Saturday, September 26, 2015

Snow's BBQ - Lexington

For many, College Football season brings with it “Tailgating Season.”  Snow’s Barbecue has become another popular Saturday tradition for folks in this region of Texas.  And with its 8:00AM opening and proximity to Austin, College Station, Houston and Waco, a visit to Snow’s is doable even before an early 11AM kickoff.  Year round, you will see lines of barbecue enthusiasts at Snow’s, but this time of the year, these fans are adorned in school colors.     

Snow’s has only been in business since 2003, but has become so ingrained in the Texas barbecue culture that it seems like it has been around forever.  Miss Tootsie Tomanetz has become a celebrity pitmaster and is as recognizable in this male-driven industry as Aaron Franklin and Roy Perez.  She turned 80 in April and brings nearly 50 years of experience to the pits of Snow’s Barbecue. Miss Tootsie is as experienced in breaking down a beef carcass as she is in smoking a perfect brisket.  She and owner/fellow pitmaster Kerry Bexley are responsible for the tremendous meats at Snow’s but the surge in popularity is easily traced to the 2008 Texas Monthly nod to Snow’s as the best barbecue in the state.

Snow’s is cooking more meat than they were prior to that article, but even at the height of their popularity, they have never strayed from their signature once-a-week business hours - they open at 8AM on Saturdays and sell until they run out of meat – and that is part of their charm.

Charm is something that Snow’s is not short on.  If you have been to Snow’s before, each return trip feels like a homecoming.  You see the friendly, familiar faces cutting meat inside and manning the pits outside.  Local churches might be selling raffle tickets at a table outside.  Snow’s is the pride of Lexington and everything about Snow’s is local.  Well, except for the crowds they draw.

I typically time my arrival for about 7:45AM which might not put me at the front of the line, but ensures I will be in the door fairly soon. People usually do not camp out at Snow’s because, come on, 8AM is early enough.  While you observe the busyness of the staff preparing to open, you will also hear the Saturday morning cattle auction down the street.  The lowing of cattle provides an interesting soundtrack for your barbecue pilgrimage.  You can, of course, come later in the morning, but be aware that the ribs are usually the first to go and sometimes disappear before 10:00AM.

THE MEATS

Once you are inside Snow’s, you will order by the pound.  There aren't "meal deals" here, folks.  If you aren’t adept at ordering by weight, just tell them how many slices you want and the staff will work with you.  All meats are cut with an electric knife, which is rare in a joint this revered, but it’s done well and ensures the brisket holds together when plated.  This weekend, as usual, our order included several pounds of select brisket, pork ribs, sausage and pork steak.


My choice of meats sat on the tray picturesquely.  This was a beautiful rainbow of brown and pink hues.

A spread of Snow's finest meats

The brisket is Snow’s most famous meat and in my opinion, they do the sacred cut as well as anyone in the state.  Today was no exception.  The slices each display a thin, uniform crust.  The fattier slices are well-rendered and juicy and the lean cuts carry a sliver of moist fat themselves.  The slices are soft and fragile and the bites almost dissolve in your mouth, bringing smoke and meat together in perfect harmony.  It is just after 8AM in Lexington, Texas and I have some of the best bites of anything that can be found anywhere.  Much has been made about the price of the brisket as well.  The meat is $14.95/pound which is an absolute value when compared to prices around the state, especially the joints in this echelon.

The pork ribs are the one item at Snow’s that seem to waiver in quality.  Even on their worse days, the ribs aren’t bad. But when they hit on a good day, the ribs are truly elite.  It’s interesting that even on a single visit, you can find ribs at these two extremes.  Today was a good example of this phenomenon.  The first rack of ribs I tasted were a bit dry and the crust, though gorgeous, was tough.  They still had a good flavor with notes of black pepper on the crust and a noticeable saltiness, but the texture hindered the meat.  Pulling from another rack, we were treated with meaty and juicy ribs that epitomize the Central Texas pork rib.

A pile of Snow's pork ribs.

There are two types of sausage available at Snow’s: regular and jalapeño.  Both are a beef/pork mix and are produced locally for Snow’s.  The jalapeño version gets the slight edge in my opinion.  The jalapeño is evident without providing too much heat.  Both sausage styles feature a course grind housed in a thin, but snappy skin. Today’s well prepared link had some nice, smokey evidence of its time on the pit.

The pork steaks are another of Snow’s specialties.  These steaks are simple but delicious. They feature the same type of thin, brown crust as the brisket and are cut into similarly thick slices.  This pork is obviously more firm than the other cuts of meat.  With well rendered fat throughout the slices, the pork still has some nice juiciness along with the simple flavors of smoke, salt and pepper.  These are satisfying cuts of meat that can make up a meal on their own.

Chicken is on the menu at Snow’s and is a solid rendition of the meat.  However, it gets overshadowed by the heights of the other meats and did not find its way onto my tray this week.

THE REST

Snow’s now has two varieties of sauce but both are wholly unnecessary. The standard sauce is a bit sweet with a citrusy tang.  It’s a good sauce and not overwhelming in flavor, but save it for the bread.  The spicy version adds quite a bit of heat to their traditional sauce palate.

Snow’s has sides available for purchase, including potato salad and cole slaw, but I don’t believe I have ever even thought about ordering them.  However, I do regularly sample the beans for one big reason: they’re free.  Snow’s beans sit in a crockpot waiting for patrons to serve themselves.  They are good beans and are an option if you’re looking for even more protein.

The outdoor dining area with a view of the pits.

I described Snow’s setting as charming and homey and it certainly is.  There’s no pretense at all with Snow’s and all of the ambiance is genuine.  Picnic tables are available inside and outside, typically filled with the large groups that are enjoying their meat breakfast.  Sitting outside, you will sacrifice the A/C but have a comfortable spot to enjoy the dance of the pitmasters as meat is pulled or moved from the pits.  The staff is happy to show you the pits and take photos. Kerry makes a point of visiting tables inside and out and always provides good conversation.

Miss Tootsie monitors the sausage on the direct heat pit.

It is also of note that while Snow’s is only open on Saturday’s, they are at work earlier in the week shipping orders placed through their online store.  So even if a trip to Lexington isn’t in the cards for you, you can still have Snow’s meats delivered directly to your door.

The brisket at Snow's is smoked in an offset smoker.


THE VERDICT

With each visit, Snow’s manages to meet the hype and high expectations that they have been earned.  This meat is absolutely worth the trip to Lexington.  It is even worth the waking up early on Saturday.  There is no place better than this iconic setting for meeting some buddies for a Saturday meat-lover’s breakfast.  Enjoy the full spread of meats but be aware that you can never order too much of their brisket.  And believe me, after you make that first trip, you will look forward to returning again soon.



Address: 516 Main Street, Lexington , TX 78947
Phone: 979-773-4640
Hours: Saturdays Only - 8:00AM - Sold Out
http://www.snowsbbq.com/index.html

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*All Grades Are Based Solely on the Quality of Texas BBQ Offered at the Joint. We Aren't Looking for Burgers or Catfish!

My Grading Scale:


A = This is some of the finest BBQ you'll find anywhere. It is worth a roadtrip in itself along with any required wait.
B = This is very good BBQ, even if it is over an hour away, consider making the drive.
C = This is just average BBQ but it's worth a stop in a pinch.
D = This is a poor example of Texas BBQ. Even if it's the only place around, skip it. Apologize to any non-Texans that have eaten here.
F = This is not only a bad Texas BBQ, it is probably not suitable for human consumption.

 
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