Friday, March 13, 2009

Snow's Barbecue, Best in Texas?

Last Saturday, I tried Snow's in Lexington, which I was real curious about. Texas Monthly put Snow's at the top of its 2008 Texas BBQ list. I was part of TexMo's BBQ team when the mag did its previous Top 50 Joints rankings in 1997 and 2003. This time I wasn't, and claiming some knowledge of Texas BBQ, I wanted to know if it's all that, which ain't easy since it's one of those weekends only joints, in this case, Saturday morning only. But since I had a book festival in Rockdale that day (a really cool event, by the way) I detoured through Lexington and got in line at 10:30. Twenty minutes later it was chow time.

I got a quarter pound of brisket and a pork rib. The rib was so-so. I smoke ribs far better. The sauce was spicy and sorta runny, but not as runny as Luling City Market or Louie Mueller's. The brisket was pretty dang good. Best in Texas? Some of the best, yes, but THE best? I'm not buying it. The brisket I had five days later at the Railhead in Fort Worth was easily its equal, and not quite up to the excellence I have experienced at Luling City Market, McBee's in Pleasanton, Kreuz and Smitty's in Lockhart, and Louie Mueller's in Taylor. Easily a Top 50 Joint (as are a handful of other weekend or once a week cookers), but perfection does not include electric knives.

The best part about Snow's is the story line -- these are good folks doing barbecue for all the right reasons, and turning out smoked meat that no matter how good or popular it is, aren't about to give up their day jobs. I asked the pit boss if there were any plans to expand operating hours, since the 'cue typically sells out before noon. He said no way. This kind of success was hard enough as it is, he reported.

The pits were pretty great and it was fun watching customers on BBQ pilgrimages including an African-American motorcycle club on my visit. If you stumbled on Snow's, you'd declare it a discovery. But when Calvin Trillin weighed in in the New Yorker, my Bullshit Detector went off. Years ago, when traveling with Joe King Carrasco, the band's first Kansas City date was at Parody Hall and we insisted that backstage catering come from Arthur Bryant's BBQ, which Trillin previously called the best in the world. It was pretty good, but on subsequent trips to KCMO, we discovered Gates and I've only gone back to Bryant's once, because Gates does rib slabs so well and makes a very original sauce (secret ingredient: celery seed) that really rocks.

A really, really good BBQ joint - absolutely. But the hype has overwhelmed it. Get past that, and it's worth a stop. They do mail order too. Click on the headline for details.

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