Wednesday, January 26, 2011
LA GRANGE: Prause Meat Market
253 W. Travis
La Grange, TX 78945
Open M-W & F 7-5:30, Thur 7-1, Sat 5:30-1
Update: A pork roll sounds like a school cafeteria main course that's been chopped, pressed and processed. It's much better than that when executed by the pitmaster at Prause Meat Market. A whole pork shoulder is deboned then wrapped and tied in a roll before smoking. On this visit I tried the pork roll alongside and end cut from the pork chop. The only brisket available was yesterday's and the lady taking the order was quick to tell me not to bother until some new product became available, but with the first few briskets off the pit already being spoken for by previous orders, we were happy to just add a few links of their excellent home made sausage.
That sausage is mostly beef with a bit of pork, and is eternally moist. The snap, the spice and the smoke made for a few links of perfection. That end cut from the pork chop was heavenly. Bits of crispy fat mixed with a seasoned crusty exterior and nicely moist meat. We were getting full on this road trip, but that pork chop bone was picked clean. The pork roll, although boneless with less fat, was similar to the pork chop. Well seasoned meat that was nicely tender rounded out the meal, but this cut was a bit drier than the pork chop and it would be tough to order it again if the chop is available. I'm now glad that I have a good excuse to go back so I can try that brisket again, and another pork chop just might sneak into my order.
2009: Through a non-descript metal door on the side of the building is the entrance into the pit of this joint with over 100 years of history. Prause was a meat market in the late 1800's and has been a BBQ joint nearly all of its life according to one of the family owners, Mark Prause. He seemed to know all the locals that passed through the aforementioned back door as we stood and chatted. I had come through the front door like an amateur marveling over the selection of fresh meats in the large case. I was pointed to the rear of the space to place my BBQ order, and at 11:00 they were already running low on items. Given the lack of a line, I was surprised to hear that, but I must have hit a slight lull as the line snaked around to the front by the time I left a short while later.
Given the distance from La Grange to other major cities, and the inexplicable lack of statewide fanfare associated with this joint, the crowds were mainly locals. Many enjoying a quick bite alone on what is probably a standard weekly visit. Juxtapose that with three camera-totin' self-proclaimed BBQ aficionados on a weekend long road trip to find the best 'cue in Texas, and you might expect some stares, but everyone seemed focused...no downright mesmerized by the meat in front of them, too much so for them to notice our table.
We were no doubt enthralled by our bounty of brisket, pork ribs and a healthy slice of pork roll (that's what I was told when I inquired about the cut. I'm not sure where the 'roll' is on a swine). This being our fourth stop of the day, you may expect that no meat could still taste good, but this brisket was the closest to perfection of any meat that has passed these protein stained lips. The crust and smoke line were pronounced, the texture was almost buttery due to the perfectly rendered fat, and the flavor was robust with smoke, salt, pepper, and love. I was in BBQ heaven. The pork ribs were country ribs, so they were much thicker and meatier than a standard spare rib. The meat was a bit dry, but incredibly flavorful if not intensely smoky. Oddly enough, we all agreed that the rendered fat on the crust of these ribs tasted just like fried chicken skin. Who knows how they make that happen. The pork roll was great as well. It wasn't as dry as the picture makes it seem, and the flavor from the smoke and the salty crust was intense.
Much of the enjoyment of this place obviously came from the food, but the surroundings were a sight to behold as well. I stood for several minutes watching the pit master carefully check the doneness of the meat before placing it in a tub to be carried to the meat counter for serving. This room had layers of history covering the walls, and the delicious aroma of post oak smoke.
No survey of Texas BBQ is truly complete without a stop at this quintessential joint, and it's worth the drive from anywhere in Texas. Read more about the history of this joint in this interview.
Posted by BBQ Snob at 6:25 AM
Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.
-THE PROPHETS OF SMOKED MEAT
-THE PROPHETS OF SMOKED MEAT