To say that us Texans take our BBQ seriously would be an understatement! Everybody has their favorite BBQ joints...and there's plenty of debate from loyalists about whose BBQ is THE best. Smoked low and slow...with vinegar-based sauce served on the side...the meat is the focus here in Texas! The typical Texas trifecta is brisket, ribs -- pork and beef varieties -- and robustly seasoned sausage. You'll also find turkey breast, chicken, and pork butt on many menus too. Until recently, sides were more of an afterthought at many Texas BBQ joints...but the recent Texas BBQ explosion has brought a new generation of locations that offers sides like cheese grits, creative potato salads, and decadent desserts other than the requisite fruit cobbler and Blue Bell ice cream. It's truly a great time to be a BBQ lover in Texas, so we set out to try some of the best BBQ our home state had to offer!
The first stop on our weekend BBQ tour was Friday, right here on the Southeast side of San Antonio, at 2M Smokehouse. Opened in late 2016, word quickly spread that they were creating some amazing Texas BBQ...with a few unique menu twists. By Summer 2017, Texas Monthly magazine included 2M in its coveted Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas list. This was our first time to try 2M, and we were very impressed! We arrived 30 minutes before 2M opened for lunch so we could visit with Pit Master Esaul Ramos before he became busy with the lunch crowd lining up outside. We were warmly greeted by Esaul...then we filmed and photographed him in action slicing a variety of fresh-from-the-pit smoked meat for us to try !
Mercy! Can't you just smell the smoky goodness while watching that video?!?!? Esaul expertly sliced juicy smoked brisket and spice-rubbed turkey breast for us. We couldn't wait to get to our table and dig in!
In addition to slices of smoked brisket and turkey breast, Esaul added meaty pork spare ribs, brisket burnt ends, and 2M's uniquely delicious spicy smoked sausage flavored with Oaxaca cheese and poblano peppers. The brisket and turkey were smoky and moist, with the perfect amount of spice/bark on the outside. The ribs were slightly sweet and fall-off-the-bone tender...and the sausage? It had a nice snap, pockets of melty cheese, and a nicely controlled level of heat. They also offer diners fresh flour tortillas to make BBQ tacos.
2M Smokehouse also offers a lineup of made-from-scratch side dishes. We tried the decadent Chicharoni Macaroni and Cheese, creamy potato salad, tangy cole slaw, and spicy borracho beans. This is definitely Texas BBQ with a delicious Tex Mex accent! Our favorite side was the mac and cheese -- the crispy crumbled topping was a nice contrast to the rich, creamy cheese sauce.
From 2M, we hopped in our rental SUV to digest during the 2.5-hour drive to iconic Texas BBQ joint Louie Mueller Barbecue aka The Cathedral of Smoke. Louie Muller Barbecue is located in Taylor, a town of 13,ooo residents located about 30 minutes northeast of Austin. Louie Mueller opened the restaurant in 1949, and his son Bobby began operating it in 1974. Bobby’s son Wayne has owned Louie Mueller Barbecue and served as its Pit Master since 2008. When we arrived, we were warmly greeted by Wayne. He showed us to our table, then left to craft a customized sampler tray for us.
We grabbed sodas and settled in for BBQ that's been considered among the very best in the state for decades! Wayne came to our table with a gorgeous tray overflowing with brisket, house-made sausage in beef and jalapeno beef, and a signature Colossal "Dino" Beef Rib.
Rounding out our platter were traditional Texas BBQ accompaniments cheddar cheese, onion, and pickles...along with rolls to make sandwiches if we wanted to. The tray also included a trio of sides: beans, potato salad, and coleslaw. What happened next was a leisurely afternoon enjoying perfectly smoked meat and lively conversation about BBQ and life in general with Wayne Mueller. He was an excellent host, telling us about Louie Mueller's history, how they balance keeping decades-long traditions with offering what today's BBQ lover is seeking. All of their smoked meats were perfection...but we crowned the ginormous, succulent beef rib as our favorite menu item. As you can see, Michael tried (unsuccessfully, I might add...) to claim the massive rib all for himself. In all seriousness, this huge smoked beef rib can easily be shared between several hungry BBQ lovers.
Louie Mueller Barbecue's smoky dining room features plenty of wooden picnic-style tables and smaller tables to accommodate parties of all sizes. The dining room is located on the former site of a basketball court -- and much of the original structure remains. It's very charming...and a key part of the restaurant's history.
After we finished eating, Wayne gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the large back area -- where the Louie Mueller Barbecue magic happens! We saw the large wood-burning smoker pit, as well as freshly smoked meats coming off the pit and ready to slice for hungry customers. Louie Muller Barbecue is located at 206 W Second St. in Taylor. They are open Monday through Friday from 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM, and 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM on Saturdays -- or until they sell out of BBQ. They are closed on Sunday. Don't live in Texas and want to try Louie Mueller's amazing BBQ? You're in luck! They ship their BBQ nationwide via Goldbelly.