Texas through tacos and barbecue

I have a confession to make.  Nearing the end of a week in Texas spent sampling some really good craft beer and eating almost solely at barbecue and taco joints, I thought about ordering a salad.   Luckily, I didn’t follow through on that crazy idea until I got back home.

On my first day in Houston, after taking in an exciting Astros game, a short walk got me to Jackson Street BBQ.  It was almost next door to the ballpark, and even if I tried to get lost, my nose would have been able to follow the smell of smoky meat right to their front door.  My first Texas barbecue experience was delicious as I tried the sampler plate with sausage, ribs and brisket, a side of beans, and an Oktoberfest ale from Saint Arnold Brewing:

A bit surprisingly, that ended up being my only barbecue meal in Houston.    But even when arriving in Austin, my first impulse wasn’t barbecue, but a taco truck a short walk from my motel.  Torchy’s Tacos is set up in a food truck park just off of South Congress Ave.  As the sun went down, I sat at a picnic table under strings of Christmas lights and dug into a couple of tacos (one a green chile pork taco, the other a shredded beef barbacoa taco).  The tacos were just “ok”, but the visit here was worth it for the Mexican street corn (with ancho aioli, red chile and queso fresco) alone.

Torchy's tacos and Mexican corn

Speaking of tacos, I started off my first morning in Austin at Jo’s Coffee with a couple of breakfast tacos – one with egg, cheese and potato, and the other a migas – an Austin specialty with scrambled eggs, peppers and beans.  The hot sauce was a great additions to these and together it made a perfect way to start a day.

Breakfast tacos at Jo's

I couldn’t resist the pull to barbecue joints in Austin.  On my way to watch the nightly flight of bats from under the Congress Bridge, I stopped at Terry Black’s BBQ for what ended up being the best brisket I had on the trip.  The mac and cheese and bean sides were really tasty too.

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The next day at lunch, I stopped for what I thought would be a conservatively sized lunch (I should have know better – everything is bigger in Texas) at Iron Works BBQ.  I couldn’t even come close to finishing half of this place of smoky goodness.  The beef rib was incredible, the brisket melted in my mouth, and I had thoughts of smuggling the smoked sausage back home in my luggage.

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My dinner that night was at the more upscale Lambert’s Barbecue in downtown Austin.   Because I sat at the bar, I got this brisket plate with two sides at half price (I love American happy hour specials).  It was around this time on the trip that I started to realize I might have an unhealthy obsession with brisket.  Thankfully the portion size was more reasonable than others and the sides (collard greens, jimaca slaw) were distractingly good.

Lambert's BBQ

After a couple of meals that were part of the conference I was attending (no barbecue, but some nice Texas-themed breakfast and lunch dishes), I had my last dinner at the Art of Tacos taco truck in the Rainey Street district.  These were by far the best tacos of the trip – al pastor with cilantro, onions and cheese.  If I lived in Austin, you’d see me sitting at one of the picnic tables beside this food truck a lot of the time.

Maybe I should have tried a greater variety of foods over the week, but I’d have a hard time not sticking with a diet of barbecue and tacos on a return trip.  Here’s hoping I get that chance someday soon!

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