Texas Barbecue Tour – First Part

Post Texas

Salt Lick BBQ and Snow’s BBQ

How many times do we BBQ addicted have heard of the myth of the different flavor profiles of the American states, of their declination towards some specific dishes of the traditional barbecue? Infinite. Yet we are honest, when we organize a trip to the States, what do we do? Let us try to touch as many States as possible along the Route66 throughout a week. This results in an extremely varied experience, which gives a picture of the whole but certainly does not help to fully understand these specificities. Taking advantage of Faustino’s holidays and given his willingness to spend them every year in a different area of the States, we have come to think of organizing a gourmet tour of one of the regions the historic BBQ preparations are associated to. Among the many,  Texas has been chosen, which means pure beef, SPG (Salt Pepper and Garlic) as the only conceivable rub, Beef Ribs, Texas Links and of course the mythical Brisket. The idea is to try the most famous Joint at the side of the lesser-known ones and Fausto will find himself on his way and get an idea as deeply as possible of what the BBQ’s average offer in Texas is. For the benefit of Fausto’s reader, he will score a list of everything he will see and eat, expressing a vote of 1 to 5.

It starts from Atlanta in direction to Austin, where Fausto would have loved to try Franklin’s famous Brisket but unfortunately the restaurant recently suffered a fire and is still closed. We then move toward two cornerstones of the Texan barbecue. The first, the Salt Lick BBQ is one of the best-known joint of America, famous for the mythical open fireplace in the center of the room, on whose grids the Brisket accumulates and the sausages are hung. At the time we had written one post in which we had tried to replicate on a WSM its very special cooking, with a fair success. The second is Snow’s BBQ probably less known to the general public but another of those joints that have made history. If you’ve seen it on some TV show, maybe you’ll remember it for the presence on Tootsie at the pit, a legendary figure, a determined and energetic grandmother just like only the true southern women can be. Fausto then moves from Austin westward, heading Driftwood and the legendary Salt Lick.

Salt Lick

ATMOSPHERE

We arrived at the Salt Lick on a Friday night, driving through a small, dark state road. The place is definitely hidden but it is crowded with people, even with a wedding reception going on. What we realize right away is that the famous and rustic fireplace is actually used today only by a beautiful showcase: the brisket sausages and everything else is cooked in the back in modern rotating smokers, in the style of Ole Hickory, kept at temperature in the cambros and then simply revived on the grid. The net perception we have is that of a very commercial place: it’s roughly huge with a thousand of big and small rooms with a tremendous confusion and taken off the beautiful fireplace the atmosphere is quite aloof.

Texas Salt Lick
Texas Salt Lick

THE MENÙ

We find ourselves somewhat floored by the formula. The joint in Texas but also in the United States in general is a definite thing: the menu does not exist, it orders and retires everything at the counter, choosing from a menu hanging on the wall, pay by weight what you take and you go to eat at table. Here instead, the service is at the table, where a paper menu like the one of the restaurants is brought to you by gentle and friendly but very young waiters. These latter seemed to be taught to articulate the tourist: as soon as I ask for some photo from the rear, they seemed to be just waiting for my request, they accompanied me to make a short walk around the back of the fireplace, and recollect a series of information about cooking. Nice but sounds a bit artificial: once again we have the impression of the nice spot for tourists. In the menu it is interesting to mention the “Family Style” formula that corresponds to our “All you Can Eat”: they give you a combo dish and then you can ask free refill to the waiter of what you want.

Texas Salt Lick

THE PURCHASE

We choose a Family Style at $ 24.90 and Beef Ribs at $ 21.00. All the preparations were very moist, juicy, actually gave the idea of the “mopping” cooking that you see in the videos, except the brisket, much dryer. The beef ribs were of the “short” type, not very meaty and not even particularly tasty. In general, I must say that it was nothing like that: the brisket was not better than the one what we could eat in Italy, the rest was good but certainly not memorable. If I would go back I definitely not place it among the places not to be missed and in general I can say I’m enough disappointment, perhaps also because of the great expectations that the Salt Lick myth generates.

Texas Salt Lick
Texas Salt Lick

SCORES

ATMOSPHERE: 3,5
BRISKET: 3
LINKS (NORMAL): 4
PORK RIBS: 4
BEEF RIBS: 3
I LIKED: The show of the meat looking on the fireplace grids
I DID’T LIKE: Very commercial atmosphere, someway artificial

Here you will find a pair of video to take a look: The first about the fireplace in action and the second about the dishes

Snows bbq

ATMOSPHERE

Snow’s is a joint that is warmly recommended to us by several friends who live or lived in Texas. You get off the state road and go for a 20 km long road full of curves and uphill toward Lexington. The country seems lost in nothing, there is only the joint, four houses and many fields but here you can breathes an authentic and traditional atmosphere. We arrive at Snow’s around 11am on Saturday morning and we already see the queue outside the place, little more than a shed divided between the gadget shop and the restaurant. Outside the entrance there is a dusty wardrobe, a banjo player, and housewives who sell cake for charity: here it is hard not to feel as fully immersed in the full South of the United States.

Texas Snow's
Texas Snow's

THE MENÙ

Snow’s is the classic American joint: a handful of hand-written dishes on a chalkboard hanging from the wall, ordered at the counter, paid by weight, and with the tray in hand you look for room on the tables at the inside or at the outside of the restaurant. A buffet is available with bread, Cold Tea, jalapenos, cucumbers and all the rest of the condiments. It looked like a documentary, and if you approach the smokers you really find yourself in front of Tootsie who works. They had told me that, but I must say that she equally impressed me: Tootsie is really a myth, an arciful and genuine woman, of those who, when they shake their hand, look straight in your eyes, almost embarrassing you. She was sincerely impressed and proud of the news that I came from Italy to taste her barbecue and she is willing to answer all my questions. From what I see, from Snow’s cooking is on a large brick pit, in a  high direct, a kind of Hot & Fast. Although at a short distance you can clearly see two big OffSets that appear though turned off anyway

Texas Snow's
Texas Snow's

Texas Snow's
Texas Snow's

THE PURCHASE

We choose to taste a little bit of everything in one tray, spending about forty dollars. What can I say …. everything was really excellent, hard to imagine better. In particular the sausages were simply screaming but also the chicken was really very, very good. Maybe a step below the rest, only the brisket: definitely good but not stratospheric like the other preparations.

Texas Snow's

SCORES

ATMOSPHERE: 5+
BRISKET: 4+
LINKS (NORMAL): 5
LINKS (JALAPENO): 5
PORK RIBS: 5
CHICKEN: 5
I LIKED: Meeting Tootsie, a real myth!
I DIDN’T LIKED: Can’t you ask an other question?

Also here a couple of video: a nice looking at the pit area and the tasting of the food

The first two joint trials ended, but Fausto has just begun his visit to discovering Texas’s BBQ and many tastings await him.

Waiting for the next episode, have you ever been at Salt Lick and Snow’s? Do you agree with Fausto’s review?

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