Lisandro Moreno has been smoking with mesquite at his little smokehouse in Laredo since 2007. Along the Rio Grande it's hard to keep regular customers coming back with the whole family unless you serve a little more than just smoked meat. Lisandro still offers a mighty sampler platter of meat (more on that in a bit), but along with other traditional Tex-Mex favorites you can find his unique take on barbacoa.
These days barbacoa is usually steamed or baked, and this is traditionally done without seasoning. At Briskets & Beer Smokehouse, you'll find a beef cheek that bucks the trend. These cheeks are first smoked for about forty minutes over a 400 degree mesquite fire, seasoned with cumin and garlic and then placed in a covered electric cooker overnight. A portion is served in a homemade flour tortilla along with cilantro, onion, lime wedges and hot sauce, but with all the flavor already in the meat, just a few dabs of hot sauce is all that's needed. This is some excellent smoky barbacoa, and alone is worth the trip.
As promised, we also got a sampler plate of brisket, sausage, chicken and beef and pork ribs. The beef back rib was tender with loads of smoke. While there's never much meat on a back rib, the meat here came off easily enough that you could enjoy every bite.
Pork ribs were also very good. A generous amount of meat was left covering the bones of these unusually large St. Louis ribs. A rub rich in aromatics was thin enough to let a good crust form, and even the thickest part of the meat was tender and moist. Brisket is probably wrapped during cooking then stored in its own juices. The meat's surface was wet, but the muscle had dried and toughened a bit. The smokiness was there, but with all the fat was gone and the flavor from the seasoning was washed out. Smoked chicken was plenty moist, but otherwise average. A commercial sausage was well spiced with black pepper. The casing had a good snap and plenty of good smoke.
They had dessert on the menu, but our dessert consisted of a couple of perfectly executed stuffed jalapenos. Called jalapeno smokers on the menu, Lisandro uses only large jalapenos. He fills them with a mixture of spiced up chopped beef and cream cheese then wraps them in bacon and smokes them. The procedure here is not ground-breaking, but the execution is flawless. The bacon is purposefully thin so it forms an even crisp layer of salty pork fat overtop a jalapeno that still has a hint of crispness remaining. If you've ever had a limp pepper wrapped in soggy bacon, you know what I'm talking about.
The brisket was far from flawless, but this was easily the best traditional barbecue we consumed for over a hundred miles in any direction. Order some ribs, a few jalapeno smokers and plenty of barbacoa tacos for the table. It'll be worth the trip.