May 31, 2009

Field Trip: Snow's BBQ -- the best in Texas?

Last summer, Texas Monthly did a round-up of the 50 best barbecue joints in Texas. Now in Texas, "barbecue" usually means beef, or more precisely, brisket. I grew up in the South. (Folks in other parts sometimes get confused and include Texas in "The South." But Texas is a whole other thing.) Where I grew up, bbq meant pork. And that, in my opinion, is as it should be. My first true barbecue love will always be pulled pork, preferably with some mustard sauce. But that's just me. Around Austin and Central Texas, we are in the center of Texas bbq territory.

Many of the spots mentioned in the Texas Monthly list were familiar names. But one, only an hour east of Austin, and garnering the top spot, was completely unfamiliar. It is Snow's in Lexington.

This should explain why we got up before 7am on a Saturday morning to meet up with a friend and make the trek to Lexington in search of... THE. BEST. BBQ. IN. TEXAS.

Snow's is only open on Saturdays. One of the guys manning the pit told us he'd put the brisket on around midnight the night before. It smokes all night and is ready when they open at 8am. They sell beef brisket, pork, sausage, ribs, and chicken until they sell out. Sometimes that's at 10am, sometimes closer to noon.

If you're going to drive an hour for barbecue — before you've even had breakfast — you want to make dang sure that there's going to be some meat left when you get there. So we hit the road a little before 8am and started making our way out there. We dawdled around, making a pit stop for the dog, getting a little lost in Lexington, and then like the gawking tourists that we were, taking some photos. By the time we got in there, it was probably around 9:30ish. Lucky for us, it was a slow day and there were only a few cars in the lot and one or two tables with folks tucking into some big ole plates of meat next to the smokers. We went in and ordered one of (almost) everything. You can get combo plates with two meats, cole slaw, potato salad, onions, pickles, white bread and beans for $10.95. You'll be given a squeeze bottle of sauce in an old Ozarka water bottle to take out to the picnic tables with you.

We tried the brisket, ribs, pork and sausage. I had to fend off greedy fingers to get any photos before it was demolished. You have to be mentally ready to eat four kinds of smoked meat before 10am, but we were up for it.

As I mentioned, bbq for me, is really about pork. Lucky for me, since I don't live so close to the epicenter of Carolina-style bbq, my husband makes what I've always thought is the best smoked pork with mustard sauce I've ever had. (And that wasn't even one of the top 10 reasons why I married him.) So I'm an admittedly hard sell when it comes to Texas brisket. But now I get it.

Snow's brisket is by far the best brisket we've ever tasted. Hands down. Their pork was very tasty, although a little fattier than I'd like. The ribs were good and the sausage just OK, a little dry. We ran out of steam before trying the chicken. Of the sides, even though I'm not a big mayo-style potato salad lover, theirs was very good. It went perfectly with the smoked brisket. The beans and cole slaw were good, but you're not there for that. You're there for the brisket.

The brisket was luscious. It had the perfect lacquered crust on the outside, moist, very tender meat with just the right amount of smoke. Their sauce is a light, vinegary red sauce, thin and tangy. It adds just a shot of tangy sweetness to the meat without in any way competing with it. I'm also not an eater of white bread, but there's no other way to go here. A piece of brisket on white bread, with or without pickles and onions – your choice, with a splash of vinegary sweetness.

It was damn good. Fall apart tender, with those smoky, crusty, crunchy bits wrapped in a soft, squishy piece of white bread to soak up all the juices. Oh yeah.

The story behind Snow's is almost as good as the brisket. The pitmaster is a 70+ little lady named Tootsie, who moonlights behind the smoker. During the week, she's a custodian for the local school district. She and her husband owned a meat market/butcher shop/bbq joint in Lexington for 20 years. She helped Snow's owner, Kerry Bexley, design the pits and still works them today. That's her in the photo.

Are you hungry yet? Snow's is in Lexington, Texas, about 50 miles east of Austin. Take 290 east to just past Elgin, then make a left towards Butler and Lexington.

And, oh yeah, take a cooler. You're gonna want to take some more home with you.

Snow's BBQ
open Saturdays only
8am until sold out

516 Main Street
Lexington, TX


Dennis Fagan, Austin said...

I agree; superb brisket. And don't forget the sweet tea, it was also perfect.

Great photos, Ms. Tastytype.

Suzanne said...

It sounds to me like in addition to the homemade ice cream we are definitely going to share this summer, we also need to have George make us some Carolina-style bbq with mustard sauce. That's what it sounds like to me.