How I Ate My Way Thru Texas
I came, I saw, I conquered as much of the Texas food scene as I could in 24 hours. Oh yeah, and I got engaged in the process :). I’d really also love if you could vote for my blog on UrbanSpoon’s Facebook page so that I can hopefully win a contest where I am up against 19 NYC bloggers. The prize is a trip to Hawaii, and who knows, maybe I can get hitched while I am blogging from there!
I decided to do this road trip because I really wanted to experience good Texas BBQ and managed to convince P to take me on this very long drive. I’m like a ninja, he didn’t know what hit him or how he ended up agreeing to get up early on a Saturday to be my chauffeur. If you’re just interested in reading about Texas BBQ, feel free to scroll down. I hit up Louie Mueller, Smitty’s Market, Kruez Market and Davis Grocery. Three of these were named as part of the top five BBQ places in Texas, by Texas Monthly magazine. But otherwise, if you are trying to procrastinate at work, you might as well scroll through this post at a leisurely rate as I’m going to go through my road trip from Fort Worth to San Antonio, eatery, by eatery.
The trip started at 730AM in the morning in Fort Worth. After driving for about 45 minutes, we ended up in West, TX because P wanted me to check out Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery, where they are famous for their kolaches. A kolache is a baked pastry that can be filled with sweet or savory ingredients. Because I knew I was going to hit up 4-5 more restaurants throughout the day, I knew I had to really edit my selections at this first stop so that I would still have room to eat the real goal of the day, Meat. That’s why we only ended up leaving with
a loaf of beer bread,
a container of cheese garlic biscuits,
a hot chubbie with cheese kolache,
a jalapeno sausage with cheese kolache,
a poppy seed kolache,
a cream cheese kolache
and a maple and pecan twist.
To me the beer bread and biscuits were just OK. They were very heavy and dense, just average in my eyes. However, I will say that they would have probably tasted much better when warm and topped with a dollop of butter. Unfortunately, Dodge Chargers do not come with ovens. The kolaches were tasty and good to try if you have never had them before. I must say that the pastry/bread part of it was really nice and well baked. It was also consistently good with each kolache I had. However the winner of all of these purchases had to be the maple and pecan twist. It was like a lighter version of a Cinnabon. The dough was so nice, airy and chewy. As soon as you bite into one, you will want to eat the entire thing. The pecans add a nice crunch, as does the glaze that forms a nice crust over the top of this baked treat. There’s some really nice texture in this twist. Would highly recommend it.
After our light breakfast, we continued our drive to Taylor, TX. Taylor, TX was about an hour away from West, TX. First BBQ of the day was Louie Mueller, which to be honest, was the placed I was most excited to eat at.
We entered right about when they opened and this was the sign that we walked by on the way in.
There was no line and the men behind the counter were so generous with their knowledge, not to mention that they were incredibly friendly. The second we reached the counter they handed out brisket that exploded with juice and flavor in our mouths. They also took the time to explain different cuts of the meats and textures, I guess I don’t look like I’m from the area. We walked away with a dinosaur beef rib that was about 1.3 lbs for just one rib, moist brisket and pork ribs. Can I just say right off the bat that this was the best overall BBQ we had all day combined with the friendliest staff?
Check out this dinosaur rib. It tore right off the bone with a plastic fork and knife. It melted right in our mouths.
The brisket was beautifully marbled with fat, and the seasonings formed a gorgeous crust on it that was absolutely addicting.
And the pork ribs, while not mind blowing, were some of the best cooked pork ribs that I ever had in my life. The texture was firm, but would give as soon as you bit into it to tear it off the bone. It wasn’t given a lot of seasoning, which actually benefited them because it really let the light and true flavors of the pork shine through. Their BBQ sauce was reminiscent of a tortilla soup. It was a very nice accompaniment to the pork.
Um…so yeah…I guess you could say I really liked this place.
Next up was Davis Grocery. It wasn’t on our original list to go to, but we had heard about it and it was literally about a minute drive away.
The BBQ here wasn’t really worth eating, though the guys who worked there were really nice. Brisket was very tough. I couldn’t tear it with my fingers at all. While the pork ribs were nicely cooked, the flavor was just average. I will say though, they make some decent BBQ sauce. It was probably the best thing on the plate. Davis Grocery definitely wasn’t anywhere near the level the other BBQ places we visited.
Then came Kruez Market in Lockhart. Man, this place was huge! At first I thought that maybe there was an actual market inside. But nope, it was all BBQ.
It’s hard to see because of the sun coming from behind and people were annoyed that I was blocking their way as I tried to get a better shot, but if you squint, you can make out that it says, “VEGETARIANS ENTER HERE. NORMAL FOLK DOWN THE HALL.”
I also loved this sign that they had up. Don’t ask me why P still looked for a fork when we got inside. He had a “Fail” moment for a minute.
I have to say that the BBQ here was really good, and I can see why people come here. However, it still didn’t measure up to Louie Mueller. While everything was very well cooked, there were a couple of flaws that couldn’t be overlooked. The porks ribs were very good, will definitely give them that. But the jalapeno sausage was incredibly oily, just cutting into it you hope that it’s just juice spilling out. But once it goes in your mouth, you realize it isn’t. The brisket would have been really good, if it weren’t for the incredibly salty crust/seasoning. It was hard to eat any part of this that had to be eaten with the crust. To be honest, the second bite I took was so salty that I was going to spit it out, but didn’t want to be rude. And last was the prime rib. It was just bland. Not memorable at all. To sum it up, the meat is very well cooked here, but because of their seasoning mistakes, Louie Mueller was just better. One note: I found it very interesting that they sold whole avocados by the register that a lot of people were buying. I’m not use to seeing that at BBQ restaurants.
After Kruez Market, we headed to Smitty’s Market, which was also in Lockhart. Smitty’s Market was established by the daughter of the man who founded Kruez Market. It is also located in Kruez Market’s old location. BE WARNED! When you wait in line in Smitty’s market, it is freaking hot.
While there are two different lines you can wait on, both loop around fire that will make you sweat like crazy. My hair and dress were so drenched that I was ready to leave before even reaching the counter, but I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t in Lockhart that often, so should take advantage of it. We left the counter with pork ribs and brisket. They were pretty damn good. Everything was moist, tender, juicy and easily tore apart with just our fingers.
The pork ribs had a flavor to them that reminded me of Chinese spare ribs and had a good amount of fat throughout it. I would have to say that I liked these pork ribs better than the ones at my beloved Louie Mueller’s. I ate as much as my stomach would allow.
The moist brisket at Smitty’s was really good. I loved the fat and how well-cooked it was. Smitty’s Market was excellent. I would highly recommend visiting it, just make it a last stop, because you will want, and need a shower after standing near those damn fires for so long. Put it this way, we were so hot in there we kept trying to stick limbs out the windows to get relief, and it was 95 degrees outside.
We thought about going to Black’s Barbecue, since it is Texas’ oldest BBQ restaurant, but there was a line out the door, and we were so worn out from the heat at Smitty’s Market, that we ended up just walking around Lockhart with some Blue Bell rainbow sherbet ice cream to cool off.
So from there we hopped back in the car, got engaged on the way to San Antonio and then had dinner with friends at El Chaparral, a Tex-Mex restaurant.
This is one thing that I need to clear up about Texans. Texans I have encountered in New York City are constantly complaining about the lack of good Mexican food, which would ALWAYS confuse me because New York City has some AMAZING Mexican food. This is what I recently found out. What they call Mexican food, isn’t actually Mexican food. They are referring to “Tex-Mex,” however, in Texas, apparently they call “Tex-Mex,” “Mexican.” Yes, I know, I don’t get why they do that either. But c’est la vie.
El Chaparral was a solid restaurant. I sampled the bean soup, which arrived at the table for free and gets your palate started for the rest of your meal. Nice and light. Their chips were fresh tasting and I like that their salsa had some kick to it, which you normally don’t find in the salsa that is served for free in New York City, I am assuming so they can accommodate those who can only handle mild heat. The queso was addicting. To be honest, I would’ve been happy to have just eaten that for my entire meal. Melted cheese? How can you go wrong with that? I must say, it tastes my better than just mixing Velveeta and Ro-tel at home. MUCH BETTER. For my entrée I munched on crispy beef flautas, tamales and rice and beans. The refried beans were very good, as were the flautas, but unfortunately the tamale fell flat. Not gonna’ lie, the tamale at Chevy’s in Times Square is fantastic. So much better than the one I ate at El Chaparral.
We ended the meal with sopapillas, which is just fried dough that they topped with honey and cinnamon. These sopapillas literally fell flat. Sopapillos are suppose to be puffed and pillowy. Theirs were far from that.
OK, I’m beat, I’m tired, I’m going to eat some more lasagna and then fall asleep debating the pros and cons of Ambrosia salad.
Addresses for all of these restaurants:
Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery
105 North College Avenue
West, TX 76691
Louie Mueller Barbecue
206 W. Second Street
Taylor, TX 76574
400 S Robinson St
Taylor, TX 76574
619 North Colorado Street
Lockhart, TX 78644
208 South Commerce Street
Lockhart, TX 78644
15103 Bandera Rd.
Helotes, TX 78023