Welcome to the Texas BBQ Trail
Howdy! (That’s how they say “hello” here in Texas.) Come to this part of the BBQ belt and you’ll notice that Texans have a lot to say when it comes to their barbecue. The slow, low-fire smokers aren’t just for cooking up some of the most tender meat you’ll ever savor, they also put off the incredible smells of hickory, oak or mesquite. Irresistible is one way to describe it.
From the centrally located Austin, Texas, on down Interstate 35 to San Antonio and into the smaller Hill Country regions like Lockhart, Elgin and Taylor, BBQ rules. But that’s not the only cultural world that thrives here. With tons of live music, shops, bars, farmers markets, and a healthy outdoor lifestyle scene, Texas brings it as big as its reputation. We set out on a BBQ pilgrimage with our friends from Korea, but soon discovered we were in for much more.
Hitting the Trail
We started in Austin, a city known for its night life, but we were here for the savory side of the city. So after a night at the Driskill Hotel, our first stop was breakfast at Torchy’s Tacos in the Trailer Park & Eatery for some genuine Tex-Mex. Torchy’s Tacos is part of the food truck movement you can find all over Austin, but Torchy’s serves up classic Austin breakfast tacos and is a favorite of the locals. We tried a couple of classics called “the miga” and “the wrangler” and we can see why they’re classics. Luckily our waitress told us to watch out for the birds…apparently they will try to steal your tacos!
Parks and lakes are among the benefits of visiting Austin. We went kayaking and paddle-boating in Lady Bird Lake and enjoyed beautiful scenic views of downtown Austin while paddling around turtles and swans. Luckily, no one fell in the water.
Before lunch we explored the Texas State Capitol building that, with its three-story rotunda, proved the old saying “everything is bigger in Texas.” Ok, time for more BBQ.
Today’s BBQ spotlight
Lambert’s Downtown Barbecue, Austin (www.lambertsaustin.com)
Our first stop on the famed Trail was a calm, cozy spot called Lambert’s Downtown Barbecue. The house BBQ sauce is a sweet hickory (with a little kick), and thanks to the open-air kitchen, the smell fills the restaurant. Our waitress made us feel like locals and helped us figure out what to order. To start, we shared a pile of crispy wild boar ribs over blue cheese puree with daikon and celery. For main courses we shared brisket, spicy sausage, and pulled pork along with Classic BBQ sides of mac-n-cheese, bacon braised collard greens, potato salad and of course, everyone’s favorite…herb french fries.
Stubb’s, Austin (www.stubbsaustin.com)
Beyond the smokers, Stubb’s is an entertainment destination. We went to Stubb’s for dinner and live music (yes! live music!) and loved it. Our server, Jose, even took us in the back so we could see the smoking process for ourselves. (They smoke their all-natural brisket overnight, so we didn’t see the whole thing.) Stubb’s is an Austin landmark at this point, and is a great example of what Austin does best: tap into the traditions of the area, master it and rethink it for a super entertaining experience. (P.S.: Did we mention the ribs fell off the bone?)
After a fantastic day of exploring, we headed back to our hotel, the Courtyard Austin Downtown Marriott, to rest our bodies and bellies. It’s centrally located and they use green practices to reduce their carbon footprint—pretty cool if you ask us.