I recently got to spend a few days in Austin, Texas. Frankly, Texas scares me a little. I know it’s an unfair generalization but I just worry they don’t get “my kind”. Everyone assures me that Austin is different. The conference was a bust (SXSWi) but we made the best of it. Not only did I try an conquer my fear of Texas (everyone was very nice, even to me) but no pig was safe — the order of the week was BBQ, lots and lots of BBQ.
We didn’t try every BBQ place there was but we did go to several, and one of the standouts was Iron Works BBQ in Austin proper. When you talk about BBQ in Texas you’re not just talking about ribs of course, there’s also brisket, beef ribs, turkey, chicken, etc. And this doesn’t even count all the sauce variations and sides. But for me, to give you full disclosure on my bias here it’s about the pork ribs. And I don’t want them doused in sauce. I want them dry, and then I’ll do my own saucing thank you.
Speaking of sauce, a lot of bbq joints insist on accompanying your food with a piece of wonder bread. To mop up the sauce? To fill up your belly? To use as a napkin? Mine fell on the floor on the way to the cash register. A fellow diner told me I could ask for a replacement. I demurred figuring that every available piece of real estate in my belly is reserved for meat. That’s actually a rule I apply often even beyond those times when I’m hunting for good BBQ. And while I should have tried some sides, this was my first BBQ of the week so I kind of went crazy with the meat.
I sampled the turkey first. Not as juicy as I would have liked but definitely not dry. The pepper rub on the outside was intense though it started out slow. One of my dining companions, Adrian, felt that by the end the pepper had kind of taken over his mouth. The turkey was decent but the ribs were very very good. The flavor was not over the top but it was definitely solid. If you wanted “bold” that’s what the sauce was for. But the flavor, while not in your face was definitely present, savory, smokey, and combined with the texture, the best way I can describe these ribs is “buttery”. I think I could have eaten a hundred of them. If ribs like this existed nearby in Seattle I would eat them once or twice a week.
I guess if there’s one key indicator of how good the ribs were, it was when I reached over to Jenny’s plate (my other dining companion for the week) to inspect some of her eaten bones hoping that she (like many people I know) was careless and left lots of meat in the nooks and crannies. No luck. She’s an expert. And yes, at the end I was dipping the bones in the sauce and sucking it off as if there was still meat on them. There wasn’t. But I hoped nobody would notice.