Wednesday, March 23, 2011


March 5, 2011. What do 4 junior high football coaches do to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the greatest republic in the history of mankind? They plan an all day 8 stop journey to some of the most legendary bbq establishments in the world. This is that story.
8:00am. The four of us meet up at the junior high where we all teach and are lucky enough to be employed in that  oldest and most respected Texas pastime: football. Our group consists of three lifetime Texans and one recent transplant from Michigan, where good bbq is about as common as a south Texas blizzard. The lawn chairs are packed and the ice chest is loaded as we all admit to being way too excited to sleep well the night before. Our Michigan friend has already learned that Molson Ice and ginger ale will not be making the trip. Instead we have iced down a true Texas trio of Dr. Pepper, Topo Chico, and Shiner. The only breakfast allowed today will be a tall thermos of coffee. We pull out of the parking lot with anticipation as we head out toward Snow’s bbq in Lexington.
Before we reach our first destination, we must fill up on gas and answer the call of too much morning coffee. To our astonishment our northern buddy and one native Texan have never been to the greatest rest stop known to man: Buccees. We immediately pull over when we see the beckoning beaver and fill our tank. There is no better way to get a Texas bbq trip started than by making a pit stop in a gas station where you can salute the Texas flag hanging above your urinal. We head back out on the highway and start reading articles extolling the greatness that is Snow’s bbq.
We take a couple of back roads in Lexington and suddenly like a smoky beacon in the night we catch our first glimpse of Snow’s bbq. Snow’s is only open on Saturdays until it sells out of meat, usually by 2 in the afternoon. We arrive at 10:30 and there is already a line of 20 or so kindred spirits who have traveled to this tiny town in search of what Texas Monthly has named the best bbq in the state. Snow’s looks like a 2 bedroom shack with an enormous outdoor kitchen in the backyard. As we anxiously await our turn in line, we admire Tootsie, the 75 year old angel of bbq who tends the brisket with all the love and respect that bbq this delicious demands. We grab our food and take a seat outdoors so that we can view Tootsie at work while we partake. As the four of us begin to chew the brisket all talking ceases. Some things in life are better enjoyed in silence, and let me assure you this brisket is the holy grail of meat. I’m not sure if it is the out of body brisket experience but I am almost certain I see a tear come to my buddy’s eye and a smoky halo hovering above the head of Tootsie as I let the last piece of brisket sit on my tongue and melt slowly in my mouth. 11:15 and already this trip has exceeded expectations.

Our next stop is the town of Taylor, Texas. Here we eat at two great establishments beginning with the world famous Louie Mueller’s. Mueller’s is housed in what seems like an old warehouse. Everything is covered in smoke from the kitchen and the meat is delicious. You know you are at a real bbq house when the fingerprints on your Styrofoam cup are outlined in soot. From there we head around the corner to Taylor Café where we meet the second larger than life persona on our journey. Taylor Café is owned by a WWII veteran named Vencil who has been serving up bbq for decades. His restaurant seems like something out of a King of the Hill episode. THIS is small town Texas, complete with regulars at the bar, oversized Texas flags, pool tables, and Vencil himself enjoying an afternoon nap behind the bar. We gladly pay our tab and get a picture with the legend himself before heading back out on the road.

The conversation on the road to Lockhart ranges from sports and music to family histories and near death experiences. Everyone is now feeling the weight of eating at three superb bbq restaurants but the holy trinity of bbq goodness that awaits us in Lockhart helps maintain our focus. We begin the Lockhart trifecta at Blacks where the overall quality of ribs, brisket, and sausage is as good as we have indulged in. We head down the street to Smitty’s where you can actually feel the fire from the pits as you wait to sample the ribs, which would eventually win our best ratings of the day. We park behind Kreuz Market to let our food settle and buy some time before finally mustering the intestinal fortitude to complete our Lockhart triple play. As if Lockhart hasn’t already won our hearts, Kreuz gives us the winner of our specialty meat category by serving us a gorgeous pork chop with heapings of the most delicious sauerkraut I have ever tasted. If you love bbq and have never been to Lockhart, Texas; you don’t love bbq.
At this point in our journey, doubts about finishing begin to creep into our heads, but we are merely one town and two spots from completing our meat mecca so we head toward our last stop in Luling, Texas. We quickly enter Luling City Market and are pleasantly surprised to find that despite our swollen stomachs we find the best sausage that we have eaten all day. Like a tailback running out the clock in the fourth quarter, we plow through another plate of meat and with steely resolve walk across the street to our last stop. Unfortunately Luling BBQ is nearly out of meat, but thankfully our bellies accept what little they have left as a final peace offering for the day.
As we drive back home, eleven hours after setting out on our quest for the best bbq, we can now make some conclusions. Luling has the best sausage, Smitty’s boasts the best ribs, and one day a week a little shack in Lexington serves up the best brisket in this life or the next. Blacks and Louie Mueller are amazing places to eat and most importantly in an unanimous vote we award our Michigan friend honorary Texan citizenship. How do 4 junior high football coaches celebrate the 175th anniversary of Texas? The only way Texans know how, with good friends and great BBQ!



  1. Nice! You have succeeded in making this pregnant woman hungry (as if that is hard). With all three pregnancies the one thing I crave is "bar-ba" (as josh mac calls it). I see a road trip in the near future.

  2. I feel stuffed just reading it... Great idea for a road trip. GO MEAT!!!

  3. Good to see you stopped at Vencil's while in Taylor. Most people go to Muellers since it's the trendy touristy place to go in town and gets all the pub. But like most of the locals I know, I prefer Vencil's.