No Do, but BBQ

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Feb 12, 2016.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    AA1479 DCA DFW 0645 0923 738 8C
    This is an elite-heavy flight, plus there had been a cancellation
    (the day before? I don't know), so there wasn't a bat's chance I'd
    get an upgrade. And so I didn't. It was an three hours' even trip
    in a pretty uncomfortable seat with little padding; there was
    adequate legroom, and I was going to sleep most of the flight
    anyway, only the guy in the middle seat, despite looking young and
    fit, woke me three times to go to the bathroom.

    We landed a hair early, and I had visions of spicy fried chicken
    thighs dancing in my head, as Popeye's was right near the entrance
    to the people mover. Only they had only tenders at this hour, so
    I sadly trudged to second choice, Salt Lick, where lunch wasn't
    being served either, but the guy told me that he'd sell me as a
    consolation prize a chopped beef sandwich and a beer for a hair
    over a dixie. The sandwich was big, the bread a ciabatta thing,
    substantial but not generous filling - burnt end meat with a
    little fat soaked in the spicier of the two sauces. Rahr & Sons
    Ugly Pug black lager is a pretty good Schwarzbier and went well.
    A successful meal given its setting.

    AA 320 DFW SAT 1040 1152 M80 5E was 10B

    It was a train ride to my next gate; when I got there boarding
    had begun. I settled into my semi-comfortable seat, when some guy
    came up and waved a boarding pass my way. He had been assigned my
    seat, and the gate agent had tasked him with giving me my new
    boarding pass. I thanked him for his being the bearer of good
    tidings (and honest, at that - he could I imagine have just slid
    into the seat up front and nobody would ever be the wiser) and
    swam upstream. It may have been the cane I was then sporting, but
    people gave way nicely, and the seat was easily achieved. Short,
    pretty pleasant flight, and the FA fed me a gin and tonic with an
    option for a second, which was not exercised.

    An hour at the small but friendly United Club to wait for
    lili, who was on the next flight.

    She got in right on time and refused my offer to buy her a
    premium beverage at the club, and we hustled right to the Four
    Points Airport, which is actually fairly nice - the room was
    ample, with a comfy bed just firm enough for my back to begin
    healing; there's an actual bar with an actual happy hour; and
    the staff and the guests seem to be pretty happy. We went down
    for drinks - her acceptable Merlot was $4 a glass, my Jim Beams
    were $2.77 I think each. Chopped was on (rather than some sports
    talk show as most happy hour bars have), which was amusing. After
    a couple rounds, lili decided she needed to eat. SoLuna isn't
    far away and gets great press for its Tex-Mex and sometimes
    Mex-Mex food; it's tame enough that she can handle it and
    interesting enough for me at the same time.
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  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The place was mildly hopping at 6, but by the time we left around
    7:30 it was really rocking. We were happy to just hop. Speaking
    of which there's Negra Modelo on draft, so she had 2/3 of one
    and I had 4/3.

    Excellent chips come out with two salsas - a little bowl of
    fairly spicy green chile puree and a big bowl of milder roasted
    tomato and pepper. Surprisingly, and cheerworthily, neither had
    much cilantro. Even more surprisingly and cheerworthily, lili
    went for the former, which she said was at the limit of her
    tolerance, rather than the other, whose scorched taste put her
    off. I enjoyed them both.

    I ordered carne adobada to see how it compares with the various
    versions I've made. This was a lot of smallish pork cubes, some
    with a fair amount of fat, a few lean and tough, in a mild pink
    sauce of tomato, chiles, and spices. Pretty good, the sauce a
    little thicker, milder, pinker, and tomatoier than I'd have
    preferred. Rice was okay, not more, halfway between plain and
    Spanish, i.e. rather underflavored. Refritos were quite good,
    what I tasted of them.

    lili got a standard combo plate, here called de todo un poco -
    a cheese enchilada, pretty decent; a really quite good taco al
    carbon, where the beef was more abundant and more savory than
    normal; a chicken flauta, which was kind of meh, Jack in the
    Box, so she gave it to me; and a quesadilla, which she liked but
    I didn't pay any attention to. She'd been a little put off by the
    idea of frijoles borrachos, cooked in beer, so I said if she
    didn't like them I'd switch with her. When they came she took a
    taste and found them not as nasty as she feared (they also have
    onion and bacon in them) but didn't want them anyway, so I gave
    her my refrieds and ate most of her beans and (the same) rice.
    A decent guacamole also came on both plates, plopped atop way
    too much chiffonade of iceberg lettuce. Surprisingly, bolstered
    by that green chile sauce, she ate all the refritos, quesadilla,
    enchilada, and taco, ceding me onlt tiny tastes of the latter two.
    So she was a little overfull at the end of the meal.

    For me, I was pretty full after eating most of the bland rice
    with the acidy but not bad adobo and pork, plus most of the
    borrachos and the extra rice. I left a few beans and a couple
    pieces of pork (I smashed them with a fork and rejected the
    leanest ones) but decided I wanted a flan anyway, so we split
    one about 80/20. It was a coconut flan.

    The bill was moderate.

    In the gloaming we failed to spot Spec's, which was supposed to
    be on the route back to the hotel, but did find some cheap gas
    stations for future use.

    Sleeping quarters were most satisfactory and most of all didn't
    do my back any harm.
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  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    lili decided on points rather than breakfast for her amenity,
    the plan being to hit R&G when it opened, assuming it did, and
    if it didn't, we'd go on down to Luling.

    R&G has an interesting history. There was this pitmaster Roy Jeffrey
    at the justly famous City Market in Luling, who was lured off to the
    big city to be a partner and cook at the newly-minted and no relation
    Luling City Market in Houston. So he absconded with his talents and
    City Market's secret sauce recipe and made a mint for his bosses and
    himself. I ate there when he was cooking, actually before I ate at
    the real McCoy, and he did a pretty great job - a few years later,
    finally making it to the original, I found that his product was
    a dead ringer for the real thing. Anyhow, shortly after I visited
    he repented his wicked ways, retiring and hiding out in the middle
    of nowhere. He didn't fully redeem himself, as his current life is
    financed by that part ownership, which is by all reports earning
    him plenty. So he makes barbecue out in Whizzerville, Texas, and
    though he posts hours, last time we tried to visit, he was closed
    when he said he'd be open. That Houston place is apparently still
    treating him well.

    So we went into this dim barnlike space, big enough for a dance
    hall, walls decorated as are many BBQ joints with knickknacks from
    olden rural days, a dozen maybe tables generously spaced in the
    middle. A register and a beer cooler at the far corner, the kitchen
    behind. I asked the genial cashier what she had to offer, and she
    replied, the best barbecue in Texas! No false modesty here: we
    figured we'd come to the right place! I thought I asked for a brisket
    plate, extra fatty. She said to have a seat, and she'd bring our food.
    What came, two brisket plates, the meat reasonably tender if rather
    lean. So I went back and hounded her for a couple ounces of fat,
    and five minutes later she came by with a greasy paper with a bunch
    of rind and fatty trimmings. This being tastier and more luscious
    than the merely above average meat made the entire experience much
    better. On the side, the usual white bread (used to wipe your face
    if anything); rather beany beans, pretty good; and a sweet yellow
    potato salad that I thought okay but lili found loathsome.

    Natural Light, a clean brisket-friendly beer that I haven't seen
    in a long time, for me; a Pepsi for her.

    This was a good but not revelational meal, so we decided to go to
    Luling anyway and walk around town until we got hungry again. So
    that's what we did. Took a quick stroll, watched a train or two
    go by, and lo and behold, hungry again.

    City Market, Luling: this is the place from which Roy had absconded
    quite a number of years ago, before I had the chance to come try it
    out. A close on half an hour wait to go into the smokehouse where
    you get your meat; the sides and drinks are out in the main area,
    and sometimes there's a line for them, too. And the other issue is
    that all the tables are jammed, so when one opens up, you run and
    get it. As we approached the inner sanctum, Rina, a woman we'd met
    in line, and her sister Deborah found a just vacated booth and
    invited us to join them. Deborah held the place while the rest of
    us went in and got the food. They favor ribs and sausage; lili
    and I got a pound of brisket with a couple ribs to try on a whim.

    This is some good brisket, moderately moist, very tender, smoky
    but not too much so. The ribs are some of the best I've ever had,
    just enough chew to be interesting, tender but not falling apart.
    Great flavor. The pitmaster claims that the house rub is a third
    each black pepper, red pepper, and salt. I maintain there's a
    touch of sugar in there as well. IBC root beer went nicely with
    but was no bargain at $2 - other soft drinks are $1. No alcohol.

    We left with some food for later.

    Oh, yes, cash only, be forewarned.
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  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    It was still pretty early, so there's this place lili had heard
    of, a converted electric generation station on the Guadelupe,
    partially built into the river, said to be a beautiful site with
    less than beautiful food but a decent bar. Perfect for our current
    situation. It's imaginatively called the Power Plant.

    Friendly staff and bartender (though he was very young and not
    really up on things).

    I got a Rahr Texas red, which is pretty good, moderately hopped,
    aromatic, fairly malty but still quick drinking. Followed by a
    Power and Light pale ale, a bargain at $3. Despite its listing as
    Power Plant light pale ale on the menu, it has nothing to do with
    this place that I can discern but is a product of the Independence
    Brewery in Austin. It gets awful reviews on the Internet, but I
    found it pleasant, a little floral hoppy, quite worthy of the name
    "light pale ale." In the same way as there's a Junior University
    out in California.

    lili asked for a red wine recommendation, and the bartender was
    stumped. We ended up with Trapiche Malbec, perfectly adequate, no
    prize though at $7 or 8 a glass.

    There was a chalkboard listing the drinks of the day, a bloody at
    $10 or a toasted almond for 5.50. I asked the young man what was
    in the latter, suggesting vodka and amaretto. He had to look it up
    in his guide. One shot each of vodka and amaretto, a half shot of
    cream. We had one; it was okay.

    Some food came past, and the smells wafting by did not seem
    altogether bad - the onion rings in fact smelled great.

    The actual power house, the part of the building set over the
    river, was being used for a private function, but we were allowed,
    actually encouraged, to go over there and take a look. lili
    walked all the way across the bridge and then demurred. I popped
    my head in just long enough to take a picture of the big turbine.

    The Hampton Seguin was pretty nice in a Hamptonish way. We got a
    fat squat room, kind of odd. Fridge and microwave, the latter
    pretty wonky but functional - sufficed to warm up some leftover
    brisket, which was accomplished by deft timing and the use of
    the nuker at 15% power, 20% being too fast and 10% not doing
    anything at all.

    Hamptons don't have bars, but they do have free Internet, so
    we found a liquor store that was still open. Closing soon! said
    Google. So off to Zella's, a shacky place that looked like a
    gas station gone to seed. Inside - immaculate, a good selection
    of everything, and prices that seemed to be the same as Spec's. We
    got some Guinness for me and a couple bottles of one of the
    standard Malbecs, I forget which, for her.

    On the way back, lili spotted a DQ and decided she wanted some
    food that wasn't brisket, so we went in and ordered a 1/2 lb burger
    to go. This turned out to be actually not a bad example of the

    I don't know why people give iceberg lettuce a bad rap as tasteless
    crunch - that's not true at all. The truth is that it has a strong
    bad flavor that sticks on your palate (10 minutes, timed) and your
    fingers (at least half an hour, not timed).
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  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I'd heard great things about Davila's, whose chef has won many
    accolades, including winning some kind of BBQ smackdown on the
    Food Network. As it was a couple miles only from the hotel, we
    ventured there on our way out of town. It was still before noon
    when we got there, with only a couple diners and a to-go order
    waiting at the window, but while we dithered looking at the
    menu board, a line formed behind us, so instead of getting a
    well-considered order, we just got a two meat plate, with
    fatty brisket and ribs. This was ready in the time it took us
    to take our beers to a booth and hobble back.

    The brisket was underdone and undersmoked, though the meat
    was of good quality and tender enough. Some fat, not as much
    as I'd have liked, but then underdone fat isn't a great thing.
    I think a couple more hours in the smoker and a couple more
    hours extra resting would have done this meat a world of good.

    The ribs had a tough skin as if they'd sat over a couple days,
    but they - well, the better of the two - were redeemed by tender,
    almost creamy meat - an odd texture but not offputting. Good
    flavor, as they had been lightly brined and adequately smoked.

    Beans were kind of bland but the usual thing; rice cooked to
    the point of the grains popping and then dried and reheated -
    another odd texture.

    There would be no reason for me to come back here, but if
    you're a local without the time and energy to go to Luling
    or Lockhart, by all means.

    Google Maps wanted us to take the toll road and steadfastly
    refused to admit there was another way to get to Lockhart.

    We eventually found route 20 and followed it all the way to
    town. This adds maybe 5 to 10 minutes to the time estimate
    using the toll takes. Bad Google. Naughty Google.

    Black's has been my go-to place for some years. Aside from
    one bad experience. which was rectified immediately (I had
    not seen the perp before, nor have I seen her since). It's
    one of my comfort spots on this planet, the smells and the
    decor and the brisket being for some reason spot on for me.
    And it's relatively easy to get to. And I've never experienced
    a line of more than 15 minutes.

    The meat is relatively lightly smoked, but the smoke flavor
    does in fact go all through the meat. I suspect a Kafkaesque
    tenderizing device, but there's no reason to pooh-pooh that.
    And moist means moist (except for that one time, when I
    suspect the girl of just being a dick, if you know what
    I mean). It's saltier than most, but in a good way. As
    that Palladin guy said, je travaille a la limite du sel.

    Sauce, inconsequential, but who needs sauce. lili found me
    a small bottle of the house ghost pepper sauce half as a
    joke, and I took a little just to vary things. It was hot
    in a strange but not unpleasant way, but with the scovilles
    and the natural bad taste of the peppers, it interfered with
    the experience.

    I deliberately ordered extra for the road, but there was not
    much left when we finished gorging, just enough for a Stupor
    Bowl snack (we watched essentially only the halftime show,
    which was supposed to have a youth orchestra in it).

    Kol' beer, a modestly hopped easy-drinker from South Austin,
    went well.

    The next place on the itinerary was Kent Black's, to see if
    it upholds the standards of its parent. Even though it was
    only 2 miles out of our way, we were brisketed out and
    chose just to go on home, which was the Home2 San Antonio
    Airport. I'd never been to a Home2 before; the chain's
    existence had escaped me for many years. When we got there,
    my impression was uh-oh, Element time, and so it way.

    The check-in staff was friendly, and the room, er, supposed
    suite, was well-kept and well-appointed. I didn't see that
    it was a suite, though, just a big room with a curtain
    between the bed and the couch/kitchen area. The couch,
    by the way, was comfy but ended up smelling of brisket.

    The Super Bowl was of an insignificance. We turned it on a
    bit after 1930 and kept flipping between it and the Food Network
    until halftime, where the violins turned out also to be of an
    insignificance, what was anyone expecting. The rest of the Black's
    brisket went well with our last bottle of wine.
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  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Breakfast is widely panned on the Web, so being a contrarian
    I went down there to see what was what.

    Scrambled egg bowl; Hampton-style western omelet; a cheesy
    breakfast sandwich thing, all cellophane-sealed and stored
    in a chiller, the microwave instructions printed on the
    wrapper. I tried the omelet - just as expected.

    An assortment of cereals and breakfast breads.

    Apparently okay oatmeal with some interesting toppings.

    Two waffle machines (most motels have but one). lili wanted
    a waffle, so I checked out the batter situation (some whole
    grain thing) and the syrup situation (three kinds, of which
    the best was Smucker's in a packet). I made her one, which
    meant I ate half of one, as I strongly prefer not to waste
    food. Luckily there is Nutella.

    All in all, perfectly acceptable, even decent in a fuel sort
    of way, and if I liked breakfast or were about to embark on
    a long foodless journey, I'd have happily chowed down.

    One factor in my choosing this hotel was that Two Bros Market
    is a five-minute drive up the road. As has been our practice,
    we got there before the lunch rush, and there were only a few
    customers before us. I was tempted by the ribs, which can be
    good, and the chicken thigh, definitely great, but ended up
    getting just a pound of extra moist. The cut was a hair over,
    which was fine, as I got to take half of it back to Washington.

    It was moist and flavorful, great smoke bordering on too much,
    but it was also the first bbq brisket I've been tempted to
    salt in a long time. The spicy sauce is somewhat spicy and
    somewhat sweet. I needed a teaspoon of it to occasionally
    temper the smokiness.

    Oddity - Shiner Premium costs 50c more than Shiner Bock and has
    less heft and flavor. beerandwhiskeybros asks "What if Budweiser
    was good" when describing this. Yeah, it's better than Bud, but
    it should be 50c less then Bock. For my second try I recalled
    my friend Bob W.'s recommendation and went with a Big Red. This
    tastes like vanilla cream soda with Bazooka bubble gum in it.
    Goes okay with barbecue, and its sweetness would clearly
    obviate the need for sauce, if that were ever a need. By the
    way, did I ever mention that Dubble Bubble used to have a
    distinct, spicy taste, but sometime between when I was a child
    and now it has been reformulated to taste like a sissy version
    of Bazooka.

    By the time we left, there was a sufficient number of patrons.

    It is 3 minutes to a gas station and 3 more to the airport.
    Unfortunately, we missed our turnoff and had to backtrack
    3 minutes. We are nothing if not consistent.

    AA 315 SAT DFW 1430 1537 738 6EF

    lili was in 5E, I in 6F. We asked the gentleman in 6E to switch
    to 5E (better recline, otherwise equal), and he kindly agreed,
    so we spent the 40 minute flight discussing our next adventure,
    which is Panama, if the money holds out, which it should.

    A short, smooth flight. They announced that there would be a drink
    service and actually started handing them out, then reneged, saying
    that there was going to be turbulence; the FAs actually confiscated
    the drinks they'd already poured, something I don't recall seeing
    recently. Must be a real roller coaster up ahead, thought I. Wrong.
    The next 20 to 30 minutes were smooth as Thai silk. I admit that
    right before landing there were some bumps, not too severe, but
    otherwise nothing. Poop on them.

    I thought I had to hustle between A24 and A38; it turns out there
    is a whole slew of missing numbers between, and I could have joined
    lili for a spell at the club if I'd known. As it was, even with my
    cane and limp I got to my gate 15 before boarding even began.

    AA1121 DFW DCA 1645 2030 32B 25A

    Surprise, I was 12 on the upgrade list and was very glad of
    my exit-row seat, which other less elite or less aware
    passengers kept eyeing. And, for those wondering, even limping I
    am strong enough to open an exit door, not to mention on an
    Airbus, where that requires no lifting.

    The IFE (by Thales) was a pleasant surprise - many choices, of
    which I chose the most basic, the map, which gives interesting
    suboptions, including the views (simulated) from the wings and
    from the cockpit.

    We got in around 5 min early but sat around for 20 more because
    another plane was at our gate with some kind of loading kerfuffle.

    After we debarked I opened my much-awaited snack package. That
    leftover brisket was fine, but the smoke had come out a bit
    too much and the edges were beginning to taste oaky bitter. It
    was still probably the best barbecue in the metropolitan area.

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