Maybe John Mueller should be the writer. I love his quote above and after today’s meat lunch at his crowded trailer yard in South Austin I’m inclined to agree.
Like most of my favorite cooks, Mueller is a control freak. If the food comes out of his kitchen he’s cooked it. He boils the potatoes for the potato salad, he simmers the pinto beans and he dresses the cabbage for the cole slaw. Hell, I’m surprised he’s not pickling the cucumbers but it appears as though he’s getting them from a jar.
That’s too bad. I’d love to see him explore the world of pickling and canning. If his output was half as good as his other food he might give Vlasic a run for their money.
But we’re not here to discuss non-essential, non-meat dishes. At this joint meat is king. It’s 11:30 am and Mueller has run out of beef ribs. “They come in on me this morning” he exclaims talking about the crowd of hungry Austinites who were stamping at the ground 45 minutes before his 11am open.
Apparently they’d heard this little operation has come to play and if Mueller’s stated goal of being “the best barbecue in Texas” is to come true then they knew they’d better get in before the scene turns into another Franklin’s Barbecue where only an elite few are being fed each day.
The setting at lunch is fairly calm. 40 or so people are gathered and very little chatter is being heard. The rhythmic working of jaws and the occasional slurp off a Big Red are about the only sounds. Off in the distance a hobo is sawing on a fiddle but it’s so gentle you can barely hear it.
I order a pound of black and fatty just like I did in the old days. Unfortunately John is not cutting the meat so we only get half the equation. The much prized fat. Yes, there’s a bit of the requested black and crusty hide, the part of the brisket that gives me reason to live, but the lion share of our meat is the velvety fatty inner.
This isn’t the barbecue beau ideal for those who revere the smoke above all else. It’s not smoky at all. Nor does it provide a particularly heavy blast of salt and pepper like John’s grandfather, Louie’s joint up in Taylor does.
This is a subtle brisket if there is such a thing. While it’s tempting to sit there quietly, bull-like, chewing til the feast has been rendered naught, I stop myself midway through.
It was January of this year when word drifted in from the high plains out near Muleshoe, Texas that John Mueller might be getting back into the Austin barbecue game.
The words hummed quietly but they grew steadily until they became a roar and I realized this could end up being the restaurant story of 2011 for Austin and in a sense, the rest of USA.
Americans love a rise and we love a fall. With it there comes a chance for redemption. The Texas barbecue community saw Mueller at the peak of his powers a decade ago and then we saw a stunning fall from grace.
Now, with this new venture we see an equally stunning chance for redemption.
Setting the world on fire one spark at a time.