DBBBBQ: Chapter 14

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The Final Cow Down
I got off to a late start the next morning. I was due at the airport by 430 and had planned to hit my last barbecue joint early on, then see a bit of downtown Austin before heading out. Getting off the couch at 1100 nixed all plans for exploration, so I settled for one last smokehouse meal. I reorganized my luggage for the flight home; mostly this meant packing a small suitcase full of beer and vodka to lighten my primary suitcase as much as possible. If I had known the wonder that is St. Arnold’s Lawnmower Ale, I would have loaded up both and paid the extra fees without hesitation. I threw everything into the trunk for the last time and headed south.

Luling City Market - Luling, TX Luling City Market - Luling, TX

DBBBBQ’s last stop was Luling, a town highlighted by oil reserves, Lieutenant Worf and a restaurant aptly named Luling City Market. Chowhounds speak highly of the establishment, recommending it even as a two and a half hour lunch break from the Austin scene. When I walked in I noticed that this place had a slightly austere air. Not to say that it wasn’t friendly, but the first word that came to mind at Black’s was “family.” The first word that came to mind at Luling City Market was “meat.” Seating capacity was twice that of Black’s but much more minimal: all-wood construction, folding chairs, and no decoration save a Luling city banner and a few plaques on the walls. A healthy mix of locals and nearby visitors filled the seats, their plates adorned with simple cuts of meat and slices of white bread.

The Smoke Pit - Luling City Market - Luling, TX

The smoke pits were in plain sight, and meat was being weighed on a butcher’s scale. I took an order of brisket on a sheet of butcher paper and was sent to the dining room for sides and payment. There, the old woman at the register gave me a bowl of pinto beans, a can of Country Time and a curt response to my request for silverware: “No forks.” This is Texas talking.

BBQ Beef Brisket - Luling City Market - Luling, TX

Just the sight of the brisket made a solid case for its authoritative position in the BBQ pantheon. While Black’s served up a loving mess of sliced beef, Luling City Market offered two precisely cut strips that could not have been painted to be more picturesque. The colors of the meat were brilliant, and its presentation on white and wood showcased the restaurant’s craft perfectly.

BBQ Beef Brisket - Luling City Market - Luling, TX BBQ Beef Brisket - Luling City Market - Luling, TX

This aesthetic translated just as perfectly into flavor. The brisket was a lean, dense cut, hinting at the way brisket starts out and the skill needed to smoke it to a state this tender, juicy and flavorful. It wasn’t as savory as the brisket at Black’s, but made up for this in the most satisfying ways. When soaked in its excellent sauce, which blended mustard and tomato flavors with hints of pepper and citrus, Luling’s meat revealed its most delicious qualities. The mild yet hearty combination of brisket, sauce and white bread produced a most comforting lunch. The soft, not-too-savory pinto beans made for a great counterpart, as they filled the texture gap between the fluff of bread and the chew of meat. While I wasn’t sold on beef’s power to rival pork as a barbecued meat, I was perfectly content to end my smokehouse sojourn with a slightly greasy sheet of butcher paper in Luling, Texas.

I rolled into the airport, turned in my key, took a final breath of warm Texas air and entered the terminal. A cold beer would have been the appropriate way to end this, but I settled for a scoop of Amy’s ice cream, which apparently has the highest butterfat content of any ice cream in Texas. Being the last mass of saturated fat consumed on the tour, it was a fitting toast and sweet farewell kiss to the 2,800 miles, 50 driving hours and unknown quantities of animal product I had taken on since leaving Columbia Heights in Washington, DC. It was not, however, a kiss of Death.

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