ELGIN: Steve Cartwright’s BBQ
202 S. Avenue C
Elgin, TX 78621
Open Sun-Thur 10-8, F-Sat 10-10
A few years back we traveled to Elgin and sampled some of the best ribs that have ever touched our lips. This is the hallowed ground where the term "sugar cookie" was coined, when the fat was so well rendered on the ribs that it tasted more like dessert than blubber. Understandably I was excited to return, so I drove into Elgin during a Central Texas BBQ binge along with a couple of rookies in need of palate training. This was our fourth stop before noon, so the previous servings were sitting heavy. As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a new sign that read "Steve Cartwright's", and noticed a fancy new glass entrance. This was unexpected as I had just done additional research on Crosstown a week before embarking. We walked through the doors into a bright and clean dining room and shouted our order through an odd plexiglass barrier that is solidly mounted on the counter to an impersonal height of about 7 feet. The food still looked promising through the smudged plexi.
We ordered brisket, ribs and sausage, and at the cash register I learned that the owner of Crosstown had died a few weeks earlier, so Steve took over. I don't know how quickly this place slipped from its high perch, but the meat was not up to the par of fond memories. The ribs were thick with a nice pepper rub. Just below the rub the flavor dissipated, and it tasted more like a pork roast than a smoked rib. The brisket was just as disappointing. The crust was good and smoky, but below that layers of unrendered fat and poorly flavored meat were revealed. The sausage also had a bit of an off flavor tasting as if it had been refrigerated and rewarmed. None of the meat was particularly bad, it was all just so average. Needless to say, my hopes were not met, but something special did happen here. As we trudged through the meat, there were extra helpings of protein left on the butcher paper. I offered it to my female cohorts, and one of them uttered "It's not worth the room in my stomach." We still has three more joints on the list for that day, and a fellow BBQ Snob had been born.