Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kerlin BBQ - Austin

The center of the Texas barbecue world has traditionally been Lockhart.  However, there is little doubt that the epicenter has moved to Austin.  If you had to mark a ground zero for Texas BBQ within that Austin epicenter, it would probably be somewhere near Kerlin BBQ.  Kerlin BBQ set up shop just over a year ago in the crowded Austin barbecue market.  They sit between two of the state’s heavyweights in La Barbecue and John Mueller Meat Company and only about a mile from Franklin Barbecue.  In the span of a year, Kerlin has managed to forge their own name and garner the respect of the city. 
THE MEATS

Orders are placed at a small, rather unremarkable trailer that sits in a primitive lot in East Austin.  The meat is cut as the order is placed.  A second trailer sits nearby and serves as a screened in smokehouse where the meat is prepared.  I opted for a spread of brisket, sausage, pork ribs and a beef rib.  My order was prepared and I was called back to the trailer to collect my meats.

A spread of meats from Kerlin BBQ in East Austin

The strips of gorgeous brisket begged to be the first sample.  I obliged and was instantly wowed.  The brisket featured a simple salt and pepper rub and a deep black and well established crust.  Smoke blessed this meat with wonderful flavor.  The perfectly rendered fat made for a deliciously juicy bite.  The slices held together well but pulled apart with ease.  This was grade A brisket that could easily stand up against either of the Mueller family neighbors on their best day.

The link of sausage was also very good.  In fact, it is one of my new favorites in the state.  The link is not Kerlin’s but comes from nearby Smokey Denmark’s Smoked Meats Co.  Each bite revealed a perfect snap and plenty of juice.  The flavor is very good and features a good amount of spice.

The small St. Louis style pork ribs hold a course rub matted to the sweet glaze.  The ribs carry some smoke but the peppery sweetness of the glaze was the prevailing flavor.  The meat held well to the bone but easily yielded to each bite.  Unfortunately the ribs were a little too dry on this specific day.  They are certainly above average, but really did not stand out over some of Austin’s other stars.

The beef rib was by the book.  The fat was well rendered and meat was tender throughout.  The beef contained plenty of moisture thanks to the abundance of dripping fat.  The texture was just about perfect.  The meat was very lightly seasoned and lacked deep flavor.  I would have liked a bit more salt and pepper to aid the traces of smoke.

THE REST

As is the tradition in the new Austin regime, the sides come as carefully crafted as the meats.  The menu features items like Jalapeno Dill Potato Salad, Smoked Corn with Chipotle Butter and Queso Fresco, along with a Blue Cheese Coleslaw.  Also notable are the delicious homemade pickles.  These pickles were actually more cucumber than pickle, combining a deceptive cool flavor with a lingering bite of spice.

The thin homemade sauce carried a stronger vinegar tang than the pickles had and was balanced with a touch of sweetness along with the slight bite of pepper.  It was not a bad sauce and provided a nice companion for the bread on the side of my plate.

You may have to search for Kerlin a bit as it is hidden among the unkempt business along Cesar Chavez bearing names like Pinata Party Palace.  Once you manage to find a parking spot (and double check that your doors are locked), you will find Kerlin’s lot to be large and accommodating with plenty of picnic table seating and a Texas Country soundtrack.  And although you can easily find a barbecue line that stretches down the street in Austin, there was no wait for barbecue at Kerlin on this Friday at noon.

THE VERDICT

Even on the Austin barbecue scale, the most stringent of all Barbecue standards, Kerlin BBQ is a can’t miss.  The brisket is some of the finest you’ll find anywhere and the other meats do Austin proud as well.  From the main course to the sides, there is little you can find to complain about here.  Expect the Kerlin name to continue to grow along with the lines.  Even in the midst of other must-visit East Austin BBQ joints, Kerlin proves itself to also be a must-visit.




*Note: Since writing this, Kerlin has scaled back their Barbecue business and focused on their booming "Kolache" demand.  Kolache options range from "Smoked mushroom, carmelized onion & gouda" to "Brisket & Cheddar."  Kolaches are available Wednesday - Sunday. Barbecue hours were Fridays only, but have now been expanded to Saturdays and Sundays as well.


Address: 1700 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702

Phone: 512-412-5588
Hours: Barbecue: Friday - Sunday: 11AM - 2PM (or sold out)
           Kolaches: Wednesday - Sunday: 9AM - 2PM (or sold out)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lockhart Smokehouse - Plano

Earlier this year, Lockhart Smokehouse opened a second location in the Metroplex.  The original Oak Cliff location is near perfect in transporting the taste of Central Texas up to Dallas.  Lockhart Smokehouse does, after all, have the Schmidt family name (of Kreuz Market) to uphold.  The popularity of the original led them to open this new location in Plano.  I was anxious to see if they could capture the brilliance of the original location and that taste of Central Texas Barbecue.
THE MEATS

My order included a sampling of the stars: Brisket, Shoulder Clod, Pork Ribs, and that famous Kreuz sausage.  The order was wrapped in butcher paper for transport to my table.

The spread of meats from Plano's Lockhart Smokehouse

The brisket certainly looked the part as I unwrapped the greasy paper.  It was served with a nice layer of sweet, well-rendered fat.  The meat had a rough bark covering it but unfortunately not much smoke penetrated to the meat.  The fat held some moisture to the meat but sadly, aside from it, the brisket was rather dull and missed the lofty heights the Dallas location has achieved with its beef.

The shoulder clod is a somewhat unique offering that was carried over from the tradition of Kreuz Market.  The quality of the clod clearly beat out the brisket today.  The clod is a much leaner slice of meat and this cut was buttery tender.  This meat held great smoke and plenty of flavor.  Clod cannot replace brisket for me, but this is a very easy meat to enjoy.

The pork ribs were the low-point of my visit. Lockhart Smokehouse goes simple on the rub and a few flecks of pepper adorned the ribs.  Unfortunately the meat itself did not provide much flavor either.  The ribs lacked smoke and bored my tastebuds.  The meat was quite tough and it took a bit of work to pull the meat apart.  Even worse was the chewy fat that remained unrendered on the ribs.  These pork ribs needed more time for the smoke to work its magic.

The sausage is exactly what you would expect.  The tasty links of Kreuz Sausage come directly from the city of Lockhart.  These links were perfectly prepared.  The snap of the skin revealed tons of juice and the flavor you crave from the Kreuz links.

THE REST

Straying from the tradition of Kreuz, Lockhart Smokehouse offers utensils and even barbecue sauce at the condiment table.  The sauce is a somewhat sweet concoction with a black pepper bite.  Homemade spicy pickles are also available and you should not leave the Smokehouse without sampling these delicious accompaniments (I went back for seconds). 

The sides are not the typical barbecue joint afterthought.  These offerings are unique twists on standard favorites.  The Lockhart Slaw introduces jalapeƱo into a fresh, crispy slaw.  The Smoked Baked Beans are very good and have quite a bite.  The Mac and Cheese is above average and is certainly not short on cheese.  The star of the side dishes on this visit was actually a dessert.  I just could not pass up the Whiskey S’more Bread Pudding.  The hot, gooey dessert was absolutely delicious.

Lockhart Smokehouse's delicious sounding Whiskey S’more Bread Pudding

The interior of Lockkhart Smokehouse iship space, but much smaller than the other location.  Small tables sit on a wood floor in the narrow dining area.  A long bar serving cocktails and craft beer is the centerpiece of the downstairs area.  Available seating also sits perched in a loft area on the second floor, behind the small ordering counter.  The atmosphere makes this a cool spot to spend some time, especially at night.  They keep the meat coming all day and I am told that this location rarely runs out before closing time, making this a great dinner spot.

Lockhart Smokehouse in Plano

THE VERDICT

Overall this Lockhart experience did not approach the greatness achieved by the Oak Cliff location.  The clod, sausage and sides were all on point.  However the brisket struggled and the pork ribs fell completely flat.  Still, in this area short on good barbecue options, Lockhart Smokehouse fills a needed void.  I believe (and hope) that I came on an off night and I saw enough to warrant a return trip.  If I was a local, I would be thrilled about the addition of Lockhart Smokehouse to my neighborhood.



Address: 1026 East 15th Street, Plano, TX 75074
Phone: 972-516-8900
Hours: Every Day: 11AM - 12AM (or sold out)



*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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