Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Extreme BBQ Road Tripping - 5 Stops, 1 Day

"We must pace ourselves," we all agreed.

"Doing four stops in a day won't work if we overdo the first." Then Bryan had the idea to add one more, making it a five-stop excursion. "It's on the way, we're going right by it, plus they open at 10:30 so we'll still be able to make our first stop close to the time we planned."

Pace ourselves. Discipline. Restraint. Moderation.

Three bloggers with a love for Texas BBQ, four five destinations on our horizon, and we're off for a day-long extreme BBQ road trip through central Texas. I joined @BBQBryan and @HoustonFed for a near 400-mile, 12-hour journey few could appreciate. Making five stops to sample great Texas BBQ in one day. Could we muster up the willpower to leave room enough for a meaningful sample at each? "Bring it on," we decided. 

Even my mother asked, "Have you gone crazy?"

No, not crazy, just interested in finding excellent BBQ and sharing our discoveries with others. I'm glad to have found two other compatriots like Bryan and HoustonFed who are passionate about great BBQ, and are as stoked for a challenge like this as I am. Please go check out their unique perspectives of this all-day BBQ road trip on their blogs, Texas BBQ Treasure Hunt, and Houston Fed.

We met up in Tomball to start our day at 8:45 am, where Bryan floated the idea of adding another destination. Since we were headed through Bryan, it seemed logical to adjust our plans and stop by to see pitmaster Marco Oglesby at the new Kreuz Market location. 

Kreuz Market, Bryan,TX

Kreuz Market's new location in Bryan, TX

The new location is spacious and bright, with the requisite Kreuz Market "No sauce, no forks, no kidding" signage posted in multiple locations throughout. We planned to start safe with three slices of brisket and one sausage link to split. Then a rack of ribs showed up on the cutting board. "Just one to share," we added with some reluctance. 

First brisket of the day, sliced by Lee Jasper, at Kreuz Market - Bryan

We slipped behind the counter for some action photos, and the friendly staff began to pepper us with questions, "How about some sides? You want to try our desserts?" We declined, given what we had planned for the day. Once our tray was loaded we moved to a nearby table. As we finished our BBQ nerd photos of what we were about to dig into, Marco brought out a freshly-sliced beef chuck rib, just off the pit, and dropped it on top of the pile. Our confidence was being challenged.

Kreuz Market - Bryan, sliced brisket, fresh off the warming pit

The brisket was moist and flavorful, a great start to our day. The sausage link, a specialty if you are familiar with Kreuz in Lockhart, did not disappoint. Nicely spiced with a good snap from the casing. The peppered pork rib was good. The big beef rib with its magnificent smoke ring was beautiful, but would have been better had it spent more time in the pit. Well, we were early, so it wasn't a huge surprise.

Pork rib, brisket, jalapeno sausage and a beef rib from Kreuz Market - Bryan

The fine BBQ being offered by Marco, Lee and their team at Kreuz Market in Bryan is a welcome addition to the local B/CS restaurant scene. There haven't been too many options for BBQ in this area for some time. We couldn't help but imagine how busy this place is going to be on a home football game weekend. We suggested they put together some football tailgate to-go packages for game days; I have no doubt those will sell out faster than they can possibly imagine right now. Kreuz Market in Bryan is a worthy destination the next time you find yourself on Highway 6 near Bryan-College Station.

Marco Oglesby and @BBQBryan deep in BBQ discussion

Blue Moon BBQ, Hearne,TX

Blue Moon BBQ, on OSR just outside of Hearne, TX

This place is off the beaten path. In fact, we drove right past it by over five miles before we realized our mistake. Chalk it up to three guys talking BBQ nonstop and not paying attention very well. It's not really in Hearne proper, but a few miles east, closer to a little community called Edge, TX, which may or may not be on your maps. Knowing that it's at the corner of OSR and Macey Rd. will help you find it.

Owner Matt Moon was away for the day, but Toni greeted us at the counter and took our order for some moist brisket and a couple ribs. One of the things that first caught our eye at Blue Moon BBQ is their Cowboy Cornbread, described on their menu as "chopped brisket, tomatoes, chilies and onions, stirred up in cornbread, cooked in a cast iron skillet then covered in cheese." We had to have one. Every bite was delicious. If I could make a pillow out of this just so I could eat it all night, I would.

Cowboy Cornbread at Blue Moon BBQ 

Matt's father, Rick Moon, running the pits on this day, checked up on us before we left to be sure the product was to our liking. It was. The brisket was tender and had a unique rub that provided a flavorful bark, and their baby back ribs had a nice glaze with a little spice. When we asked for other recommendations, Toni suggested that we try one of her bacon brownies, so we finished this visit by splitting a piece three ways. What a great bite--slightly chewy brownie, with a healthy amount of diced cooked bacon embedded in the surface prior to baking. The result was a perfect balance of savory and sweet, with the salt of the bacon providing just the right complement for the sweet chocolate brownie. It's a dessert I wouldn't normally try, but I'm glad I did, and we all went back and each bought another one to take home.

We agreed this was a great visit, and with their very tasty brisket at just $13.45/lb, one of the best values by far for quality BBQ on the trail. Make Blue Moon BBQ a destination priority on your list of great places to try.

Moist brisket and ribs from Blue Moon BBQ

Miller's Smokehouse, Belton,TX

Miller's Smokehouse, Belton, TX

A TMBBQ Top 50 spot, Miller's Smokehouse has been in operation in downtown Belton since 2008. The place was still busy at 2:00 pm. We ordered 'just enough to sample' and were seated in front. Bryan, having been there before, warned us about Momma Miller and her desserts. "If she spots us we'll have to take some. 'No thanks' is not an option." 

Owner/Pitmaster Dirk Miller was out, but we did get to speak to his son Dustin who was in charge of the pits for the day. All five offset smokers and four vertical drum smokers were going strong, even though it was mid-afternoon. Some product was being loaded for the evening shift, and others pits were finishing up a big catering order for the day. Dustin shared that they stagger their load on briskets so that they have fresh product available at noon, in the afternoon, and in the evening.

One of five offset flow-through pits, plus four vertical drum smokers at Miller's

Loading chickens into a vertical drum smoker at Miller's

Our order of moist brisket, regular sausage, and turkey arrived, as well as some very nice bark ends. The brisket was excellent, tender and flavorful throughout. The sausage was good, but they wouldn't let us get away without trying a small sample of their homemade hot links and jalapeno cheese sausage as well. I loved the spicy links as well as the jalapeno cheese, and vowed to make them a priority on my next visit.

Then Dirk's wife, Lisa Miller, spotted us. Before we knew it, she had two of her homemade desserts in front of us to try, faster than we had a chance to decline them. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. She had the charm on full throttle, and no amount of protest would have provided an escape. I'm glad we didn't. The highlight was her Hurricane Cake, sort of an upside-down German chocolate cake with pecans, and a thick, cream cheese ribbon. If the dessert at our last stop was good, this one had us on our knees. Every bite left you wanting more, and we didn't leave without an extra piece to take home.

Moist brisket closeup, at Miller's Smokehouse

Sliced brisket and ends, plus sausage, at Miller's Smokehouse

Sensing the day getting away from us, at about 3:00 pm we packed up and headed out for Austin to our next destination.

Was I supposed to make a left back there?

Freedmen's Bar, Austin,TX

Freedmen's, Austin, TX

Interior bar shot at Freedmen's

Bryan had been talking about Freedmen's all day, saying it may be in his top five right now. We parked out back and on our way in greeted Chef and Pitmaster Evan LeRoy, who was hard at work on the next day's briskets in the screened-in smoker enclosure. Freedmen's is situated in one of the University's student housing and fraternity areas. We could hear the raucous Saturday evening parties just getting underway in the neighborhood.

Chef/Pitmaster Evan LeRoy sprinkling his magic dust on tomorrow's brisket

Sitting on the front porch, we placed our order with our server, immediately sensing this was not your run-of-the-mill BBQ establishment. Freedmen's is really more of a bar with a smoker out back to help feed the thirsty patrons. The Holy Trinity Plate on the menu for $19 caught our eye (yes, we ordered from a real menu). It would give us just enough to sample everything we wanted to try.

I'm not sure what we were expecting, but the tray that arrived was a thing of beauty. Thickly peppered brisket and burnt ends, ribs adorned with the speckling of cracked black pepper I enjoy so much, and house-made sausage, all sided by homemade bread, pickles, jalapeno slices, and pickled onions.

Holy Trinity Plate at Freedmen's

Peppery ribs, packed with flavor

The brisket slices and ends were some of the best bites we've had in a long time. Perfectly timed on the pit, rich and moist, and a beautiful crust. Those ribs were nicely seasoned throughout, tender without falling off the bone. The homemade sausage was good, even better dipped in their unique sauce.

Evan LeRoy is doing magical things with the product being offered there. Be on the lookout for Freedmen's to take a very high spot in future BBQ rankings while he's at the helm. This is destination BBQ in Austin, without the lines.

One of the finest trays of Q any of us have had in a while

Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, Austin, TX

Stiles Switch BBQ, Austin, TX

We ended our BBQ pilgrimage with a stop at Stiles Switch, another TMBBQ Top 50 spot, knowing they were open into the dinner hour. One more round of Q and a beverage seemed like a good way to end the day before heading for home. The Big Bark Amber Lager on draft by Live Oak Brewing Company of Austin turned out to be an excellent choice.

Lined up for dinner at Stiles Switch

We selected the smoked turkey and moist brisket, and the friendly counter staff threw in a few rib bites for us to sample as well. The turkey was juicy and full of flavor with a black-peppered crust. Brisket sliced from the point was nice and flavorful with a decent bark above the seam, but just fair in the bottom half. We only had a couple of slices, and since this was my first time here, this brisket will need another visit or two for a better sampling.

Stiles Switch had a healthy dinner crowd lining up as we were leaving, going strong towards their closing time of 10:00 pm on Saturday nights. This is one destination where you can count on quality BBQ well into the evening, while many other well-known Austin spots sell out by mid afternoon.

Peppered turkey, moist brisket from Stiles Switch, plus rib samples

Your 1993 "Dazed and Confused" throwback reference, location of Stiles Switch

That about wraps it up for this Central Texas BBQ quest. 5 stops, 4 cities, 3 bloggers, on the road for 12 hours, doing what we love to do on a weekend--chase BBQ. Hope you enjoy all our respective write-ups of the trip. Don't forget to visit the posts by BBQBryan and HoustonFed

Weary but satisfied, we arrived home about 9:00 pm and parted ways, pleased with our day's journey, and each looking forward to the next excursion. No doubt we will be at it again soon.

- Scott

Kreuz Market - Bryan, 768 N Earl Rudder Fwy., Bryan, TX 77802, (979) 704-6147.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10:30 am to 8:00 pm. Closed Sundays.

Blue Moon BBQ, 18746 E OSR, Hearne, TX 77859 (Corner of OSR and Macey Rd.),
(979) 549-4800.

Hours: Wednesday, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Thursday through Saturday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Sunday, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Miller's Smokehouse, 208 N. Penelope St., Belton, TX 76513, (254) 939-5500.
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Friday and Saturday, 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Freedmen's, 2402 San Gabriel St., Austin, TX 78705, (512) 220-0953.
Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. Thursday through Saturday, 11:00 am to 12:00 am. Sunday, 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. Closed Mondays.

Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew, 6610 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78757, (512) 380-9199.
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Friday and Saturday, 11:00 am to
10:00 pm. Sunday 11:00 am to 8:00 pm. Closed Mondays.

No comments:

Post a Comment