206 W. Second St. (Hwy 79)
Taylor, TX 76574
Open Mon-Sat 10-6
Update: In the words of owner Wayne Mueller, black pepper is a food group at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor. There isn't a whole lot that it doesn't go into, and it pervasiveness around the restaurant means it will find its way into unexpected places like your cup of lemonade, and most certainly between your teeth. When in Rome, drink it in.
Three of us hit Louie Mueller early on a Friday morning. There was some confusion on my end about the opening time on a Friday, so we were seated at the steps in front of the entry doors waiting for them to unlock. Being the only folks on the sidewalk, it was pretty obvious what the issue was so Tony White who helps run the pits came out to let us in the back for a pre-lunch tour. Owner Wayne Mueller was back there stuffing beef sausages. He chuckled a bit looking up from his work table to see me standing there. We know each other after many conversations about smoked meat and the barbecue business in general. We chatted until about five minutes before opening time when we took a spot at the front of the line.
This was our first stop of the day, so we were hungry and I let it get the best of me when ordering. One tray was covered in sliced brisket and jalapeno sausage. The sausage is one of my favorites, and this link was perfectly spiced. The casing had a great snap and bright green bits of jalapeno could be seen throughout. As great as it was, I passed off the sausage link to Nick and dug into the brisket. In the eyes of most barbecue connoisseurs, fatty brisket has no equal. While I love a good juicy slice of brisket from the point, there'snothing much better than a perfectly smoked slice of lean brisket with a generous cloak of translucent fat clinging to its length. We all smacked our lips and grunted in carnivorous approval while downing the fatty brisket that was on the tray, but the lean brisket was worth pondering. I broke off each bite and looked it over closely before placing it in my mouth. The meat was pleasantly taut, but broke apart with little effort. The natural dryness of the beef was given a sumptuous counterpoint of the silky fat cap that was just a sponge for smoke and seasoning. The thick layer of cracked pepper and the thicker smokering were all working together to create textural combinations not found in mortal brisket. This was probably the smokiest version of brisket I've had a Louie Mueller as well, and I can remember the flavor vividly as a write. Three of us sat there after many days on the road eating the best barbecue that Central Texas had to offer, and one simple word was repeated by all. Perfect. That was just the first platter.
The second tray was covered in ribs. A beef short rib was about three inches of smoky beef laced with well rendered collagen and fat creating a silky texture not found in any other cut of beef. When a piece of meat is described as being 'like butter' these beef ribs are the definition. What Wayne does with a simple beef rib is magnificent, and if other pitmasters would open their eyes to this potential, then we'd see more of them around the state.We received an end cut per our request just because we needed more black pepper. I also wanted it because the fatty ends of the ribs have a chance to start getting crunchy at the edges of the bones, and the end cut provides for more of this fatty treat. Just as I expected, we had been blessed with one of the finest pieces of smoked meat that can be had anywhere in Texas.
Meaty layers of the thick pork spare ribs were easily peeled from the bone. Well rendered fat throughout each rib made for exemplary juiciness, and the smoke was front and center in these simply spiced beauties. Also included on the tray were sweet and spicy baby back ribs. Wayne included a few for free because he was seeking our input on the trial run. It seems Tony White is from Mississippi and was looking to do something closer to his barbecue roots. At the same time, Wayne was looking for a crowd pleasing sweet rib that tourists with an infantile understanding of spare ribs could easily identify with. I thought these new sweet ribs were good as did the rest of the table. They were well smoked and nicely tender. The seasoning wasn't over the top, but you knew you weren't eating anything subtle. It was also evident we weren't eating anything in the tradition of the old Central Texas barbecue joints, and I didn't like the new menu item purely for its symbolism. Providing a new cut with a flavor so outside of the Louie Mueller norm just so a tourist from the south could feel more at home was a ridiculous notion to me. What makes this style of barbecue so special is an uncompromising attitude of smoked meat superiority and a hearty dose of 'I don't give a shit' to folks who don't like it or can't appreciate it. In the same way I wouldn't want or expect to see mammoth smoked beef ribs for sale in North Carolina, I don't see the point of adding accessible Southern ribs to an already flawless menu that personifies the identity of Central Texas barbecue.
Although this visit was essentially flawless, the rating here isn't due to this single visit. The last three dating back to New Year's Eve two years ago and another during a tour I guided through Central Texas have been exemplary of what great smoked meat should taste like. There was a time after Wayne took over full time after his father's death that regulars were probably justified in saying that the place has lost a step, and a fear existed that it had gone down hill for good. I can now say with certainty that this is no longer the case. Louie Mueller Barbecue is great, and keeps getting better.
2010: Okay, so I took a trip to Taylor on New Year's Eve, but I'll call it 2010 anyway. At noon, the line was out the door, but we waited patiently. Wayne Mueller took our order up front, and we loaded up on turkey, beef ribs, brisket and a pork steak.
When we unwrapped our package at a friend's house, it was a beautiful sight. It tasted even better. All of the meats get a hefty salt and black pepper rub. The pork steak is not a common offering, but it should be. The meat was perfectly tender with plenty of smoke and excellent flavor. Turkey was an example for any other joint trying to keep this cut moist while still imparting adequate smoke. The brisket slices, from both the lean and fatty portions, were nearly perfect. The meat was moist and a layer of rendered fat was left on the lean slices. The smokiness was robust, but they could have been a bit more tender.
The beef ribs were in a category of their own. These were the best beef ribs I've ever eaten. This tough and fatty cut was rendered down to a silky smooth and tender piece of smoky beefiness. A heavy black pepper rub only added to the incredible flavor profiles from the meat and smoke. Each rib could serve as a meal of its own, but I couldn't stop after eating just one.
While still in the joint, I placed a business card on the wall and got a shot. The FCGBBQ card is hard to pick out in the photo, but I swear it's in there.
Before I left, I was able to get a look at the pit in back. The post oak wood was blazing, and the pits were full of beautiful meat.
Although I wasn't able to sample the pork rib again, the level of quality of each meat was so elevated that I just had to up their rating. I'll make sure to get their earlier next time to grab one of each of their beautiful rib offerings.
09/2008 - I stopped by to pay my respects to the recently departed Bobby Mueller. At 3:30 they were out of everything but brisket and chicken. I ordered a few slices of excellent brisket and a chicken breast. The chicken was more tender than I thought possible. The smoke married with the spice beautifully to create an excellent flavor. The brisket was sliced thick with the signature thick black pepper rub. The smoky flavor penetrated the meat, but the slices needed more time on the smoker to get to that pull-apart tenderness. Overall, a great brisket, and another solid showing by Louie Mueller's.
2008 - Louie Mueller's has created the perfect setting for enjoying great BBQ. The exterior is worn, but orderly, and the interior is spacious, hazy, and smells of sweet smoke. Meat here is ordered by the pound and delivered on butcher paper. I've had the pleasure of sampling the brisket here twice. The first time it was nearly perfect, but the second time it was a notch lower in quality due to the toughness of the meat. They use a rub heavy on cracked pepper which adds a pleasing level of heat to the great smoky flavor. The meat is cut thick with a thin ring of fat. On the first visit, the brisket could not have been cooked more perfectly, but the brisket on trip number two needed more time in the smoker to render the fat, and tenderize the meat. Although it was tough, the excellent smoky flavor and picture perfect presentation did not suffer. The ribs were a winner on both visits, especially trip number two. It was incredibly thick and meaty, so I expected more tough meat with little smoke penetration. What I got was one of the most perfect ribs I've had with robust flavor. The texture and moistness was perfect with nicely rendered fat throughout. The smoky flavor permeated the meat, and blended nicely with the heavy pepper rub. If the brisket was more consistent, I could rate it higher, but I can't wait to go back for another quality control test.