Texas: Football and BBQ

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nysharks
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2009/07/22 23:07:41 (permalink)

Texas: Football and BBQ

The Independent Women's Football League is holding their championship game this Saturday in Austin, Texas.  Unfortunately the New York Sharks are not in it, but I had to head South as I couldn't pass up the opportunity to catch the big game and also hit some great road food in Texas.


As soon as I landed and got my rental car at the airport, I made a bee-line to Lockhart, Texas.  It is about 30 miles away and has been dubbed the BBQ capital of Texas.  Of course some may differ, but that was good enough for me to make a trip.

Armed with my notes from Roadfood and my handy GPS, I headed south in the Texas heat.  Even with the aid of high-tech equipment, I missed the turnoff for Kreuz Market.  I was going to turn around but there were all these signs for Black's Barbecue ahead.  I decided to go to Black's first and was not disappointed.
 
According to my notes they are noted for their brisket and sausage.  Since I was planning on hitting Kreuz Market and Smitty's, I wasn't too keen on ordering both and overeating on BBQ from the start.  It didn't help that my stomach was still a tad shaky from a bumpy airplane ride.  But their menu came to my rescue with a sandwich combo that included some brisket and some sausage.  You place your order at the counter and they slice the meat in front of you.

After receiving my sandwich I went to sit in the dining room and sat at a long communal table.  There were a few other people sitting at the table as well as a camera crew.  I was wearing a Ted's Hot Dogs t-shirt and one of the camera people started to talk to me as he went to school in upstate New York.  From there we started talking about how I came down here to try the BBQ.  He then introduced me to the other people at the table and they were the owner of the restaurant was well as his 2 sons and grandson.  Edgar Black is the gentleman in the white shirt.  His 2 sons are to his right and his grandson is behind him.

After meeting the family, I found out that the camera crew was doing a piece on Texas BBQ for the Austin CBS affiliate.  They then asked if they could interview me.  I agreed and talked about how I found out about the place from RoadFood.com and even put in a plug for the New York Sharks and the IWFL.  Who knows if they use the footage but we talked for a few minutes.  When we were finished, one of Mr. Black's son said that I my food must have gotten cold after the interview and offered to get me a new sandwich.  Not wanting to waste food I declined their offer but did ask if they could re-heat my sandwich.


Being a northener, I really don't have the street cred to quantify great BBQ, but I likes what I likes.  And I liked the brisket as it was excellent.  Unlike "typical" Lockhart BBQ, Black's did have BBQ sauce available and it was good but kind of mild.  The sausage was good, but the texture was kind of crumbly on the inside.

It took me quite awhile to finish my meal as I spent quite a few hours talking to Edgar and his wife Norma.  They were incredibly gracious to me and they answered a ton of my questions.  They said business was going well for them, especially over the past 3 years.  I suspect Road Food and Food TV have a lot to do with that.

Next stop, Smitty's.



#1

23 Replies Related Threads

    buffetbuster
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/23 08:50:19 (permalink)
    It sounds like you had a great experience!  Haven't been to Black's, so this was especially interesting to me.  Looking forward to the rest of the report.
    #2
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/23 11:11:05 (permalink)
    The Black family was so nice and generous with their time, especially Mrs. Black.  We talked for over 2 hours.  Outside the restaurant was a lighted sign that announced it was her birthday.  Customers would come by and wish her a happy birthday.  Though it was on the 11th, she said that they were celebrating it all month.
    #3
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/23 17:53:18 (permalink)
    I am still putting together the rest of the other BBQ places in Lockhart together but today I had lunch in Austin.  Went to Hut's Hamburgers.  I wasn't really expecting much and didn't bother to take my camera along.  The place is kind of interesting with old team pennants from college and pro teams from around the country tacked on the walls.  We got there around 11:30am and were quickly seated.  I am easily swayed by restaurant names and so I ordered a hamburger at Hut's and to make it even easier, I ordered the Hut burger.

    The Hut burger is really a bacon cheeseburger and to my surprise it was one of the better restaurant burgers I have had in quite awhile.  The flavor of the meat stood out even with the rest of the stuff on it.  The french fries also appeared to be hand cut and were good but not as crispy as I would prefer.  The onion rings were not to my liking.  They weren't bad and had a strong peppery flavor but the rest of the taste was kind of flat.

    By the time we finished eating around 12:30pm, the place was packed with a long waiting line.  So for a very good burger, I would definitely come back to this place.
    #4
    Twinwillow
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/23 18:32:43 (permalink)
    Welcome to the wonderful world of (world class) BBQ in Central Texas.
    #5
    Twinwillow
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/23 18:36:38 (permalink)
    You'll love Smitty's too. But, be sure not to miss Louie Mueller's BBQ in Taylor.
    Arguably, the best of the bunch!
    #6
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/23 19:38:16 (permalink)
    TW, you are so right about Smitty's!
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    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/23 19:46:33 (permalink)
    Lockhart, Texas is a small town of about 12,000 people but it is the county seat.  The town square consists of many old buildings from the turn of the century, the 20th century that is.  In the middle is this lovely courthouse.


    After spending over 2 hours at Black's Barbecue I decided to walk around the town square.  I still had two more places on my BBQ list but the town looked so interesting that I took a stroll in the Texas heat.  I was about 3 blocks away when a whiff of BBQ hit me.  At first I thought it was coming from Black's but I quickly found myself in front of Smitty's.

    Smitty's is also located in an old building.  When I first went through the door I thought I made a mistake.  It was an long dark hallway with a people that appeared to be a few workers at the end of it.  I figured that I must have came in through the backway.  But halfway on the right was a door that led into the main dining room.


    From the dining room I was told to go to the back to order my meat.  What I found typical to Lockhart BBQ is the BBQ is ordered separately from the rest of your meal.  So sides, drinks, and desserts are ordered and purchased away from the meat.  I guess this is done as the meat is hand carved per your order and it is cooked in the same room where you place your order.  That room is boiling hot and you feel for the people that have to work in that room.

    I was still full from my meal at Black's so I only ordered 1/4 lbs. of brisket and a sausage link to go.  Another typical thing about Lockhart BBQ is you get a choice of saltine crackers or white bread to be served with your meal.  The meat is then weighed and they wrap it in butcher paper.

    After I got my order, I then drove over to Kreuz Market about 1 mile away.  Unlike the other 2 places, Kreuz was in a new large building with a huge parking lot.  It kind of looks like a supermarket. 

    Like Smitty's you order your meat in a separate room that is steaming hot.  A carver then slices the BBQ right there.  At this point I could see I would be 'cues out soon so I only ordered 1/4 lbs. of brisket.


    After paying, I went into the dining room and got an order of german potato salad.  They also offered beans and sauerkraut.

    When I got back to my hotel room I was hungry enough to try the BBQ.  I first tried the brisket from Kreuz.  I must admit it was very good.  It was tender, juicy, and enough fat for some excellent flavor.  It was about the same level as Black's but a tad more saltier.


    Lastly, I sampled the meat from Smitty's.  I thought the brisket from the other places were very good, but I though Smitty's was even better.  Not a whole bunch better as the others were very good too but I think I would rate them higher than the other two.  As for the sausage link, that was excellent.  That was definitely better than Black's as the skin was taut and had a nice bite to it.  In comparison Black's was a little chewy.  And the texture of the meat was tender a very flavorful.


    So, overall I would definitely go back to Smitty's for the brisket and sausage.  But Black's was a great place to eat at for the food and the hospitality.  Kreuz Market was fine as the food was good but the service wasn't as friendly as Black's and the new place doesn't have as much character as the other 2 buildings.


    #8
    Twinwillow
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/23 20:09:20 (permalink)
    Again, pleeeeeze! You can't leave the Austin area until you've been to Louis Mueller's in Taylor.
    #9
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/26 08:21:12 (permalink)
    Since I did mention football, the Kansas City Tribe defeated the DC Divas 21-18 in the IWFL Championship Game last night in women's pro football action.  It was an exciting and close game to the very end, but the undefeated Divas were upset by the Tribe.  It was a fitting end to a Cinderella season for the women from Kansas City.

    And now back to our reguarly scheduled programming...
    #10
    Nancypalooza
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/27 09:00:09 (permalink)
    Wow, sharks!  Great pictures and narrative.  I don't like the peppery onion rings either--it really detracts from the great oniony taste.  I'm following your report with a lot of interest because I have to go to Dallas in October and am trying to figure out if I can squeeze one or more of these places in (it's a pretty tight work schedule).
    #11
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/27 21:19:11 (permalink)
    Nancypalooza

    Wow, sharks!  Great pictures and narrative.  I don't like the peppery onion rings either--it really detracts from the great oniony taste.  I'm following your report with a lot of interest because I have to go to Dallas in October and am trying to figure out if I can squeeze one or more of these places in (it's a pretty tight work schedule).



    It may take a few more days for me to finish the report.  But I think I have maxed out on chicken fried steak and BBQ for awhile.  In the past 6 days I have had BBQ 9 times and CFS 3 times.  As for the BBQ, I did repeat a few places but I think I have OD'd on BBQ and will have to go through detox for a few months.  My kingdom for some vegetables...
    Then again I am bringing a few hot links back with me in case I fall off the wagon again. 


    #12
    tiki
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/28 07:25:19 (permalink)
    Wow---women playing football!!!---Texas Que!! I'm jealous!!! great report!!! Hope you got some Austin Music scene mixed in there too!
    #13
    doggydaddy
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/28 08:48:06 (permalink)

    Sometimes I wish I knew about some things, including someone was coming this way.  Heck, I was up in Round Rock, working during that weekend.
    I have yet to check out the places you mentioned  as I haven't had to leave the city proper to get great food. Currently I have become spoiled and feel that driving more than five miles within the city is too far....sort of.
    All I have to do is walk for five minutes to the corner and I am overwhelmed with the fragrance of smoke coming from a couple of adjoining buildings.

    I suspect that there will be others coming here for the college games this Fall and I hope that I can meet-up with some of you folks.

    I hope you are okay if I add a little visual to your Hut's comments.

    The Hut Burger

    A little truth about this region, there are more places to get a bowl of pho than any other style of food besides Mexican. No review of this area is complete without having a bowl.

    mark
    #14
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/29 00:54:41 (permalink)
    KEYE-TV aired their piece about Black's Barbecue and you can see it on their website.  Unfortunately my interview is on the cutting room floor.  http://weareaustin.keyetv...asters/blacks-bbq.html

    By the way, I fell off the wagon already.  I had some more BBQ at the airport before leaving Austin.

    Hey DD, that Hut Burger picture looks exactly like my lunch there.
    #15
    trueblushorthairs
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/29 09:44:30 (permalink)
    Gotta ask, I have eaten at Kreuz, Smitty's, Black's, Luling, Salt Lick, and Louie Mueller's.  Of all of them, my daughter and I just hated Mueller's.  Did I catch them on a bad day?  The brisket was OK, the sauce OK, but the ribs tasted like we were licking a pile of pepper.  Pepper was literally all you could taste.  I really like all the others listed and can't see going back to Mueller's. 
    #16
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/29 22:37:48 (permalink)

    I spent part of Friday morning helping out the league photographer setting up  his equipment.  He had to take photographs of every player in the Championship game.  Around lunchtime he was still shooting so I volunteered to go out and get him some lunch.  I was able to convince Ray, the owner of the New Hampshire team to come along with me.

    I did say I would be back in about an hour but they were probably thinking I would just go to a local Subway or Quiznos.  At least that is what Ray thought.

    It wasn't on my original list but TW was so adamant about Louie Mueller that I put it back on.  I had heard good things about the place from others but after eating brisket at 3 places the day before I thought I would bypass it.  But I am glad I didn't.

    Mueller is located about 30 minutes away from Austin in the town of Taylor, Texas.  While Lockhart is quaint, Taylor is a very gritty small Texas town.  A local told us to be careful around there as he happily ate through his lunch of brisket and 1/2 chicken.  Mueller is quite similar to the other BBQ joints 

    I have been to so far in Texas.  The meat is hand carved in front of you, just a few feet from where they barbecue the meat.  The place is dark and not well lit, I guess to make it feel cooler.




    While waiting in line, the carver sliced some samples of the brisket.  It kind of reminded me of Katz's in New York City where the countermen give out samples as they make your sandwich.  I must say that it is a good selling ploy.  I had wanted to try the brisket but after trying it, I was looking forward to eating more.  It was very juicy and very tasty.  Probably the best 

    I have had on the trip.  Smitty's was a close second though.  My partner in crime who never had brisket ate his sample and enjoyed it so much that when the carver left samples for the people behind us, he took a quick look around to see if they were watching and ate theirs too.  Honestly, I probably would have done the same if he hadn't been so damn fast.  The carver saw what happened and laughed and said that he would have done the same.


    I ordered brisket as well as some chipolte sausage and a peach cobbler.  I had read very good reviews about the sausage and so I went for the chipolte instead of the regular and I ordered the peach cobbler beccause I have a hard time passing up peach cobbler.

    We did not eat inside as I had another stop to make in Elgin, Texas.  I wanted to try the authentic Elgin sausage and the place to go for that is the inventor of it at South Side Market.


    South Side Market is a fairly large place, almost the size of Kruez.  When we got there, there was a line of people waiting to place their orders.  I ordered a combo plate of sausage and brisket.  It also came with a side order of potato salad and beans.  After getting our food, Ray asked me if I was done shopping and since the hour was almost up I said yes and we headed back to Austin.


    Lunch was quite enjoyable.  The brisket at Louie Meuller was outstanding, it nudged Smitty's out for the top spot on my list.  The chipolte sausage though was a bit too spicy for me though I did offer some to the owner of the New York Sharks and she loved it.  As for the peach cobbler, it was DOA.



    The barbecue from the Southside Market was very good.  Nothing in the Northeast can compare but when in Texas, it fell short to the other places I have been.  Hey, I would gladly settle for this, but when you have other options in the area, I would go to them first.  But as for the sausage, I still like Smitty's best.  The taste is very similar but it is the texture that has me favor Smitty's.  Many of the other sausages I had were kind of crumbly inside.  Smitty's was very juicy and had a good bite to it.


    #17
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/29 22:45:15 (permalink)
    trueblushorthairs

    Gotta ask, I have eaten at Kreuz, Smitty's, Black's, Luling, Salt Lick, and Louie Mueller's.  Of all of them, my daughter and I just hated Mueller's.  Did I catch them on a bad day?  The brisket was OK, the sauce OK, but the ribs tasted like we were licking a pile of pepper.  Pepper was literally all you could taste.  I really like all the others listed and can't see going back to Mueller's. 



    Can't tell you about the ribs, but there were 4 of us who had tasted the brisket and thought it was quite good.  We didn't care too much for the sauce as it was quite watery.  Was your brisket quite lean?  We had the fatty one.  It could be you hit them at a bad time.  I went back to Smitty's and the brisket was not as moist as the previous visit but still quite good.

    As for the places you mentioned, I would order them Muellers in the top spot followed by Smitty's, Black's, Kreuz, and then Salt Lick.  But Salt Lick I had at the airport and while it was good, it did have a strong after taste to it that was not to my liking.

    Lastly, it could be your tastes are just different.  For the life of me I still don't understand why people rave about The Varsity's hot dogs in Atlanta.  I just chalk it up as a  southern thing...
    #18
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/29 23:43:57 (permalink)

    A quick word about the food at the ballpark.  The championship game was played at Round Rock ISD Stadium.  It has one of the best press boxes we have ever worked out of.  It has air conditioned rooms for the press as well as kitchen facilities, and a jumbo tron scoreboard.  A far cry from the many college and high school fields we play on.  For an idea of some of the places we have broadcast from, check out our blog for the worst 5  (http://nysharksfootball.b.../2009/05/worst-5.html) and the top 5  (http://nysharksfootball.b...009/05/top-5_05.html).  Even the food was a step up from regular fare with frito pie and Elgin sausage wraps.

    #19
    doggydaddy
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/30 05:46:23 (permalink)
    nysharks,

    Your post inspired me to drive a little farther, over twenty miles to Elgin. Here is yesterday's lunch of beef rib and sausage.  The sausage was juicy with a casing that fought against the plastic knife. I was surprised that there was more sausage than what this photo shows. Lifting the rib revealed more of the sliced link underneath.


    I also bought 2lbs of their mutton. I love lamb and will try it whenever I see it offered.
    I like this photo as it also shows Texas style BBQ sauce. So far, I have found it to be more of a light seasoned, slightly vinegary compliment to the meat that does not overwhelm the flavor.

    I will describe the meal and other things in another report. I just want to thank you for getting me off my butt.....

    mark
    #20
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/07/30 21:17:52 (permalink)

    Chicken Fried Steak

    After eating all of that brisket and sausage, my body was looking for something else.  A balanced diet is very important for one's health.  So I started to look for chicken fried steak.

    The first one I had was at Salt Grass in Round Rock.  Andra, the owner of the New York Sharks had just arrived in town and asked if I would join her for dinner.  When your boss asks you out you usually say yes, but she is one of the nicest people to work for.  She mentioned Salt Grass which was only a short pass from the hotel she was stayng at.  I thought I had read about a place with the same name but was in a different town so I didn't put it on my must eat list.  I soon found out that it wasn't the other place, Salt Lick.  Salt Grass is a chain restaurant under the Landry family.  The CFS was humongous with the edges hanging over the plate.  But it was awful.  The steak was thick and tough and the coating separated from the meat.  She had ordered a steak and was quite satisfied with her meal.

    The next time I went out looking for chicken fried steak was on Saturday.  Holly Moore from www.hollyeats.com had recommended this place called Ward's Cafe.  It is located next to a storage facility and closes early around 2pm.  My companions were the league photographer and the representative from USA Football.  We all like CFS and I was betting on Holly to steer us right.  It is not an easy place to find as it is kind of tucked off to the side.  

    We got there around 1:30pm about 1/2 hour before closing time and the place was empty.  We all ordered the CFS and had a good talk about football.  As for the food, it was good but not really memorable.  Everyone enjoyed it and the service was very friendly in a very relaxed atmosphere but not a place I would seek out again.  It is a typical Mom and Pop place, but I don't think Pop is there, just Mom.

    On sunday I went into town to watch the bats fly out of the Congress Street bridge.  It was quite something to see as thousands of little bats fly from out of the bridge at dusk to look for something to eat.  Since they were looking for food, I joined up with a few football players that were in town and we went to Threadgill's.  We shared an order of fried green tomatoes and I had chicken fried steak for dinner.  The tomatoes were good, but I still haven't had anything as good as Uglesich's (RIP) in New Orleans.  The CFS was probably the best of the trip but I was kind of disappointed.  It was good but not "Wow, I want to come back for this dish again" good.

    Next...odds and ends
    #21
    nysharks
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    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/08/04 22:13:40 (permalink)
    Odds and Ends

    On the last full day in Austin, I drove back down to Lockhart for lunch.  I went to Smitty's to get some brisket but also for the sausage.  The brisket was very good but not as juicy as the first time I was there.  The sausage though was excellent.  Hot, juicy, meaty texture with oil oozing out with each bite.  I went back to buy some cold sausages to take home with me on the flight back.  On roadfood trips I usually bring with me an insulated bag as well as a bunch of Ziploc bags.  I will stuff a few of the Ziplocs with ice to have make-shift ice packs.

    The rest of the day was spent exploring the capitol area in Austin.  The capitol is a beautiful building and they offer free tours.


    One travelling tip that Rachael Ray always mentions is to ask locals about places to go to eat.  I am usually pretty good at talking with anybody and this tip can provide some great finds.  Then again sometimes it fails miserably.  At the football game I talked to a few people that were working in the press box.  One was a local newspaper reporter and the other was working the scoreboard.  Both were pretty young and both recommended a local Mexican restaurant called Taco Cabana that was mediocre at best.  It wasn't even worth getting the camera out.

    But another place that they mentioned was Ruby's Company Store, another chain that specialized in BBQ.  It is kind of a spiffed up, commercialized version of a Texas barbecue restaurant.  You order your meat by the weight and there are only a few sides, beans, potato salad, creamed corn, and corn bread.  There might be a few more but the color green was lacking all of their sides.  After this trip I didn't realize that a body can go into a chlorophyl shock.  The food is not bad and they kind of keep it fun and casual.  As they explained their menu they asked where I was from and when they heard New York city, they had to yell it out all over the place.

    On my departure day I drove back towards the airport early to drop off the rental car.  Since I didn't have breakfast I was on the lookout for something to eat.  One thing that are pretty ubiquitious around Austin are these trailers serving Mexican dishes.  They kind of remind me of the trucks that are along I-95 in New Haven, Connecticut.  But these trailers are spotted all over the place and they are open very late.  I spotted one that was next to a used tire shop.  There was a hand-painted sign that said the establishment was named Los Carlos and they served tacos, tortas, and more.

      

    This was the definition of a classic road food place.  I had to park on a side street and walk over to the trailer.  The menu was quite simple and quite cheap.  I ordered two breakfast tacos, one with bacon and one with chorizo.  Basically they are scrambled eggs with your choice of meat placed in a corn or flour tortiilla.  He cooks them right up and you get the food in about 5 minutes.


    They are not huge, only about 4 inches in length but quite tasty after adding some green salsa they supply.

    I thought I might be done eating for the trip but I got to the airport 3 hours early.  To kill some time I walked around the airport and noticed that they had a Salt Lick restaurant here.  The menu was quite limited and it wasn't as expensive as the other eateries there.  I got a brisket sandwich.  It wasn't bad but not close to the places in Lockhart.  Granted it was in the airport so I wouldn't cross the original location in Driftwood off my list.



    The Final Score:
    In 6 days, I had brisket 8 times, sausage 6 times, chicken fried steak 3 times, Tex-Mex 2 times, vegetable (not potatoes) 2 times, and waffles in the shape of Texas 3 times (at the hotel).


    #22
    Nancypalooza
    Filet Mignon
    • Total Posts : 3778
    • Joined: 2004/06/17 14:39:00
    • Location: Columbia, SC
    • Status: offline
    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/08/05 13:27:05 (permalink)
    How are you doing in the indigestion department?  That's quite a scorecard there, sharks.
    #23
    nysharks
    Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 103
    • Joined: 2008/07/21 20:54:00
    • Location: New York, NY
    • Status: offline
    Re:Texas: Football and BBQ 2009/08/06 17:32:53 (permalink)
    I am doing fine.  Thanks for asking.  The brisket went down smooth, more so than the CFS.  But boy did I miss vegetables!
    #24
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