So you may have heard that Black’s was opening on Riverside. No need to drive out to Lockhart for a bite of delicious Black’s brisket. Unlike Smitty’s, Black’s quality stayed consistent throughout the boom in popularity and Food Network attention, and it continues to be some of the best and easily obtainable (I can’t wait any longer for you, Franklin) Q in town. Thing is, brothers Mark and Mike, grandsons of the original Black, were the ones who decided on Riverside…a move the rest of the family was apparently none too thrilled about. Their uncle, Kent, felt that if Black’s was going to bother to open in Austin, it better be done right. And since Kent is the one with the rights to the name, the Original Black’s BBQ opened 3110 Guadalupe Street right near campus in October of this year. Which means it’s best to go when UT isn’t in session. And there’s no game or festival going on.
A day like Saturday December 27th.
As expected, The Original Black’s on Guadalupe has everything right down to beef ribs. Links of sausage, original and jalapeño cheddar, were $2.49 a piece. The Pork ribs were the spare cut – the BEST cut – as St. Louis style falls to a close second and baby backs being just a joke meant for those who want sauce over meaty fatty melt in your mouth pig flesh. The point is that Black’s is a pro that doesn’t cater to that which isn’t worth it. Their brisket in Austin is just as delicious as their brisket in Lockhart and their sides are standards. All the pickles you can eat, standard cole slaw, über cheese mac, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, potato salad, etc.
Our order was a small (single) mac & cheese, a single cole slaw, 6 pork ribs, 1/2 lb brisket mixed, and each of the kinds of sausage. The total came to $53. Black’s had plenty of local beers in cans, including a variety from Austin beer works, various bottled and fountain sodas, and, because this is Austin, Topo Chico. Their prices are more expensive than on their website, gotta figure that’s due to their new space and Austin’s rent. Their brisket was $16.50 a pound and the ribs were about $15 a pound. Their beef ribs were about the same. The sides were cheap at a couple of bucks a piece.
There’s a lot of BBQ in and around Austin. I used to wait until I really needed that melty meat and drive all the way out to Lockhart, pick my favorite cuts from my favorite places and finish off everything with a $1 ice cream cone from Smitty’s. That and their “ambiance” are just about the only reason I stop in there any more. I no longer have to get out there. I love Micklethwait Craft Meats. They’re incredible, but they’re busy enough now where they’re going to need a brick & mortar stat. I was significantly less than impressed with Stiles Switch. And Aaron Franklin is our city sweet heart, known to be a good guy with great eats, doesn’t even need to be touched on. I’m sure I’ll eventually get around to trying Terry Black’s. But now that I know I can get real Black’s brisket and ribs real close, there’s no rush.
So, I haven’t written a Gastro Graze in a while. We have been trying to cut back on eating out, but the amount of new eateries popping up in Austin hasn’t slowed. Yesterday Chip and I decided to try Stiles Switch, a new local barbecue joint on North Lamar.
Stiles Switch has a nice location with an industrial feel and, best yet, lots of parking. That being said, it was 1:30pm on Saturday…and the place was almost empty. The interior of the restaurant was very clean and well kept, and it has a more established feel than the 10 months it’s been open. The gentlemen behind the counter were very nice, as well. For our lunch, Chip and I decided on BBQ staples: 6 pork ribs, 1/2 pound of brisket, and cole slaw. There wasn’t an option for moist (fatty) or lean on the brisket, and we didn’t notice that they also served sausages until after we’d paid for lunch, so I would go back to try their jalapeño cheddar offering. I generally stay away from chicken at BBQ places, which Stiles does serve, only because of its tendency to be dry. We also got a root beer and an orange soda. The total came to $31, which means they’re a bit pricier than Black’s or Smitty’s out in Lockhart, but that’s the price of not having to drive an hour out of town.
Ribs are a staple when gorging myself on smoked meats. A rub can make or break them; I find Cooper’s to be too black peppery though Chip disagrees. Stiles had a decent rub on their ribs, however, that was a good balance of smokey, sweet, salty, with the flavor of pepper coming through without being over-powering. Our lunch order came with a cup of the Stiles sauce which was…interesting. I’m not a big fan of BBQ sauces, but they seemed to be attempting a new spin. Rather than use a base of ketchup in their sauce, it tasted heavily of canned tomato soup. It was odd to say the least, though not all together bad, but most of it remained when Chip and I finished eating.
Stiles Switch sells two kinds of cole slaw and we got a small serving of each. I’m generally not a fan of mayonnaise based cole slaws, but theirs was tasty and not heavy. Chip felt it seemed to be a very basic slaw, however, and nothing special. The other slaw they served was a lemon vinaigrette variety, which was flavorful and bright, and a nice change of pace from the usual offering. Stiles also offered potato salad and macaroni & cheese, neither of which Chip or I tried.
Now to the brisket. I am picky about my brisket. It should be moist – but not too moist. Unfortunately, the brisket we had at Stiles was closer to beef jerky than to juicy, tender brisket found at Iron Works or Franklin’s. As you can see on the left side of the picture, this brisket is dry. It was also cut very thick, which only served to make its texture all the more unappetizing. Between the two of us, Chip and I only finished one piece of our 1/2 pound of brisket. The bark was tasty, but was ultimately too tough to enjoy.
Would I return to Stiles Switch? Yes, because I would like to try the sausage, and maybe even give the brisket a second chance, but it won’t be any time soon. Would I recommend it? Probably not. My issue that barbecue is not cheap, and there’s so much competition near and far in this area, that a restaurant really can’t afford to make less than great.