03 October 2006

Review: Eats

My longest period of vegetarianism came after I ate cuy in a Peruvian joint in Paterson and ended with a trip South. The subject of cuy came up with my 4 year old nephew Owen recently....

Owen: Which guinea pig in my book do you like?
Me: I ate a guinea pig once.
Owen: Ate one?! Eating guinea pigs is not in my book! Eating guinea pigs is not nice to guinea pigs!

This in mind here is my ranking of BBQ places I visited during my drive to Texas and back (ranking of art museums to follow when I get the chance):

1. Smitty’s Market, Lockhart, TX. Had a lot of great BBQ on this trip but it’s not difficult to decide on my favorite. Meat is the emphasis here, beef brisket and sausage, which you buy by the pound in a room set aside just for meat-sales. Beans good, potato salad average, but carnivores won’t notice.
2. RO’s Outpost, Spicewood, TX. Rustic, family-run favorite of the West of Austin ranch set not known to travel writers or many Austiners, I didn’t go to two successive lunches there by choice but by others’ wishes, but the merits came to dawn on me. Green beans here were great, turkey and pork perfect. Deep fried corn on the cob. Even ordered dessert, chocolate merenge pie.
3. BBQ Heaven, Indianapolis, IN. Situated on MLK Blvd between the Art Museum and the Western Art Museum, this take out place was started long ago but the bullet proof glass came a bit later. This was my first BBQ on the trip and was as good a place to start as any. Potato salad best on trip. Neon pig-related tableau on building facade.
4. BBQ Hut, St. Louis, MO. Got peckish in the Art Museum and a Reubenesque female guard sent me way into the ‘hood for this stuff, which I ate in the City Museum parking lot (like Heaven, a bullet-proof take-out). Nine napkins, straight to the City Museum rest room to clean up. Potato salad what I’d call ‘home style,’ like a large, glorified egg salad, but it’s all about the glory.
5. Rudy’s BBQ, Round Rock, TX. My first Texas brisket ever, and not a bad chain for this. Not to be confused with Ruby’s.
6. Riscky’s BBQ, Fort Worth, TX Cheap sandwich, and the staff was very friendly and gave me directions out of town despite the waitress having ‘just moved in from Denton.’
7. Ron’s BBQ, Austin, TX. South of river neighborhood place, beans were cold at 5:45 but it was cheap and friendly.

Other eating highlights:
Hoover’s, Austin, TX. Best turnip greens I’ve had.
Threadgill’s, Austin, TX. Best collard greens I’ve had. 'Texas caviar' black eyed peas on a par with RO's, which is a rare feat of seasoning, and lima beans were the perfect texture.
Skyline Chili, Cincinnati OH. Was trying to drive out of town but came upon the center city location, which since the closing of the original has become the de facto Mecca of Cinci-style chili spaghetti. Didn’t know what to expect, got it ‘four way’ sans fromage (chili, beans, onions, pasta), small size, $3.75. One bite and I was hooked: great stuff, but I don’t know what it has to do with Greek cuisine.
Cooking for people at the hostel after a long kayak trip: one guest said it make all the difference of her week and a Houston air conditioning saleswoman had the meal of her life even tho ‘dis here Taa-heany stuff makes my mouth stick tagether,’ approving of my fenugreek curry because ‘them Hindus are taeking ahr side on the wahr.’
Mexican: Hit Mi Tierra again in San Antonio, which was a highlight of my trip as I love the decor and the crowd there. In Okmulgee, OK found a great place owned and staffed by Guanajuato émigrés called El Charro that gave me so many perfectly cooked carnitas (pork) that there were ten pieces left over to take home.


Ian Keenan said...

I forgot to mention that I did have the chili hot dog in Cumberland, MD on the first day as planned and found it worth the wait until mid-afternoon, leaving me with no dinner appetitite for a small price, which was good since the Hare Krishnas just further West didn't seem enthused at the prospects of opening their kitchen. An eccentric female pedestrian was the only matter that could briefly set aside discussion of the gridiron fortunes of the West Virginia Mountaineers from neighboring Morgantown at the counter.

Steven Fama said...

The Salt Lick bbq place in the "Hill Country" about 45 minutes outside of Austin, Texas is pretty special, although it is a mega-destination and thus to be avoided weekend afternoons, for example.

And when in Austin, regardless of any bbq or art, Barton Springs is worth a visit for a swim, assuming air temperature above say 70 or 75 degrees. It may be the best city swim spot ever.

Ian Keenan said...

I'm definitely hitting Salt Lick next month some time. Which one tho, there's two..

Steven Fama said...

Unless you count the little shops they have in the Austin airport, I do believe there is but one Salt Lick. I see it is officially in Deadwood, Texas, but it really is the middle of nowhere about an hour from Austin downtown.


Visiting their website reminded me that they don't sell alcohol, but do allow customers to bring in their own. So if you want beer with your BBQ, bring it with you.

shanna said...


I'm sorry you did not get to the Salt Lick & I really shoulda told you about Clem Mikeska's in Temple. (The Mikeska Bros. have several BBQ places all over central & southeast TX.)

This post makes me drooooooooool.

shanna said...

& yes, the Salt Lick is in Driftwood, the one & only real live Salt Lick! it's a beautiful drive too, if you take 1826 from 290 on a sunny day (and then hell, you might as well go to Luckebach after that for a oldschool/alt country geetar circle jam). shit, now i am homesick!

Ian Keenan said...

My first drive into the Austin area was straight to Taylor for Rudy Mikeska's there but they were closing just as a arrived :( then I settled for Rudy's in Round Rock since the older places tend to close before dinner time.

I'm returning there in a few weeks for a month, which is the only reason why I didn't make more of an effort to hit Salt Lick. Clem's in Temple would be great, especially as its closer to 35 and those long roads to the small towns take forever, tho once you get there those small towns surrounding Austin are like stage sets.

shanna said...

clem's is practically on 35 at 57th street, i believe. i recommend the brisket (natch) and the bbq beans with a slice of mrs. baird's white bread & a dr. pepper. (it's hard to believe temple *has* 57 streets. i guess it seems smaller in memory. but anyway, yes, you can see 35 from the restaurant; it's less than a block.)