Friday, April 22, 2011

A man with a plan...

We arose Saturday morning with a plan…touring the Hill Country of Texas gorging ourselves on the best bbq we could find. Having done our research ahead of time, and travelling with someone who lived in Texas for a while, we agreed that the day had to begin again in Lockhart. So, with Imodium and Pepto Bismol in hand and a Venti Iced Coffee from Starbucks (basically, something to keep things moving, and another to shut it down, if necessary), we were off.

We drove the dusty roads on the outskirts of Austin again, arriving at Kreuz Market at 11:00am. You’d think it’s a little early for lunch, but since we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, we figured we’d grab some early grub. Apparently we weren’t the only people with that idea. Even at 11:00am, there was a wait to get to the meat counter. There must have been a reason for this, and we soon discovered it…it’s called “BBQ”.

Kreuze was a very different experience from Black’s. Black’s was small, intimate roadhouse, where you might end up sitting at a table next to the owners. Kreuz was a giant warehouse of a place… cavernous, with giant communal tables. However, that cavern housed some of the best brisket I’ve ever tasted. I suggest it was only incrementally better than Black’s…small nuances separate “the best” from “the very best”, but sitting at a communal table, eating perfectly cooked brisket, with the proper balance of fat, crust and beef…heaven on butcher paper.

Oddly, I took note of some people sitting at a table near us. An hour later, when we walked in to Black’s to purchase our requisite T-shirt, I saw those same people now enjoying the best that Black’s had to offer. This is what people do there-eat bbq!

After a brief tour of the Hill Country of Texas, we ended up at “The Salt Lick” in Driftwood. “Driftwood” is really just another name for “Nowhere” .

As I mentioned, The Salt Lick and Adam Richman’s gluttony were the foundational elements for this trip. The Salt Lick and it’s indoor open pit (see pictures) set the stage for an enticement that caused me to book a flight, hotel and rental car, and drive into the middle of nowhere with one of my closest friends while “Dueling Banjos” played in my head.

While the food didn’t quite live up to my wildest imagination, it certainly felt good to be sitting there eating that food. It was the same feeling from Black’s and one that would repeat itself several times this weekend: the “I can’t believe I’ve been seeing this place on TV all these years and I’m finally eating here” sensation that can’t be adequately described but needs to be experienced.

While the food was quite good, it wasn’t quite the “better” of any one thing, except the ambiance. I give it high marks for the ambiance mostly for the location, the indoor open pit and the live blues band playing outside for the patrons that had an hour and half wait ahead of them. Despite not being the best of the food, it’s a must-see on the bbq tour and I am excited for a return trip.

Later that night, back in Austin, we decided to walk up to “6th Street”, the club/bar/restaurant strip which is a cross between Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Duval Street on Key West, and De Wallen in Amsterdam. As a friend said, “it’s hard to describe-you just need to see it”. He wasn’t wrong.

While “clubbing” wasn’t our thing that night (or ever), we did have a pleasant walk up and down the street. Over a five-block area, there were bars and clubs with live bands, acoustic performers, hip-hop disc jockeys and motorcycle gangs, but not once did we feel threatened or uncomfortable. I call it “controlled chaos” and credit a strong police presence for the sense of safety. I also have to say that in general, Texans are amongst the friendliest people I’ve encountered, and that goes for the motorcycle gang members we were chatting with that night as well.

The evening ended with a brief appearance on the “Jordan Rich Show”…2:00am EST! After a long hard day of eating and driving, I was happy to relax and share some thoughts with Jordan and the listening audience. On May 20, I’ll be back on the show, talking more about this trip, and other food topics.

The weekend will continue with the next post, but until then, enjoy “Easy Rider”.

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