Wednesday, December 17, 2008
To say any place has the best BBQ in Texas is to invite argument. Each year, Texas Monthly puts together a comprehensive list of the best BBQ in the state—not an easy task. Their inboxes must have a special section for angry letters generated from that issue. I’ve always found their judgment to be fairly reliable.
A handful Central Texas BBQ joints usually dominate the upper ranks. Luling City Market, Kruez Market, Smitty's Market, and Cooper's have long held a slot at the top. This year, Texas Monthly picked a wildcard as #1: Snow's BBQ in Lexington. Once the article was published, people from all over made a pilgrimage to see if Snow’s truly was the best. This is not an easy task since Snow's is only open on Saturdays. To top it off, they close when the meat runs out—sometimes as early as 10 a.m. BBQ for breakfast.
This past Saturday, I drove out to Lexington to see if there was indeed a new king. At 9:15 a.m. there was still plenty of meat and a surprisingly small crowd. I walked right up to the meat counter and ordered pork ribs, beef brisket, and beef sausage—a 1/3 lb. of each. They also offer pork and chicken, but I chose to focus on the BBQ trinity.
I first sampled the brisket, which was some of the fattiest brisket I have ever eaten. Since fat=flavor, and it was perfectly seasoned, I quickly devoured most of it, fat included. The sauce was sub par, so I neglected to use it. Having not eaten anything up until this meal, I quickly moved on to the ribs. They were everything small-town Texas ribs should taste like: There was so much care evident in the succulent and yielding meat. It must have taken a long time to break down the connective tissue and fat to taste just that way.
The ribs warranted savoring, so I took my time, not knowing how delicious the sausage would be. Many Central Texas BBQ establishments make all-beef sausage. It's pretty unique in it's high-fat content and coarse ground. I've had a lot of beef sausage, but Snow's stuck out. There were more spices than usual and less fat. I couldn't get enough and had to force myself to stop after one link. A friend let me taste the pork shoulder, which the women behind the counter suggested. While the meat wasn’t exactly juicy, I wouldn’t call it dry. It was seasoned to perfection, with a nice balance between pork flavor and spices.
The biggest surprise came when people at a nearby table couldn't finish their food and gave us part of a chicken. I usually regard BBQ chicken as a waste of time and space, since it isn't actually barbequed (and everything tastes better). Snow's chicken is neither a waste of time nor space. The meat was slightly dry, but intensely flavorful. I ate the skin, meat, cartilage, and anything I could suck off the rib bones. Needless to say, I was miserably full.
Was it the best BBQ in Texas? That's a matter of opinion. I still think Luling City Market is the best in the state. Snow's was fantastic, but lacked. They buy their sauce, which is almost sacrilege and the meat was not as affecting as some other places in the State. When asked what I meant, I simply replied, "moaning and cussing." BBQ can be a religious experience that causes you to ecstatically moan and cuss aloud. Snow's was damn fine BBQ and I will be making many return trips. It may not have been the best, but I love living in a state where second—or even 20th—best is still one of the best meals of your year.