Saturday, May 31, 2014
Novosad's BBQ & Sausage Market (Hallettsville, TX)
On this particular weekend, Mrs. Barbecue Fiend and I were down in Schulenburg, Texas for one last hometown visit before our fast-approaching move to Nashville. The Central Texas barbecue style is unquestionably better than any other variety out there, so I suggested that we snag lunch from Novosad's in neighboring Hallettsville.
Novosad's made the first ever Texas Monthly list of the Top 50 BBQ Joints back in 1997, but fell short of the next 3 half-decade lists. To describe this place as "no frills" would be a complete understatement. It's the kind of small town meat market I was raised on: just a handful of old tables and chairs, with decoration being an obvious afterthought. The one exception to this is their repeated exploitation of the Texas Monthly nod, which they justifiably display with pride and vigor. The food cases and corresponding work area comprise the vast majority of the space here. Meat is clearly the focal point. Perfect.
I called and ambitiously placed a large order for the following day: a pound of brisket, a pound of pork steak, a pound of sausage, a full slab of pork ribs, a half-slab of lamb ribs, a pint of spicy pinto beans, a pint of confetti coleslaw, and a quart of potato salad. Considering there'd only be three of us eating nearly $80.00 worth of food, I had clearly over-ordered. Oh well, now I'd have a five-meat smorgasbord to try out, and I never mind having leftovers of good 'que.
My order wasn't scheduled for pick-up until 11:00am, but I arrived a little early as usual. This was rather fortuitous, since a line had formed from the counter to the door within 10 minutes of my arrival. Novosad's may have fallen off of Texas Monthly's radar, but it's obviously still a local favorite.
Given the number of meats as I had ordered, I needed a separate plate just for my side dishes. The mustard-based potato salad had a nice amount of veggies mixed in. It wasn't overpoweringly mustardy, which allowed the pickle content to shine nicely. The pinto beans came with big chunks of brisket scattered throughout. I found only a slight spiciness, which appealed more to my cohorts than it did to me. Overall, the beans made for a pleasant side. I decided to pass on the coleslaw.
When you see brisket like this, you just know it's going to be amazing. There was a gorgeous, deep red smoke ring and great-looking bark with an equally great flavor. Despite the thick slices, this brisket was tender and very juicy. It was also packed with smoke, though not overly so. The fat was well-rendered, and I was happy to eat my wife's discarded fatty pieces. Her loss.
The pork shoulder steak (pork butt) was beautifully tender and perfectly smoky. Although nobody else seemed to have any specific interest in it, I called dibs on the meat from the "Y" of the bone (the money spot). Absolutely delicious! I also especially enjoyed the thin strip of fat running along the steak's edge, which was salty very flavorful. Of all the less-traditional barbecue pork cuts, pork butt is probably my favorite.
Novosad's sausage is (surprise, surprise) a coarse-ground Czech/German style sausage. The thing that makes this kind of sausage so spectacular is its simplicity: salt, pepper, garlic (and probably one or two other secret mix-ins). You can actually see tons of coarse pepper showing through the casings, which emitted a great snap with each slice. The sausage was also slightly and pleasantly spicy. I came across a quotation from Nathan Novosad, the current owner, which is brilliantly apt. According to Mr. Novosad, "People around here like to see what they're eating. You grind the meat in the sausage too fine and they can't tell what it is they're putting in their mouths." Well said, sir.
My pork spare ribs were up next. I try not to be too picky, but I would have preferred them with more seasoning (i.e. black pepper) on the crust. Despite this, they were still very good. The ribs had a deep red color that just screamed smoke, and the smoky taste did not disappoint. They were tender and decently juicy. Each bite also came away cleanly from the bone without "falling off," which is just right.
Lamb ribs aren't something I'm accustomed to by any means, but I certainly wanted to try them out. From what I'm told, there is an increasingly-pervasive subculture of mutton lovers popping up in this region of Texas. I'm not sure why, but I applaud them nonetheless. These ribs were oilier than the pork ribs, and had also soaked up more smoke. Actually, the lamb ribs were probably the smokiest of my five meats. Considering the slight gaminess, I'd say these ribs likely came from an older animal and should more properly be classified as mutton rather than lamb, but I'm glad I gave them a shot either way.
Novosad's shows why Central Texas barbecue is the best around, and they should be proud of the delicious meats they've been churning out for the past 55 years.
Novosad's BBQ & Sausage Market
105 S. La Grange St
Hallettsville, TX 77964