Maybe that's what we are. If that has become our moniker, I guess I can live with that. The BBQ groupies came out in droves this year for TMBBQ Fest 2015 on the City Terrace at the Long Center in Austin. If you truly love music, you would make a comparable effort to attend ACL Fest. Movies and other media, SXSW. We love food, in particular Texas BBQ, and we travel the state (and beyond) in search of the best meat slingers we can find. Doesn't sound so much different than someone than follows their favorite band across country on tour, does it?
TMBBQ Fest is currently the one of the largest publicly-accessible BBQ celebrations in the country (as opposed to the competition circuit, which is an entirely different type of event). Some other well-attended (and growing) BBQ-related gatherings you should look into include the Houston Barbecue Festival, Smoked Dallas, Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival, Meat Fight, Meatopia, and the Big Apple BBQ Block Party. It's no surprise the TMBBQ Fest has developed a following far beyond our own borders. Was it the impetus for some of the other festivals? That's hard to say with any certainty, but it seems likely in some cases given the timeline of their beginnings. With BBQ more popular than ever, people want to know more about its history, origins, and people, and TMBBQ Fest gives attendees a chance to sample some of the oldest and most acclaimed BBQ institutions in the state, all in one place. Texas BBQ lovers from far and wide are able to get a glimpse of "where it all began", meet the creative hardworking people behind it, and establish a level of connectivity to its roots not otherwise possible from a distance.
BBQ, and Texas BBQ specifically, is increasing in popularity, not just across the United States, but internationally as well. There is now truly legitimate Texas BBQ to be found across the US in Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, New York City, Connecticut, Virginia, and Washington DC, just to name a few. You're also able to get your fix if you find yourself across the pond in both London and Paris! At this year's Fest I met and shared the experience with fellow BBQ lovers who traveled from Washington, Minnesota, Virginia, and Florida. "Celebrities" are beginning to take notice as well. Spotted in the crowd this year sampling the excellent Texas BBQ offerings were television personality Chuck Woolery, Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. I can affirm the Governor wasn't just there to check out the sauce!
2015 marks the sixth annual TMBBQ Fest, and the second I've been able to attend. I honestly believe the BBQ joints improved their products from what was offered last year, which makes my attendance at next year's Fest inevitable to determine if the trend will continue.
My most memorable bites this year:
- Roasted green chile BBQ sauce from La Barbecue
(yes, I drank two cups by itself!)
- King Ranch chicken sausage from Freedmen's (all those classic church covered dish luncheon King Ranch casserole flavors we grew up with, concentrated into one bite)
- Pumpkin spice sausage from Miller's Smokehouse
- Pork rib from Killen's Barbecue
- Lamb pop from Louie Mueller Barbecue
- Pulled pork from Franklin Barbecue
- Baby back rib and tater tot casserole from Opie's Barbecue
- Pork belly from Hays Co. Bar-B-Que
- Fried boudin ball, and pulled pork in a fresh flour tortilla,
from Stiles Switch BBQ
- A brisket-laden chocolate chip cookie, topped with candied
brisket from Freedmen's
- And brisket from... too many places to name!
Though my list may look similar to others already published, I promise it wasn't lifted from or influenced by anyone else. Consider it a testament, as a consensus, that these bites were really that good!
Follow the BBQ...
|The calm before the storm|
|Big beef rib by Stiles Switch BBQ|
|Crowd queued up just prior to VIP opening at noon|
|Bib beef rib bites from Louie Mueller Barbecue|
|Lining up for Buzzie's Bar-B-Q|
|Good stuff from Freedmen's and Hays Co. Bar-B-Que|
|Killen's Barbecue of Pearland in the house|
|Hatfield's BBQ slicing it up|
|Sausage from Louie Mueller Barbecue|
|General admission really fills the place up|
|Delicious lamb pop, plus beef rib and brisket bites from Louie Mueller Barbecue|
|The boys from Hays Co. Bar-B-Que in San Marcos|
|Beautiful slice from Stiles Switch|
|John Lewis and crew of La Barbecue|
|Roasted green chile sauce and homemade pickles from La Barbecue|
|Delicious baby back rib from Two Bros. BBQ Market|
|Chewy brisket chocolate chip cookie, topped with candied brisket, from Freedmen's|
All pictures (c) Scott Sandlin, Texas Pit Quest. All rights reserved