Tagbarbecue

Half Moon Bay

We cranked over to Half Moon Bay yesterday for breakfast and a bit of sightseeing. I am somewhat baffled as to how I managed to spend ten years in Silicon Valley without doing much of that sort of thing, but that’s youth for you, I guess. The drive over 92 is lovely, and the Pacific is still there, and Half Moon Bay has a reasonably cute downtown. I recommend Chez Shea despite the cutesy name. You can sit out in the patio, on which subject see photograph.

Afterwards we drove up Route 1 to Pacifica for barbecue. It’s a good sign when a barbecue place has a line outside. Also when the smoker is clearly visible. The sausage was pretty good: nice meat, maybe a tad over spiced without the depth of flavor I wanted, but solid. The brisket was totally decent and they gave me a fatty cut without blinking. Not as much flavor as you’d get in Texas, which I think is because they’re just using oak wood, but they wouldn’t get laughed out of Austin or anything.

Smitty’s

Caldwell County Courthouse Conservation of attention notice: if you’re from Austin you know all this.

We drove down to Lockhart today with Susan’s parents to do the barbecue pilgrimage. This is not the only possible barbecue pilgrimage, even in Central Texas. There’s Luling and Taylor and Llano, but Lockhart is pretty damned close and it’s home to a few legendary barbecue places, so we wanted to see what it was all about. Being heathens from out of state and all.

Lockhart is a tiny little town. All three of the high reputation places are within a couple blocks of each other, with a really cool Second Empire style sandstone courthouse in the middle. We did Smitty’s, which lies right next to 183. It’s this old, completely unassuming brick building with a very mellow sign. We went around the block, came in the front, and found out the line is back on the 183 side anyhow.

Smitty's smoking pit You order right in front of the smoking pit. My hair smells like oak smoke from the ten minute wait. These smokers have been in operation for over a hundred years, and I gotta think some of the quality is due to a well-seasoned apparatus. It’s market style Texas barbecue: you can get brisket lean or moist, pork ribs, pork chops, and sausage. By the pound, mostly. There’s a market in front of the building for drinks and sides. The meat is piled up on butcher paper. You get a knife, no fork.

Smitty's fireIn terms of quality… wow. It’s the best meat I’ve ever had, beating out the original Morton’s in Chicago. So there’s better meat out there, I’m sure, since it’s not like I’ve ever eaten at the French Laundry or anything. But man, that moist brisket was amazing. Good beef, smoked for hours, until the fat renders into the meat and gives it more flavor. No sauce. Insanely tender.

The sausage was exactly to my tastes. It was spicy but not uber-hot, and fairly grainy. Next time I’d ask for somewhat more smoked links to get it a little drier, but it’s not like it was bad. We had some left over and it’s going into breakfast tacos soon. I can’t wait.

The pork chop was stupid thick, cause it’s smoked, so it’s not like there was any worry about cooking it too dry to get it done all the way through. Yum.

Meat

Dinner tonight: Stiles Switch BBQ, which is conveniently half a mile from our house. The place just opened; the pit master used to be the pit boss at Louie Mueller’s up in Taylor. I am no barbecue expert but I hear Louie Mueller’s is very good, and Stiles Switch made me very happy. And it’s just a few minutes away.

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