Tuesday 22 July 2014

The Best Barbecue in the World? Louie Mueller's, Taylor, Texas

[Brisket at Louie Mueller's]
Well, I have beside me the Blogger's Hyperbole Handbook, The Big Book of Restaurant Review Cliches and the Spotters Guide to Superlatives, but I don't know if I'll need any of them.

Yes, it's probably the best barbecue in the world. Yes, the melt in your mouth brisket is to die for. Yes, it was astonishing, incredible, sublime and delicious. Yes, I did enjoy my lunch, thank you.

But really, I'm not a restaurant reviewer or a food critic. In fact, I was feeling a bit of a fraud on my drive to Taylor yesterday. Would I actually know good barbecue if I met it? I'm English, and barbecue for us is burnt value brand burgers and raw chicken. I've only had American barbecue a handful of times, and yes, I enjoyed it. But I'm no expert. Am I even qualified to judge?

I knew when I pulled up in Taylor I'd reached the right place. Even on the street you could smell the woodsmoke. Step inside, and it's even more intense. The whole building is stained dark brown by nearly 70 years of cooking (apparently, it used to be green inside!). The queue was short - by barbecue standards, I was late for lunch at nearly 1pm.

[Inside Louie Mueller's]
I kept things simple - a couple slices of brisket and an original beef sausage. I was given a tiny chunk to taste at the counter - oh, I'm going to need to reach for my books. It tingled my tastebuds. It melted in my mouth. That tiny lump encapsulated everything I wanted from barbecue. A crust that contained all the dark, salty flavours of the smoke, a layer of fat that dissolved in my mouth and meat that tasted intensely of beef.

So I took my seat, took my photographs (still feeling a little self conscious about that) and hoped that these slices would live up to the morsel I'd had at the counter. Oh boy they did. As for the sausage - well, it was no pork bender. Succulent, smoky and delicious.

[It's so hot in there!]
After lunch I went back to the counter to try and sneak a few atmospheric photos, but as they'd finished serving for the day I was invited back to meet the guys that created this wonderful food and take some pictures in the kitchen.

It was a great opportunity to see behind the scenes - I felt honoured - and as I chatted about barbecue I didn't feel the imposter anymore. However, I did start to feel seriously hot - how on earth can these guys work in those sorts of temperatures? I had to leave before I passed out - oh, that wouldn't be cool.

So, if you know about barbecue, you already know all about Louie Mueller. If you don't, I can't imagine a better introduction. Now my only worry is that I've had the best barbecue of the trip already!

Ps. You can see more photos from here, and my travels in general, at my Flickr account.

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