Zimmerhanzel's Bar-B-Que

4/18/14 11:30am – This was my second trip back because they keep running out!  I barely got the last two ribs this time at 11:30!?!  I finally had the Texas Holy Trinity.  This is a straight up no thrills Texas BBQ restaurant inside an orange metal building.  Texas Monthly listed them in the Top 50 in 2013 and Honorable Mention for 2008 & 2003.  They been smoking great barbecue since 1980.  Its makes you wonder what it takes to crack the Top 50. 

I scored Zimmerhanzel’s a 94 out of 100.  This is Grand Champion Tx BBQ.

Smoke:  Post Oak.  Beneath a gia-normous oak tree are three behemoth steel barrel cookers surrounded by cords of seasoned split oak.  Pretty primal but these pits are the reserves!  The main workhorse, however, is inside which I was unaware of and have not picture.  From blogger’s pictures it’s a steel box offset cooker much like brick pits. Apparently they do not fire up the outside pits except for busy Saturday’s and catering demands.

Brisket:  Superior Excellent!  Wow! It’s been a long time since I have had a slice this good.  I got both lean and moist.  An impressive 5/16in smoke ring beneath a substantial black bark and salty rub.  Both the lean and moist were near perfect maximum tenderness.  Moist and silky and never dry out.  A near magical intense smoke flavor and aroma.  This is hall of fame brisket. No sauce needed!  Don’t do it!

Ribs:  Excellent.  Well its no wonder these spare ribs run out.  I got the last 2 scrawny ones at the end of the rack.  Usually the toughest of the bunch, but not these!  Near perfect tender with the same silky moist tenderness.  Not a dry bite.  Rosy red with intense smoke flavor and nice rub.  No sauce needed.  Get here early so you don’t miss out.

Sausage:  Very Good.  My first thought was I just ate this same link 30 minutes ago in La Grange.  But they are handmade right here.  A course ground beef link with mild traditional spice and mild peppery aftertaste.  Very moist and casing was snappy and smoky.  No sauce needed.

Sauce:  Good.  A thin red tomato vinegar based sauce.  Mild flavor that does not overpower the incredible smoke meats.  If you like sauce use it.  If you forget because nothing here needs sauce, don’t sweat it.


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Prause Meat Market

4/18/14 10:30am – A real treasure for La Grange and the great state of Texas.  Prause is a living operating relic of times past.  After emigrating from Eastern Europe to Texas, Arnold Prause put his butcher skills to use and started up a meat market in Fayetteville, Tx.  Like so many others he began to smoke unsold cuts of beef before they spoiled and made lot of sausage.  In the 1902 they moved the family business to La Grange.  In the 1930’s Prause was the first meat market with a refrigerated counter. In 1952 they relocated to their present building.  After 5 generations the Prause family is still running a meat market and a sideline barbecue business.  By some miracle winds of change never shook this family business.  The day I went, there were more customers at the meat counter than eating the great barbecue.  Texas should put up a historical marker.  It has only made Texas Monthly top 50 one time back in 1997.

I scored Prause Meat Market an 88 out of 100.  Reserve Grand Champion Tx BBQ for over a hundred years.

Smoke:  Post oak.  The brick pit came with the building and was built around 1910.  I guess that meat market has been lost to the dustbins of history.  It looks like an earthquake hit this pit with its large and wide cracks.  They like it like that and seem to have no intent of repairing it.  This pit might as well be part of the family.

Brisket:  Very Good.  Large slices with 1/4in smoke ring beneath a thin brown bark.  Pull apart tender but a little dry.  Mild but deep smoke flavor in the fat and meat. No noticeable rub.  No sauce needed.

Pork Chop:  Excellent.  They did not have ribs today so I went with the pork chop.  They sliced it right off the loin.  It had a deep thick crunchy smokey crust.  Very moist and juicy. There was a nice subtle salty rub flavor.  Could not put it down until it was all gone.  No sauce needed.

Sausage:  Very Good.  A course ground pork and beef handmade link.  It was fresh and juicy with a mild traditional spice with an even milder peppery aftertaste. Good smoke flavor with snappy casing.  I wonder if old Arnold used to make the same link.  No sauce needed.

Sauce:  Good.  A syrupy orange sauce with little sweetness and a little tang. Nothing special and it not needed at all.  Goes good with the crackers.

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Cooper's Bar-B-Q

3/29/14 1:39pm – After topping off the feeders in Rocksprings, my daughter and I headed up to Mason to met my life long friend and his son.  Where else to hook up than the original Cooper’s Bar-B-Q!  This little gem made Texas Monthly Top 5 in 2003 but never again has it graced even the top 50.  The father started this joint in 1953, the son then took the same concept to Llano 10 years later and became a Texas BBQ legend.  After lunch we’re taking the kiddos to swim in the Llano river and then back to camp for some turkey hunting.  Hill Country fun big time!  God bless Texas.

I scored Cooper’s Bar-B-Q an 80 out of 100.  This is Regional Texas BBQ.

Smoke:  Mesquite. Three direct heat Cowboy style steel pits.  Wood is burned down to coals in the large firebox. Coals are transferred to the pits, heat to the meat, and meat to your belly.  So much blue smoke you think you’re in a forest fire.

Brisket:  Good.  When he sliced my brisket at the pit, the color of the meat was nearly white.  High heat.  He dipped in the mop sauce (a must for these bone dry clods).  There was no smoke ring!  Had a nice crunchy black bark.  Me slice tested tough of tender and I had to use a knife.  Smoke was bold.  Use the sauce.

Ribs:  Good.  Near perfect tender spare ribs with clean bite and clean bone.  Not much on flavor, just smoke and pork.  Use the sauce.

Sausage:  Very Good.  Course ground pork/beef links with bold traditional spice and a bold after taste.  No sauce needed.

Sauce:  Very Good.  Well if you like Heinz 57 sauce you love this stuff.  It was nice change with all the different sauces I sample.  It made everything taste a little better.  It comes in a large bottle cause you need it.

PS:  Do NOT get the beef rib!!  Dry as bone and tough as nails.  So overpriced it still burning a hole in my wallet.  My buddy’s dog refused to eat the left over.  That bad.  Coopers is famous for sticker shock, this beef rib might cause PTSD.

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Pit-Master Bar-B-Que Cafe

3/28/14 11:48 - More false advertising.  If you use a commercial gas smoker, you do not have a "pit".  The Southern Pride sales brochure does not determine what is and is not a pit. Paying your gas bill, setting the temp gauge, throwing 2 sticks of wood in the fire box and pushing the start button does not make you a "master".  The owner is very hands on and personally greets all his repeat customers.  Service is over the top.  Guns on the walls and guns on half the clientele (cops) makes this a unique experience.  Its a local favorite but don't drive 28 miles to get here.

I scored Gas Cooker a 73 out of 100.  This is Regional Texas BBQ.

Smoke:  Not sure.  No visible stacks and not mentioned on menu or website.  Does not really mater because there was little smoke on these "smoked meats".  There is a gasser in the back behind the fence.

Brisket:  Fair.  Standard gasser 1/8in thick smoke ring beneath paper thin bark.  Was sliced thin but that did not fool me.  It tested tough of tender with stretching and little tearing. Faint whisper of smoke.  Overall flavor was gasser que.  Use the sauce.

Ribs:  Good.  St Luis cut spare ribs were good and tender.  The rub seasoning was long gone.  Faint whisper of smoke.  Overall flavor was gasser que.  Use the sauce.

Sausage:  Good.  A fine ground link with mild traditional spice. Faint aftertaste and little smoke.  Use the sauce.

Sauce:  Very Good. An orange syrupy tangy sauce.  My first thought was Arby's sauce!  My gosh the owner cracked the secret recipe for Arby's sauce.  This stuff would make anything taste good, even gasser 'que.

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Hill Country BBQ

4/10/14 11:24am - Well you cannot get more authentic Texas BBQ than this joint.  The owner Dan Hill (the Hill in "Hill Country")  is a former rodeo bull rider back in the day before whoosy vests and helmets.  Pictures of rodeo, bulls and cowboys cover the walls.  But it gets better, this rodeo bull rider is also a guitar playing troubadour.  He leads gospel every Saturday night and they're closed on Sunday.  And if that weren't enough he is a formidable pitmaster.  His clientele includes none other than George & Barbara Bush.  I would say Dan Hill is livin' the Texas dream.

I scored Hill Country BBQ an 87 out 100.  This Reserve Grand Champion Texas BBQ to the max.

Smoke:  Today was hickory.  Dan says wood is wood.  He is not married to any particle smoke.  In his pile was post oak, hickory, pecan, water oak(?), and cedar?!?!.  Dan explained he can smoke with any wood and often does.  He claims he has used sycamore and wee-sash! (maybe he should have worn a helmet).  The key is the wood must be bone dry.   He split a hickory stump and I thought the splitter was going bust apart the wood was so dry.  He uses a ancient rusted steel barrel pit that has been smoking none stop for 7 years!  He has another steel fire pit where he reduces the everything to coals.  Texas primal!

Brisket:  Very Good.  An impressive 5/16in smoke ring beneath a beautiful black bark.  I got both the lean and moist cuts.  The lean was tough of tender and required a knife, but the moist was pull apart perfect and fat rendered well.  Surprisingly the smoke was mild.  Could not detect a noticeable rub but these slices were not lacking in flavor.  No sauce needed.

Ribs:  Very Good.  A cake soft perfect tender rib.  Clean bite and clean bone.  Once again the smoke was mild and I was wishing for some more flavor from a rub.  Dominant flavors was pork and smoke.  No sauce needed.

Sausage:  Very Good.  I really enjoyed this link. A medium ground pork sausage with traditional spice and a little extra special yummyness I could not detect.  Maybe it was its freshness, their facebook page has a picture of "homemade" sausage.  Maybe it was little extra salt or garlic but its flavor was different enough that it was unique.  Mild smoke.  No sauce needed.

Sauce:  Very Good.  A thick tangy sweet sauce of the Kansas City style variety.  Nothing here needs sauce but this stuff enhances the flavor so don't skip it.

A must stop for all meatheads.    

Hill Country BBQ on Urbanspoon

Demeris Bar-B-Q

3/17/14 12:51pm - This is classic Houston BBQ which is a metaphor for mediocre.  I have lived in this fair city for 20 plus years and over that time I have had a few plates of Demeris barbecue either at their Shepard location or catered events.  I proclaim it classic Houston BBQ because I have eaten this same bland plate of roasted meats covered in sauce all over Houston for the last 20 years. Demeris is one of the big names in Houston BBQ.  They have been around since 1964 so they are part of the blame for 4 lost Houston decades of serving this sauce covered roast beef. This is a new location but actually a relocation from a strip center that was torn down for the Hwy 290 expansion.

I scored Demeris a 70 out of 100.  This is classic Houston Bum Steer BBQ.

Smoke:  Hickory.  At this location the smoker is walled off like Fort Knox.  There is a smoke stack (been fooled before) but not a stack of wood in sight.  The smoker is not visible from the cafeteria line.  I know that JR Manufacturing lists Demeris as a client. Wood or Gasser? Who knows.  I trust JR so I'll go with wood fired which makes this plate of BBQ even more sad.

Brisket:  Fair.  1/8 in smoke ring beneath a paper thin bark (gasser?).  Mild faint smoke.  Tested tough of tender.  No detectable rub flavor.  Its a slice of roast beef.  Use the sauce.

Ribs:  Fair.  Get the toothpicks.  This spare rib was chewy tough.  Lots a tearing and dirty bone.  Mild faint smoke.  No detectable rub left.  Use the sauce.

Sausage:  Fair.  A course ground beef link with herb seasoning.  It was like combining Central Texas, East Texas and Czech.  It did not work.  It was very dry.  No after taste.  Little smoke.  Use the sauce.

Sauce:  Good.  A thick tomato base mild sweet sauce.  It was buttery.  It was served warm and developed a skin like queso cheese.  Nice.  Everything thing here needs sauce so just have them drown the plate.
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Spring Creek Barbeque

3/13/14 1:16pm - I did not have a lot of time for lunch, so I decided to hit up on some franchise BBQ places I have been avoiding.  As I was going through the cafeteria style line it felt a lot like Luby's. The jello next to the cash register confirmed my deja vu.  The Barbecue Fiend blog also confirmed my out of Luby's body experience as he wrote about the very same.  Luby's meets Texas BBQ.  With 31 locations across Texas this chain is huge.

I scored Spring Creek BBQ a 76 out of 100.  This is Regional Texas BBQ.

Smoke:  Hickory.  As I walked up to the front door, I got excited when I spotted two large smoke stacks. However, inside were two large black steel cladded Ole Hickorys on full display.  We use gas and we're proud of it!  Oh well as least you know what your getting.

Brisket:  Good.  Standard gasser 1/8in smoke ring beneath a paper thin bark.  Spring Creek definitely understands how important tenderness is for good BBQ.  My slices were near perfect tender.  No knife needed. Smoke was mild to faint.  No noticeable rub.  Use the sauce.

Ribs:  Very Good. Once again near perfect tenderness but slightly on the overcooked side.  Soft cake bite with clean bone.  They throw the rack on a grill for a nice char flavor.  There was a faint rub seasoning. I liked these ribs.  No sauce needed.

Sausage:  Poor.  I just don't like this style of sausage and its not Texas style sausage.  A very fine ground pork link with no traditional spice just salt.  No after taste unless salt counts.  Its greasy bologna.  Use the sauce or skip all together.

Sauce:  Excellent.  They sell this stuff by the jar and I bet sales are good.  A very sweet tomato based sauce with a little bit of smokiness.  This stuff was so good I dipped my fresh baked yeast roll in it. I thought about buying a jar but knew the wife would comment about the 6 other bottles of unopened sauce.

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