Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: Texas BBQ Weekend Road Trip Part 1 #WGTravel #texasbbq

Earlier this year, The Weekend Gourmet's four-person team hit the road to check out six of the Texas' highest-rated BBQ joints. It was a smoky, delicious weekend -- my first official trip after coming home from stroke rehab. Planning the trip was actually part of my occupational therapy during the final weeks of my inpatient rehab! When selecting which BBQ joints to feature, we decided to focus on newer, up-and-coming places; an area of the state we don't typically visit; and a legendary BBQ restaurant that's a cornerstone of the Texas BBQ scene. Our three-day weekend route took us from San Antonio to east of Longview and Tyler in East Texas...and back to Austin. In a state as big as Texas...where BBQ is revered...narrowing our list of places to feature was tough. After a lot of research, we narrowed our list to six of Texas Monthly's 2017 Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas List honorees: San Antonio's 2M Smokehouse, Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Bodacious Bar-B-Q on Mobberly in Longview, Stanley's Famous Pit BBQ in Tyler, and Austin's Micklethwait Craft Meats and  la BARBECUE. Part 1 of this two-part article will share our experiences at 2M, Louie Mueller, and Bodacious on Mobberly. 

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.

2M Smokehouse is located at 2731 South WW White Rd. in San Antonio. They are open Wednesday through Sunday 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM -- or until sold out. 2M is quite popular, so expect to find a long line outside the door nearly every day. On Thursday and Friday, 2M offers a $7 lunch special that includes a chopped brisket sandwich and a fountain drink. In addition to their regular menu, 2M offers big beef ribs on Saturdays...and barbacoa is served the first Sunday of every month.

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.

After a fabulous time at Louie Mueller Barbecue, it was time
to hit the road for our Friday evening home base in Longview. During the four-hour drive, we listened to good music and shared lots of laughs. It also gave us plenty of time to work on social media posts! After a good night's sleep, we woke up Saturday morning for a pre-opening visit to Bodacious on Mobberly BBQ, a short drive from our hotel. We were very excited to sample BBQ in the Northeast region of Texas -- a new-to-us location. We arrived at Bodacious and visited with Chef Jordan Jackson as he and his crew prepared for their Saturday lunch rush. The Mobberly location is the original location of a local BBQ chain founded in 1968. However, the menu at this location is completely different from all other area Bodacious locations with Chef Jordan at the helm.
Chef Jordan is married to original Bodacious Bar-B-Q owner Roland Lindsey's daughter, so the restaurant is still a part of the family. From a handwritten menu at the entrance to complimentary pinto beans with every order, we felt welcome from the second we walked through the door. After looking around a bit and selecting a table, Chef Jordan went to work slicing their signature 44 Farms brisket and other smoked meats for our custom sampler tray.
Seeing that video makes me want to reach into my screen and grab a piece of brisket for a snack! Chef Jordan also brisket burnt ends, freshly smoked turkey breast, meaty and tender baby back ribs, and a trio of excellent house-made sausages for us to sample. Once we were seated, we had to make a decision where to start with all this BBQ goodness.
We loved all of the BBQ at Bodacious on Mobberly, but two items especially stood out for us. First was the smoked turkey breast, which was smoky and incredibly juicy. My team couldn't find enough superlative adjectives to describe this smoked turkey's fabulous flavor and juiciness. Heavenly and sublime seemed to work pretty well, though!

For us, the other standout item was the special sausage of the day: smoked boudin. Bodacious on Mobberly makes all sausages in house with a combination of pork shoulder and brisket. If you've never heard of boudin (pronounced BOO-dan), it's an iconic sausage typically made with rice, spices, and pork. Over the years, boudin has become a familiar sight in parts of Texas too. Smoked boudin takes this already amazing sausage to new flavor heights! Bodacious on Mobberly's version featured luscious chopped beef cheek. 
The only thing that I would change about Bodacious On Mobberly's BBQ? That they were located closer to me in San Antonio so I could eat there anytime I had a craving. This is some very special BBQ, friends -- definitely road trip worthy! They are located at 2227 S Mobberly Ave, in Longview. During Summer, they are open 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM -- or until sold out -- Tuesday through Saturday. They are closed Sunday and Monday. 

Be sure to come back next week for the second part of our amazing Texas BBQ road trip weekend! I'll share our BBQ experiences at Stanley's Famous Pit BBQ in Tyler, an overnight stay at Lone Star Court hotel in Austin, and visits to Austin's Mickelthwait Craft Meats and la BARBECUE. There's more smoky goodness to come, and you won't want to miss it!

Disclosure: The BBQ joints featured in our Texas BBQ Weekend Road Trip hosted our visit and provided a sampler platter of menu items to facilitate inclusion. All opinions stated are solely our own. All photographers are copyrighted by Michael K. Garcia and may not be copied or used without prior permission.

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