Texas BBQ Road Trip
The humidity in Houston was choking as I went out to meet James my ride partner for this, James is a fellow writer and traveler who I first met at a media event many years ago. James is also a big fan of BBQ and would serve as my defacto guide into the world of brisket, ribs, and all things meaty and covered in sauce. The bright red Chevrolet Silverado would be our ride for day one as we headed to a place called "the Gator Pit" a few miles away.
Arriving at the Gator Pit I was slightly disappointed, I had envisioned a writhing pit of Alligators where we would be served exotic southern reptile based dishes, perhaps have the opportunity to see a daring strong man wrestle an Alligator. Instead, we were looking at a metal fabrication shop and 90-degree temperatures. We were soon introduced to Ritch "Gator Man" Robin the founder of the Gator Pit who would take us through a 180-minute monolog extolling the virtues of his customized hand fabricated BBQ pits. After learning the ins and outs of BBQ pit construction, the necessity of a 1/4 inch firebox, and using the proper fuel, it was time to hit the road and start our BBQ eating adventure.
Our drive from the outskirts of Houston to the small town of Kyle Texas would take about two and a half hours, James and I took the back roads passing through rural towns, spotting some of Chevy's 100-year legacy of hard-working trucks along the way. Maybe it is just because we were driving a Chevrolet, so we were more aware of it, but every town we passed through had Chevrolet trucks from classic models that had seen better days resting in a field, to brand new heavy duties pulling stock trailers to the auction, and everything in between, it was clear that generations of hard-working Americans trust their Chevrolet trucks.
Arriving at our destination in Kyle, the Twin Cabins Hotel, a cooking class was just getting underway and they had cold beer waiting for us. Dubbed BrisketU, we would learn what it takes to become the ultimate backyard pitmaster. Our instructor took us through picking the right brisket, trimming techniques, rubs and prep, wood selection and smoke profiles, starting and managing a firebox, timing the cook, and slicing the end product, in the end, we would be BrisketU Certified Pitmasters. However, after a long day the last thing I wanted to do was cook, thankfully they had already started cooking the food we would be eating and by the time the course was over, it would be ready to eat.
Seeing the amount of work that goes into the process of crafting the perfect brisket really does make you appreciate the passion that so many of these pitmasters put every step. From selecting the perfect cut of meat, to preparing, cooking, and pairing the final product it with the just the right BBQ sauce. It takes time, skill, and dedication to be a real pitmaster. Something I doubt I will have to master myself since not far from my new home in Texas there are a variety of BBQ places that simply require that I drive over, place an order, and enjoy.
After a few beers and hanging around talking with the other writers who were on the trip, we retired to our little cabins, like an abbreviated summer camp, boys on the left, girls on the right. The next day we would be switching trucks and switching gears, with an open schedule to explore any number of famous BBQ restaurants, the day was ours with our only obligation being returning the truck to the parking lot at the Austin airport before we left. James and I had a rough idea of where we would go the next morning, but it was time to get some sleep before another full day of driving and BBQ.
Waking up early, the team from Chevrolet had laid out a light breakfast, but knowing that we had a day full of eating ahead of us, I just had a water and waited for keys to our truck. Jumping in the Chevy Colorado the first place on our list was Black's Barbecue which claims to be the oldest BBQ restaurant that is still owned by the same family in the state of Texas. Since opening in 1932 the Black family has had 4 generations keeping the tradition alive in Lockheart, Texas. It was only 10:00AM on a Sunday and a steady flow of patrons lined up to order, some eating in the restaurant but many taking home a family sized order for their Sunday lunch. James ordered the famous "Big Bone Rib" and I tried the turkey and sides. BBQ joints are not only about the food, they are about the experience, from the rustic decor to the man behind the counter shouting out the orders, to the homemade style sides that remind me of my grandmother's cooking, there is nothing like eating at an authentic BBQ restaurant and Black's is as authentic as it gets. Heading north to Austin, James suggested we visit an iconic BBQ restaurant and music venue, Stubb's Bar-B-Q. Christopher B. Stubblefield opened his first restaurant in 1968 in Lubbock, not far from where my Great Grandfather had a cotton and peanut farm in West Texas. In the 1970's Stubb's became a venue that hosted the likes of Joe Ely and Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Robert Cray, George Thorogood, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and many more. The restaurant eventually moved to the current location in 1986, where it has become an Austin landmark and a tourist destination for food and music lovers.tubb's is also well known for their nationally distributed BBQ Sauce. By this point the menus started to all run together and James needed to catch a flight back to San Diego, Stubb's would be the last stop on our BBQ tour. No matter where you go in the state of Texas you will find two things, a passion for barbecue and hardworking trucks like the Chevrolets that we drove. As I make the transition from California to Texas, I might need to take a look at adding a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 to the fleet. If you are planning a trip to Texas and want to check out some amazing BBQ while you are here check out Texas Monthly's list of the top 50 BBQ Restaurants in the state. A special thanks to Chevrolet for inviting me out to this awesome event.