Review: Barbecue Lovers Guide to Austin

I have never been to Austin, TX.  So when I was asked to review Barbecue Lovers Guide to Austin, I viewed this as a unique challenge.  I’ve heard of many legendary joints in that area, so it would be interested to see how this book would go about presenting each of the destinations.  Want to know more?  Read on…

Author Gloria Corral moved discovered her love for BBQ shortly after relocating from San Francisco to Austin, TX in 2008.  She tapped into her newly discovered passion by studying the history and tradition of BBQ pitmasters across the Texas Hill Country.  The result of all her efforts is this 173 page guide.

What You’ll Find

The book breaks down how BBQ joints are listed by geographical region.  You’ll find six sections for various areas of Austin (downtown, east Austin, south Austin, north Austin, west Austin, northwest Austin), a section for the Round Rock area, and joints in the outskirts (within an approximate 30 mile radius of Austin).

Two pages are dedicated to each BBQ joint mentioned in the book.  The first page (on the left) depicts a black and white drawing of signage for the eatery.  Also on this page is important information regarding the restaurant — location, phone number, website (if applicable), hours of operation, and whether or not credit cards are accepted.  I particularly appreciate the last piece of information. As someone who normally does not carry a lot of cash on hand, there is nothing worse than travelling to a dining destination only to find that it is cash only.

The second page gives some description to different aspects of the BBQ joint.  You’ll find such things as interesting tidbits of information regarding the restaurant’s history, a detailed description of the atmosphere, and information about what is served there.  In the interest of keeping this as a “roadmap” and condensed guide, write-ups are kept as objective as possible.  You won’t find any subjective reviews and “rankings”.  For someone who is looking for a quick reference guide to barbecue in the Austin, TX area, this does the job!

What You Won’t Find

As I mentioned before, you won’t find a lot of subjectivity in the entries for each BBQ joint.  This is intentional, as the book is meant to be a guide.  Something else missing that I would like to have seen is some color photos associated with each featured joint.  A couple of photos of the restaurant interior or of a sample of food offered would have been an enhancement to each restaurant profile.

Q&A With the Author

Gloria was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me regarding her experiences.  The questions and answers are below.

When you first moved to Texas, did you ever dream that you would be writing guides to BBQ in the Austin, TX area? “No I did not dream I would be writing BBQ guides when I moved to Austin. As a food lover, I fell in love with BBQ after asking the locals where they would recommend I have dinner. More often than not it was a BBQ joint.”

I’m thoroughly impressed by the number of BBQ joints you were able to include in your book. How many miles did you end up logging to get to them all? “There are so many local BBQ joints in town that the miles didn’t register on my radar. However, I did travel to a 30 mile radius of Austin and made a 50 minute drive to Snow’s in Lexington, Texas because Texas Monthly had named them the number 1 BBQ in Texas. My goal was to keep the distance a comfortable 30 to 40 minutes drive one way so if you wanted to make a road trip to eat BBQ it wouldn’t seem daunting. Think about driving back to Austin after a meal in Lockhart, Taylor or Elgin, for an example, in a total food coma in need of a nap.  A VERY rough guess at the number of miles I drove would be around 350 to 400.”

If you had to pick five words to describe BBQ in Texas, what would they be? “Authentic, Comfort, Primal, Social, and Delicious (not in any special order).”

Sauce or no sauce? “Both! Sometimes I go to the Fancy Food shows in NY and SF and taste BBQ sauce and rubs from craft makers around the country. I give the samples to my friends who smoke meat to experiment. There is some wonderful stuff out there.  If I’m at Kreuz in Lockhart where the slogan is “No sauce needed for our meat” then I just eat meat and they are right on. One of my favorites is the coffee infused BBQ sauce at Franklin’s. “

Are you content to stick to Texas BBQ, or are there other styles you’d like to experience? “I eat BBQ in every state I can get to. I love BBQ – the more the better. I’m lucky to do a fair amount of traveling and I have discovered some remote and exciting places. I have a blog post about a joint I found north of Camden Maine as I was heading to Arcadia Nat’l Park for some hiking. “

One of the things I noticed was the conciseness in each joint’s write-up. What was the mindset in using this method? “My mind set for writing each of the stories was to set the stage for what to expect. When I went to investigate a joint I would settle in unannounced and try to get a feel for the place. Then as my experience unfolded I made notes. Sometimes if the pit master wasn’t too busy, I would talk to him or her. I learned a wealth of information from these hard working crafts people about their history, specialties and techniques. I truly respect what they do and how much they care about the food and their customers.”

I see where you are already working on the second edition of the book. Care to give Big Wayner’s BBQ Blog readers a sneak peek? “Barbecue Lover’s Guide second edition will have recipes and opinions of the food. “

When will the second edition of the book be out, and how will readers be able to purchase it? “I hope to have the second edition finished by mid 2012. Look for announcements on my web site www.bbqloversguide.com and stay updated on my blog (http://bbqloversguide.wordpress.com/) and Twitter (@bbqloversguide)!”

Conclusions

So there you have it!  For a region of the country where barbecue is a cornerstone, there was a need for an authoritative guide.  Gloria does a good job with the first version of this book.

Barbecue Lovers Guide to Austin is available for purchase at $9.95 through Gloria’s website, http://www.bbqloversguide.com.  If you’re interested in keeping track of Gloria’s latest adventures, you can do so at her blog.   You can also find Barbecue Lovers Guide to Austin on Facebook and Twitter.