Tuesday, September 10, 2013

John Mueller Meat Co. - Austin, Texas

The John Mueller Meat Co. is one of the two barbecue places we were in Austin to try. The Mueller name is legendary in Texas barbecue circles and depending on the survey and who you ask, John Mueller Meat Co. is either number one or number two for the best barbecue in the Austin area if not in all of Texas.

This was the line behind us. There were as many people ahead of us too. Maybe 30 people all told.

The place starts serving at 10:30a but the line starts way before that. Like most of these independent BBQ places, to be sure you're going to get the items you want, it pays to arrive early. They serve until the meat runs out and that's that. We lucked out and the day we visited the line was short even at 10:15a.

One True Map of American Barbecue by Jon Contino printed in Texas Monthly Magazine June 2013 issue

We spoke to some of the people lined up with us about barbecue in general, barbecue regions and opinions there of and mostly passed the time recounting adventures and disappointments of the search for the best.

So we're standing there, in the 100 degree Austin heat, drinking a cold beer (free!) surrounded by the intoxicating smell of woodsmoke. There was a band playing and enough excitement up and down the line to make the wait if not enjoyable, at least tolerable. This is gonna be good.
(Altogether we waited about 30 minutes or so.)

John Mueller Meat Co. is essentially a food truck with a covered seating area nearby. You make your way through the line to the order window, place your order (stay or go) and pick up your food and pay at the window around the front corner. (If you're going to eat there your food is placed on a tray at the order window, if you're getting takeout food your order is picked up at the next window around the corner.) Drinks are available and are in a trough full of ice in front of the pay/pick-up window.

We decided on what we were going to have and were ready once we made it to the window. We went with the brisket, beef rib, turkey and sausage. No sides other than a stack of white bread, some pickles and a few jalapeno peppers. We took our weighted down tray and headed over to the outdoor seating area. The picnic tables are under and awning so even with the heat it was comfortable enough to sit out there and eat.

That turkey up there? Sublime...I would gladly have traded every other thing on the plate and just ate that.

The food was good, no doubt about it. The turkey was extraordinary and the sausage was great. Beef ribs are a Texas BBQ staple and this one was a fine example but just not my thing. The meat was flavorful and tender but I prefer a pork rib. Sacrilege maybe but there it is. The brisket we had was a bit uneven. Part of it was cooked to perfection and part was a just the tiniest bit dry.

Overall the food at John Mueller Meat Co. was very good. Is it pilgrimage worthy? Maybe. If you're at all a fan of smoked turkey and good sausage I would say yes without reservation. If you're here go ahead and get the beef rib too, you need to try it at least once. I'm sure the unevenly cooked brisket we had was an anomaly however if you skip it and get more turkey no one could blame you.

If you're a fan of barbecue then definitely make your way to the Austin/Hill Country area of Texas. Barbecue here is a religion and the folks running the open pits and smokers take it very seriously. It's well worth a visit and I know with all of the fine smokehouses to choose from you won't come away disappointed.

Happy dining!

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