Sunday, October 12, 2014
Austin's BBQ & Catering (Eagle Lake, TX)
I don't get to visit my native Texas all that often, but when I do I try to make it count. The heavy and much-needed rains left us with few options for Sunday fun, so we decided to take a random barbecue roadtrip. First up was Austin's in Eagle Lake. Although Austin's doesn't get as much praise and notoriety as other Texas barbecue joints, it has consistently been on every one of the Texas Monthly "Top 50" lists since the very beginning.
We caught the scent of delicious pit smoke as soon as we rolled up, which was the product of a huge pile of cut pecan logs out back. Pecan wood is awesome for smoking. It's more potent than oak and hickory, but doesn't pack quite as much punch as mesquite. The seating area at Austin's is nothing more than a fenced-in slab out by the highway, and the cramped interior leaves very little wiggle room to move around. Clearly the focus here is on the meat rather than the ambiance.
In order to get a good feel for Austin's barbecuing capabilities, I went with their Three Meat Combo. Sadly, they were out of sausage today. That left me with brisket, pork ribs, and chicken. Make sure to ask for bark on your brisket, otherwise they'll likely trim it. I remembered to make that request, but forgot to ask for no sauce. Oh well. For my sides, I picked the mayo potato salad and pinto beans.
As I suppose its name should have suggested, the potato salad had an exceptionally large amount of mayo in it. I mean, like a whole jar of mayonnaise. This made things sort of mushy and unappealing. The beans lacked seasoning and basically just tasted like plain beans. The accompanying onion helped, but not much.
The brisket looked awesome, partially because I asked for fattier slices with extra bark. I found a nice crust and thick, visible smoke ring. The heavily-peppered crust also had a great flavor. The meat had a good smoke level, which I could taste despite the excessive tomato-based barbecue sauce. It was also melt-in-your-mouth tender. Delicious all the way around.
We asked for dark meat chicken, which tends to dry out less during the smoking process. Barbecue chicken is sometimes difficult to master, but ours was very tender and moist. The chicken skin was also very flavorful and crisped up nicely. I couldn't taste much smoke, but that's fairly normal for chicken.
Much like the brisket, the ribs were also coated in black pepper. A slight pinkish hue suggested a more moderate amount of smoke, which I confirmed once I dug in. The tasty crust made up for the lack of smoke somewhat. Far too many barbecue joints overcook their ribs until the meat is "falling off the bone," but here the incredibly juicy meat came off the bone with only a slight tug. That's the right way to smoke a rib.
Despite a few minor flaws in an otherwise fantastic meal, Austin's BBQ is definitely worth a visit.
Austin's BBQ & Catering
507 E Main St
Eagle Lake, TX 77434