz's is not authentic. But Kreuz's tables have never had knives chained to them in lieu of other cutlery. Kreuz's walls have not accumulated the geologic layers of carbon that Smitty's has acquired from decades of smoking. And the sign in Kreuz Market that said "No forks - they are at the end of your arm" seems to me to be a sign of a restaurant that is explaining itself to tourists instead of catering to locals who know how it works. This isn't a bad thing in itself, but it is a crafted thing, and I tend to prefer uncrafted places simply because those are harder to find.

I'm presenting photos out of strict chronological order in order to compare and contrast Kreuz Market and Smitty's. Should chronology matter, we visited Kreuz Market and then Smitty's.

Kreuz Market is a big barn of a building by the highway - I've read that it seats 560 people, though people inside said that it only gets anywhere close to full on Friday and Saturday nights.


Smitty's looks like a storefront on the town square from one side, but it's more prominent on the side facing the highway.



The first thing we saw at Kreuz Market was actually the woodpile. We were very impressed by the sheer size of the woodpile - it's clearly designed to support a massive amount of smoking.


Because of that, we made sure to see the woodpile at Smitty's before we left. It also shows a dedication to smoking, but it doesn't have the immense scale of Kreuz's.


The menu board at Kreuz market. (I don't have a photo of a menu board at Smitty's, and I don't remember seeing one.) The name "shoulder clod" is very low on the list of fancy names for a cut of beef.


Kreuz Market has 8 16-foot smokers, according to the Rick Schmidt interview. Some of them line the walls of the smoking room, but some radiate out fanwise from the center like altars to some pagan god of smoked meat. (I am half joking with this description - but only half.)


At Smitty's, years of smoke have deposited carbon on the walls above the smokers in formations that resemble the walls of a cave.


(I was surprised that at both places, the fire was mostly outside the smoker. I expected that there would be more attempts to contain the smoke and focus it on the meat.) 


The dining area at Kreuz Market had decor, like this long rattlesnake skin and this Texas silhouette made out of rattles: 


The dining area at Smitty's was more spartan:


But what about the barbecue itself? 

This is what our order at Kreuz Market looked like when we received it. Texas barbecue stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from dining experiences that focus on beautiful plating. (Plating itself is a marker of a certain type of crafted dining experience.)


And this is what it looked like unveiled. The brisket (my notes say brisket, but perhaps this was the shoulder clod) was very smoky, but somewhat dry. The sausage, though, was lovely, with a robust flavor and a firm snap. Of all the sausage we had on this trip, this came closest to epitomizing what I think of as a Texas hot gut.


Kreuz Market has expanded to include some side dishes as well, and we sampled their beans. The beans had a lot of spice and sausage bits, and it added up to a great flavor.


This is our order from Smitty's. The brisket was paler but had a more vivid smoke ring than from Kreuz Market. It had a peppery crust and was a little juicier than Smitty's, though still on the dry side.



The sausage at Smitty's edged across the line from "juicy" to "greasy", but it too had a lot of flavor.



I should emphasize, though, that both of these briskets and sausages were very similar and very good. I look for differences because that's a way to draw out the individual character of each place, but I'm not at all sure I could distinguish them in a blind tasting, and I'd be more than happy to eat either one. And I do not know whether the differences I noted, if they're real, were due to the restaurant or to variations between different cows.
CajunKing
Sirloin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/20 16:10:44
Ralph - Their pits are designed to draw the smoke into them (with some heat too) with the fire outside like that you can control your temp and your smoke level by how big the fire is or how close to the firebox you get it.  They are masters at smoking.  It is fun to watch them in action.
 
Your photos are wonderful I wanted to lick the screen twice.
Sundancer7
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/20 16:21:33
Ralph, that is the best photo's I have seen of Smitty's and Kreuz.  My personal opinion was that Smitty's had the best sausage and Kreuz had the best brisket.  I do not enjoy dry brisket or sausage.  Your description was outstanding.
 
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
mayor al
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/21 02:04:40
I understand your reasoning in avoiding any possible harm by a visit to Black's BBQ, however, as one who has enjoyed BBQ safely there several times, I can assure the members that BLACK'S BBQ measures up to the other two BBQ Palaces as well, and maybe better in some respects.  Here is our "Plate" of Sausages, ribs, & brisket from Blacks.
   
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/23 13:55:46
Sundancer, I would have judged them the other way - though really, my judgment would be "too close to call".
 
Al, I did enjoy Black's the time that I was there, though perhaps not as much as Smitty's. But that may be due to the circumstances of the visit as much as anything.
ann peeples
Sirloin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/23 20:25:13
Al and Janet sent me a variety of sausages from Blacks-excellent stuff.
 
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/24 22:55:43
From Lockhart we drove west across flat Texas prairie to Kyle, to visit another place on Chris's short list: Texas Pie Company. The giant three-dimensional sign indicates how committed they are to their pie:



The menu, too, is very pie-centric. We had a lot of trouble narrowing down our decision - many choices looked great. (We were interested in the King Ranch chicken, but didn't feel we had the appetite for it in addition to pie.)


They served their pies in bowls, which made me think that they were really expecting the pie to be served with ice cream. I like the contrasting colors of the two bowls in this picture.


I'm also very pleased with this picture of the almond joy pie. The pie was very good - the pie crust had some crispness, even if it was intended to accompany ice cream, and the layers of chocolate, coconut, and almond filling were excellent.


A profile shot gives a better view of the under layers of filling:


The strawberry-peach pie was less photogenic, but even more tasty. Lori described it as "delicious crust with sweet mellow strawberry and peach flavors".


The decor of the Texas Pie Company was a cheerful hodgepodge. Since we were still thinking about crafted and uncrafted places from our trip to Lockhart, we discussed which of those two applied here, and we concluded that despite its ramshackle appearance, it nevertheless seemed crafted, as if someone had carefully chosen the mismatched tables.


We would very happily return to the Texas Pie Company.

It was here and now that we hit our collective wall - or at least our collective speed bump. The plan I'd drawn up called for us to visit the Cathedral of Junk that afternoon, but none of us had the oomph to do so. We sat around the table for quite a while after the pies were gone, and when we did finally leave, we returned to the hotel for a brief nap before setting out again in the evening.
billyboy
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/25 07:27:14
More barbeque (and pie?)?!?!  Loving this report with each entry!  Now that I've managed to leave NYC and make the trek to NM (so glad to finally meet you and Lori!) I think Texas needs to be on my short list of places to visit.  There is what I think may be decent barbeque in Gotham but I need to get some of the real deal in my belly! 
love2bake
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/25 08:58:56
Lord have mercy!  That cue and pie look outrageous.  That pie place has been on my bookmark list for a long time, too--they have the best signage ever.  I've wanted to go to Kreuz Market since I saw it years ago on the Travel Channel.  Yikes.  This would be a dream trip for a lot of us!
brisketboy
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/25 10:47:58
I went to Smitty's when it was still Kreuz but have not been to the Kreuz as it is today. I still go to Smittys but I think I mentioned in another forum that IMO Smitty's seemed to be slipping. I am going back to the coast and plan to stop in Lockhart. I just may end up trying both. But I have been to Black's and it was acceptable. I have tried Franklin's here in Austin and I just don't get the fascination that makes people want to stand in line for two, three hours.
icecreamchick
Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/29 11:59:49
I have to admit, I couldn't tell any of you which barbecue I liked best. It was all pretty amazing. I loved visiting Smitty's, just seeing those blackened walls and huge smokers was really neat. 
 
We also thought that any of the places could be "the best," and a lot of it depends on individual variables of the smoke, fire and meat each day.
 
I absolutely hit the wall by the time we went to the pie shop - I had to sip my diet coke to keep from falling asleep in my pie!  I'm glad that didn't happen...it was great pie and great company.
buffetbuster
Porterhouse
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/29 13:00:40
Ralph and Lori, this has been a truly amazing trip report.  It is wonderous just how much food, sights and activities you packed into just a few days.  And the Texas barbecue photos were some of the best I have seen on here.
 
There is no doubt that the pies put out by Texas Pie Company are high quality, but they never seem to have any favorites flavors of mine.  This is obviously more of a me-problem than a them-problem.  And that giant pie storefront deserved a place in the Roadfood Signage Hall of Fame.
 
This report has been so good, it almost makes me want to forgive you for that halushki crack on page one!
CajunKing
Sirloin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/29 14:58:57
Falling asleep in one's pie is NEVER good table manner's! 
 
On the other hand you could call it HYPERGLYCEMIA and get away with it.
 
I have enjoyed your trip report very much, BBQ and PIE hmmmmm
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/07/31 12:07:55
For what it's worth, I meant the haluski remark as a crack against me instead of haluski.
 
I like haluski - I consistently love the haluski at Pierogies Plus or Josza's Corner.
But mediocre haluski is very mediocre. For example, at a church fish fry that serves mediocre fish, the haluski is likely to be tasteless and boring.
And that's not an indictment of haluski; I don't think any of us would say that a food should be judged by its mediocre examples.
 
But here's the way I am a little bit irrational about haluski: if I go to a mediocre fish fry - even one where I've had tasteless haluski before - I will look at the menu, say "ooh, haluski!", order it, and be disappointed. Despite the fact that I have enough counterexamples that I should know better, I persist in behaving as if I'll love every haluski.
 
This is probably not the most irrational thing I do; this is just one of the ways that I know that I'm irrational.
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/03 22:26:45
In the early evening, we indulged one of my own Austin tourist desires: we went to see the bats emerge from under the South Congress Bridge. (There are a million or more Mexican free-tailed bats living in cracks in the underside of that bridge during the summer.)

I must acknowledge that not all of our party was as enthusiastic about seeing bats as I was; some of us were worried about close encounters with bats or guano. As a compromise, we arranged a ride on a riverboat cruise in a covered boat.

If Lady Bird Lake were set down near Pittsburgh, it would be regarded as a narrow, shallow spot in the river - all things are relative. But it's a pretty lake, with lots of people using it, running alongside, riding bicycles, and so forth.
 

Around sunset, we parked upstream from the bridge and waited for the bats to get active. The sunset was nicer than my iPhone could capture.


The bats emerged in a long thin stream heading east, like a trail of smoke with larger particles. The bats did not come anywhere close to us; our closest view was to see them wheeling out as we passed under the bridge to return to the dock. I found the effect oddly serene, because there were so many bats that they lost their individuality and were only comprehensible as a continuous flow. It seems that bat should be a mass noun, like sheep or deer or fish.


A brief video of the bats: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48435163@N04/9067302085/in/set-72157633279611298/

Once it became fully dark, it was impossible to see the bats, but there were some lovely views of downtown Austin.

mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/03 23:15:42
Those are marvelous pictures. my wonderful austin trip featured a  stop at kreutz's that was one of the most marvelous meals I have ever eaten. The bats flying under a bridges a wonderful life sight and the pie sand signage at the texas pie company a marvelous taste and visual treat. Thanks for bringing back memories of my marvelous texas trip and for sharing  your photos. your photos bring a marvelous trip alive.
buffetbuster
Porterhouse
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/05 13:30:02
Ralph Melton

For what it's worth, I meant the haluski remark as a crack against me instead of haluski.

I like haluski - I consistently love the haluski at Pierogies Plus or Josza's Corner.
But mediocre haluski is very mediocre. For example, at a church fish fry that serves mediocre fish, the haluski is likely to be tasteless and boring.
And that's not an indictment of haluski; I don't think any of us would say that a food should be judged by its mediocre examples.

But here's the way I am a little bit irrational about haluski: if I go to a mediocre fish fry - even one where I've had tasteless haluski before - I will look at the menu, say "ooh, haluski!", order it, and be disappointed. Despite the fact that I have enough counterexamples that I should know better, I persist in behaving as if I'll love every haluski.

This is probably not the most irrational thing I do; this is just one of the ways that I know that I'm irrational.
This is very interesting to me.  I find that I can eat haluski just about anywhere, with varying degrees of quality and still be satisfied.  My version of your haluski is sauerbraten.  In it's ideal state, there is nothing I enjoy eating more.  So, I order it in almost every German restaurant I visit.  Yet, I am disappointed 90% of the time. 

Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/05 22:01:22
I'm exactly the same way with sauerbraten. I order sauerbraten avidly, expecting splendid things - but what I get doesn't match my expectations. I can't even remember the last wonderful sauerbraten I've eaten.
icecreamchick
Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/05 22:01:33
I would just like to be upfront about something. I am the one who was most reluctant to do the bat cruise. While I do advocate going in a covered boat like we did, the bats were far away enough that even a scaredy cat like me was happy. :-) I think your experience would be much more up-close and personal standing on the bridge.
 
The cruise was lovely, it was nice to be on the water at sunset. 
The Travelin Man
Filet Mignon
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/05 23:42:04
icecreamchick
 
Now that you have seen what happens, would you be more inclined to try to view next time from the bridge, or do you feel like the boat is still the best viewing option for you?
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/10 16:07:38
Our dinner plans for Monday were something of a loose thread in my plans. I had originally planned that we would eat dinner at Micklethwait Craft Meats. But I had checked their hours and discovered that they had shifted from evening hours to lunch hours. So I had rescheduled them for Saturday's lunch, but never filled the hole in Monday evening.

We realized that we'd given somewhat short shrift to the Mexican side of Austin's offerings; all we had eaten with Chris and Amy was a breakfast taco and the migas at Threadgill's buffet. So we called Adam for Tex-Mex suggestions, and he suggested Vivo, with a particular recommendation to check out the restrooms.

I commented on the drive over that I have trouble knowing what to order at Mexican restaurants. I did most of my Tex-Mex eating as a child, where I almost always got tacos. Pittsburgh has been devoid of good Mexican restaurants until the past few years, and Lori tends to be wary of spice, so I haven't eaten a lot of Tex-Mex food as an adult.

Chris offered to order for the group, and pointed out that his mother was Mexican, and he had often visited relatives in San Antonio.
This made me realize that I had taken a very proprietary attitude toward this trip, as if I this was particularly my state that I was showing off - and that attitude was hardly justified in Austin because I had grown up two hundred miles away. I tried to double-check all the things I'd said on this trip to to check whether I had crossed the line from proprietary to patronizing. I didn't identify any examples, and I dearly hope there were none.

Our outdoor table was very sharply lit, such that the table was in an island of light but it was hard to see the other people at the table.

The salsa was very good, but the chips were even better; they tasted like they were straight from the fryer.


The trio of dips we had ordered as an appetizer (queso, bean dip, guacamole) were each very tasty.


I confess that the enchilada has passed out of my memory, as has the chalupa and the puffy taco plate:
  

We ordered the chicken quesadilla out of consideration for Lori’s spice tolerance. But I think this was the star of the entrees; it had a really sumptuous flavor. I’ll admit, though, that it probably doesn’t need the drama of the sharp shadows, like a brooding Batman posing as a quesadilla.
 

For dessert, we had a plate of sopaipillas that may have interbred with beignets.


The other particularly noteworthy thing about Vivo ws the exaggerated sexual dimorphism of the restrooms. (Adam had recommended that we be sure to see the restrooms.) The walls of the mens’ room were coveredwith graffiti and graffiti art in a Latino style, but Lori and Amy reported that the women’s room had velvet-upholstered lounges and a crystal chandelier.


After Vivo, we went to Donn’s Depot. Adam had recommended Donn’s Depot second after the Broken Spoke when I asked him for honky-tonk recommendations. He said that the particular distinguishing virtue of Donn’s was that often when he went, he would be the youngest person there. I had included it in our schedule because I wanted to do some honky-tonking while Chris and Amy were with us. 
 

Adam had also mentioned the women’s restroom here as worth a view. The report from Lori and Amy was less enthusiastic; it was built into a caboose, but otherwise not outstanding.
 

Unfortunately, this was the wrong night for Donn’s Depot. Instead of the usual entertainment, there was a cheesy piano bar entertainer, and the music just wasn’t good at all. This is probably why there was only one other table occupied. We had a token drink and left as soon as we felt we could politely do so.
post edited by Ralph Melton - 2013/08/10 17:20:58
buffetbuster
Porterhouse
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/11 10:34:31
In best Batman voice, "I am Quesadilla!"
 
Ralph, getting quality photos is yet another reason I don't like eating outdoors.  Those are really good photos considering.  And you are right, those sopaipillas look much more like beignets.
 
Can't wait to see where you go next!
Texascajun
Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/11 22:23:52
Excellent report.
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 09:52:50
We had meant to be packed up and ready to go for Tuesday, our last day with Chris and Amy. But we had always found things to do that were more pleasant and more interesting than packing up. So Tuesday morning came with a bit of a scramble, and we weren’t quite all ready. So in a tradeoff, we left Lori to finish packing while we went to get donuts, with a promise to return with donuts to her.

Our destination was another Roadfood-listed donut shop: Round Rock Donuts.



It’s rare for me to be be really impressed one way or another by a donut, and these donuts were no exception. We bought a variety, but we ended up giving most of them away. The most distinctive quality of these donuts was the glaze, which had a distinct yellow tinge (though I didn’t notice a distinctive taste).
 

We bought one token kolache, because we had missed two previous plans for Austin-area kolaches. I sample kolaches everywhere I find them, but I haven’t yet found a kolache I’ve really loved. Even so, I don’t think this was among the better kolaches I’ve had.

Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 09:53:10
On the way south to pick up Lori, we dropped off Amy to stand in line at Franklin Barbecue, one of the most lauded barbecue places in Texas. When we returned with Amy, she told us that the wait was two and a half hours. I was surprised; I’d exchanged email with the staff of Franklin Barbecue, and they’d said that the wait wasn’t nearly as bad on a Tuesday as on the weekend. (Since we were there, Franklin Barbecue has been named as “Best Barbecue in Texas” by Texas Monthly, and I believe the wait has gotten much longer.)

Amy magnanimously offered to wait in line at Franklin while we went to visit Louie Mueller Barbecue, on one condition: we were to rent her one of the lawn chairs from the guy across the street from Franklin. It was a fair requirement, so we left her with the chair and the leftover donuts and headed up again to Taylor. 
 
 

I hadn’t managed to arrange a meeting with Wayne Mueller at Louie Mueller, but we got lucky: as we walked across the parking lot, he was just walking to his car. He recognized us, and we had a pleasant chat for a few minutes. We got to commiserate over the fire that had consumed their smokers.
 

Louie Mueller’s really looks the part of an old Texas barbecue joint. The walls are bare brick, blackened from years of smoke, decorated with barbecue awards. The tables are mismatched picnic benches and school tables, and they do not look like they were carefully chosen for artistic effect.
 
 
 

A corkboard on one wall shows geologic strata of business cards progressively dyed by smoke. I don’t know whether it takes a month or a year or more to turn a white business card brown, but the effect was one of palpable age, like being at a family reunion and seeing children’s faces echoing those of their grandparents.


A panoramic picture of the interior: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48435163@N04/9165560079/in/set-72157633279611298/

We rejoined Amy at a park in east Austin, each bearing our packages of meat to share.

The barbecue from Franklin Barbecue was exceptionally… well, I would try to make it sound better with a word like ‘moist’ or ‘unctuous’, but the real word for it is greasy. (But in a good way!) The grease soaked through the pink butcher paper in a way that no other barbecue on this trip had done, and it left a sheen of grease on the picnic table.
 

My picture of the brisket makes it look like sort of a mess. But it tasted and smelled great.
 

So here’s the sixty-four dollar question: is this barbecue so outstanding that it is worth waiting in line for hours? My expectation going in was that I would not find it so outstanding - I don’t have a very subtle or discriminating palate, and I had found all the barbecue on this trip delicious. But I allowed a chance that I would really find Franklin Barbecue qualitatively better. But the reality didn’t quite fit into either of those buckets. Here’s what I remember:

- Franklin’s brisket was qualitatively different, and that is noteworthy. I would have a very hard time distinguishing the briskets from the other five places we ate, but I think that I could single out Franklin’s in a blind taste test. The difference was this: all the briskets had a surge of flavor when first tasted, but Franklin’s brisket released a second wave of flavor after a second or two of chewing.
- the brisket was tender and moist and had a very rich, complex flavor.
- As well as being very greasy, Franklin’s was very peppery, and peppery in the same way that it was oily; fat peppercorn fragments clung to my fingers in defiance of napkins. (The stack of napkins we had with us seemed like more than enough before we started eating, but turned out to be wholly inadequate. I have fewer pictures than I might otherwise have had, because once we started eating, every picture required a struggle to clean the worst of the oil and pepper off my fingers.)
In this picture of bark from Franklin Barbecue, ogle how dark the smoke ring is and how peppery the crust is.
 

It certainly is great barbecue, but I have little patience for waiting for hours in hot shadeless sun. I think that with lines like Franklin’s, I could be just as happy going to Micklethwait a few blocks away.

We then turned our attention to the brisket from Louie Mueller. Wayne might say that the smokers still needed a few decades of seasoning, but this was just as delectable as what we remembered from the Roadfood festival. It’s so close to the center of good Texas barbecue that it’s hard to find really distinctive qualities to describe, but we couldn’t identify a clear winner between the two meats on the table.
(I think this is the brisket from Louie Mueller, but I’m not quite sure. Ordinarily, I would check this by checking the timestamps on the photos or the GPS tags - but we ate the meat from Louie Mueller at the same time and in the same place as that from Franklin. My clue here is that Franklin’s served on pink paper, but this is on a bed of white paper.)
 

We sampled normal and chipotle sausages from Louie Mueller, and both were smoky and intensely flavored.


Amy had brought a bourbon banana tart sold at Franklin’s, but it paled compared to the glory of the meat.


The peach cobbler we had brought from Louie Mueller was similarly ordinary, with a texture more like a bread pudding than like the biscuit-topped cobbler I love.
 

This was the last great meal of our Austin plans, and it certainly was a glorious finale.
buffetbuster
Porterhouse
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 10:05:19
Ralph, those are outstanding photos and descriptions.  We have been patiently waiting for the report from Franklin Barbecue and it was well worth it.  And kudos to Amy for being such a trooper!
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 10:10:38
Ralph Melton

It certainly is great barbecue, but I have little patience for waiting for hours in hot shadeless sun.
I can't remember if I read it here or on another board, but supposedly the trick with Franklin's is to call in a carryout order and therefore bypass the line and the wait.
 
Both briskets look delicious but I have to agree about waiting for hours under less than ideal conditions.  It appears that a lawn chair with a small umbrella would be almost mandatory.
 
Nice report, Ralph!
brisketboy
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 10:31:28
An enterprising young man has purchased a bunch of folding chairs (with umbrellas) that one can rent for five bucks and keep the chair as long as you are in line. (Austin American Statesman). Still, I don't know as I would spend hours, literally, in line for anything. Not at my age.
ayersian
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 10:43:29
As Roadfooders, I loved the fact that everyone was willing to sacrifice for the greater good, i.e. having all the available BBQ and eating it, too.  But I feel that Amy & I can cross Franklin's off our list as "done that."  I don't have to go back again, if it means waiting for more than 30 minutes.  It's the same reasoning that I had regarding Bianco in Phoenix a few years ago.  We waited for 1.5 hours for their pizza; however, the staff put us in the bistro/bar next door for appetizers and drinks while we waited, so the wait wasn't that bad.  Franklin's wait was bad, and Amy was the champ that day for waiting for us while we drove over to Louie Mueller's and back.  So was Bianco the best pizza I've ever had?  No, but it was very, very good.  To wit, was Franklin's the best brisket?  No -- actually, it was pretty fatty, or at least the pieces that we bought were fatty.  Delicious, yes, but too fatty.  Mueller's won that day, hands down.  It all depends on your personal taste, but I feel quite privileged to have done Austin with Lori & Ralph.  It was an amazing trip, and there was no possible way that we could've gotten around to all these places without them.  I was in awe of Ralph and his expert agenda planning: every stop was thought through, timed perfectly, and the schedule was loose enough to allow a little ad-libbing here and there, which worked out beautifully.  We can't wait to do a redux tour with them!
 
And Ralph, I hope that I myself didn't come across as Mr. Mexican Expert just because it's in my genes.  I am certainly NOT a Mexican food expert, but I do know what I like.  And I guarantee that when you come to my parents' house, you will eat the best Mexican food in the world...but I am just a little biased!    Chris
HollyDolly
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 15:00:15
Great trip reports and photos.San Antonio by the way,also does a bat watch deal.I forgot what they call it,  but they do have one where you can watch the bats fly around. If you drive up IH35 and get off at the Schertz exit,and drive around the area of Garden Ridge north of me,you can see the bats coming from the Bracken Bat Cave.You can search for the cave on line,and I think you can actually go out to the largest colony of Mexican Free Tail Bats in the world.
icecreamchick
Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 15:58:21
I enjoyed the whole trip immensely, both for the food and the company. I loved how flavorful Franklin's brisket was, but I'd agree it was fatty. I love Wayne Mueller's brisket beyond all reason, and it might be my pick for the best brisket of the trip. Might...because it would be really hard to actually pick! 
hatteras04
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 17:28:07
Ralph - I hate to go off topic here but after scrolling through this thread and seeing your picture, I have to ask a question. Were you at Keaton's BBQ last Saturday (August 17) around lunchtime? My wife and I were there and I thought there was someone there who looked familiar but I could not place him (you I think). Now I think this might have been a missed opportunity to meet you.

By the way, our chicken was very good though we were very disappointed in the sides.
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 18:45:59
We did eat lunch at Keaton's on Saturday, August 17. I'm sorry we missed the chance to meet!
 
I thought that Keaton's chicken was delicious; I would rank it as one of my favorites.
icecreamchick
Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 18:46:49
Oh wow -- that was us! Wish we had known you were there :-)
 
That was about my reaction to Keaton's too. The chicken was great, everything else was fine but nothing special. I wish they hadn't been out of mac & cheese!
 
Hope we connect next time 
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 22:08:19
I might use the word "sumptuous" instead of "fatty", but Franklin's barbecue certainly was more greasy than any napkin could contain.
 
Chris, you certainly didn't present yourself as an expert on Mexican food - at least, not in any unpleasant way. I just had to rearrange my preconceptions a little, and I was glad for you to take the lead there.
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 22:18:19
We had time for just one more stop before we went to the airport, but our taste for barbecue was sated. So we asked Yelp to find us an ice cream parlor, and Yelp gave us the suggestion of Nau's Enfield Drug. It was a good suggestion: Nau's is a classic drugstore and soda fountain.



We shared a banana split. The ice cream was Blue Bell, which is good but not extraordinary - but they had the classic banana split dish, and it felt like a double date from a movie set in the 1950s.

Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/22 23:22:21
When we went to turn in the rental car, the Hertz guy said, "Are you flying American?" When we said yes, he told us that all American flights were canceled due to a computer glitch, and suggested that we not turn in the car until we had verified that our flight would leave. (Chris and Amy had the good luck not to be flying American, and they got to leave on schedule.)

I waited with the car while Lori went to talk with the American desk. She quickly confirmed that our flight was canceled. She was given an 800 number to call to reschedule the flight, but getting American to get us a hotel for the night would require waiting in a line as long as the line for Franklin Barbecue.

I still don't know whether we did the right thing that afternoon. We could have afforded a hotel on our own, and gone off to do one of the things that we hadn't managed to squeeze into our itinerary. And in fact we were conscious at the time that this was an option.

But: I was so furious about American screwing this up that I could not (and still cannot) imagine being happy with something else that afternoon. I would have felt like a sucker. So, if the real choices are between waiting in line for hours of frustration or grinding my teeth at being taken for a sucker... well, it's no easy choice, but waiting in line is at least cheaper by the cost of a hotel room.

And so Lori waited in line until her legs hurt, and I waited in the cell phone lot without running the air conditioning, trapped there by my own fury and frustration and knowing that was what was trapping us there.
ayersian
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/23 13:28:12
That's terrible, Ralph. I'm sorry to read this capstone to a perfect RF weekend!    Chris
mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/23 13:34:42
Ugh!
icecreamchick
Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/23 14:03:28
It wasn't all bad. Waiting in line was pretty miserable, but that evening we got to have dinner with Ralph's cousin at a truly funky, fun place. An added bonus was that they were showing "The Princess Bride" on a big screen outside as we ate (also outside). I believe this was Shady Grove, but wait for Ralph's actual report to find out! 
 
(I guess I could check the trip notes, but life should include little mysteries from time to time, right?)
CajunKing
Sirloin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/23 16:21:10
Oh no the travel gremlins rears it ugly head at the last moment.  " />
 
At least it waited to the very last day of the trip.
 
I have loved your report and the photos not of only the food but of the beauty surrounding the the trip.
Sundancer7
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/23 17:05:36
ayersian

That's terrible, Ralph. I'm sorry to read this capstone to a perfect RF weekend!    Chris

 
Ayersian:  Congrats on the recent very big step. 
Sounds like Texas was OK for the two of you.
 
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN

ann peeples
Sirloin
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/24 07:41:08
Ralph-you seem to have some bad luck with Airlines!
Ralph Melton
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/24 10:33:38
We definitely have a bad record with airlines. 
 
At one time, I had counted that seven of fifteen trips by air had had some sort of significant problem. I've since stopped keeping count, but it's been a particularly bad year; I'm sure that if I added recent trips, it would be over 50% problems.
Since Christmas, we've taken four trips, and the only one that had all the flights at the right time was the one where we had to pay rescheduling twice.
 
Part of the problem is that we tend to fly late in the day, so problems earlier in the day pile up, and there are fewer planes afterward to untangle problems. But I'm not sure how we might do things differently. I work fairly normal hours Monday-Friday. If we're going away for a week, I will try to fly on Friday evening and return on Sunday evening, to maximize our time in the place we're visiting. Even if the risk of a flight problem is high, it doesn't seem like a worthwhile tradeoff to cut short our time in our destination to try to make the flight smoother.
 
But normally I can take these things in stride. What made this particularly galling was that there was no external reason for the delay. It was a bright cloudless day, so there were no weather problems. And other airlines were able to fly just fine. It was just that American Airlines had dropped the ball all across the country.
love2bake
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue 2013/08/24 15:21:07
Flight issues as an exception, this has all the makings of a dream trip in my book!  Texas BBQ "royalty," pies, ice cream, donuts!! and a sprinkling of regional/ethnic cuisines--you hit it all, and got some history, art, and nature walks in there, too.  Awesome trip.   Thanks so much for sharing it with us!
post edited by love2bake - 2013/08/24 15:23:35
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