Saturday, January 10, 2009

The County Line

AUSTIN: The County Line
6500 Bee Cave Rd.

Austin, TX 78746


Open M-Thur 11:30-2 & 5-9, F 11:30-2 & 5-9:30, Sat-Sun 11:30-9:30

With The County Line being a national chain with real waitresses and cloth napkins, it would not normally require a review by the BBQ Snob, but this is not you ordinary national chain. The original resides in Austin, Texas, and it has a history of critics, magazine writers and television hosts falling over themselves to crown The County Line as the best BBQ joint ever. I had to give it a try. While sitting on the patio overlooking the Texas Hill Country, I perused a menu that gave more praise to the homemade bread than anything else (uh-oh), so along with an icy cold Shiner and a 5-meat sampler, I ordered some homemade bread.

When my order arrived, I had a half loaf of bread and a plate full of brisket, pork ribs, beef ribs, sausage and peppered turkey with mac & cheese and green beans on the side. Oh yeah, how could I forget the sauce. Everything was COVERED in their sweet sauce. It was like someone in the kitchen already knew that nothing on this plate had enough flavor to stand alone. I started with the sides, both of which were excellent. Then, I mined the plate for untainted meat, and found some brisket slices and sausage beneath a protective rib umbrella. The brisket was just decent roast beef beneath the passable crust. The texture was good, but the smoke was lacking. Anyone would find the taste of the 1/3 slab of pork ribs palatable, in the same way that most people like candy. A sweet sauce was slathered over meat that had been previously covered in a sweet rub. The tenderness of the meat was just a little on the tough side, and no real meat flavor stood out. The sausage was the best item on the plate with good black pepper flavor, a fine grind, and not too fatty with a nice snap. I will spare the details of the beef ribs and peppered turkey. Go to the grocery store and get some beef jerky and deli turkey rather than bothering with these two offerings here.

Rather than surprising me with well prepared meat in a great atmosphere, The County Line affirmed this reviewers suspicion of BBQ chains that garner high praise from a national audience. In trying to please a ever growing audience, they forget to pay enough attention to that smoker. But hey, the bread was good.

Rating **
County Line on the Hill on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Oh well rats. County Line is my favorite. I get the Big Daddy (beef ribs only w/sides), have them pack half of it up before it gets to the table, and get two meals out of it for $17--and dog bones!

I guess I don't understand BBQ. I don't care for brisket. I'd rather roast a beef medium rare (and the pink around the edge of restaurant brisket looks nuclear), and I don't see the point of BBQing sausage, and pork ribs are always overdone to arid-desert consistancy in restaurants to kill all those trichinonis worms.

The only BBQ I swooned over was in Llano at... Brothers, I think is the name. They used to do lamb, but nobody ordered it except me, and they stopped.

I understand my husband's BBQ, but it hasn't much in common with any restaurant's.

joshvar said...

When the best thing about a BBQ place is the butter (and yes, I'm a bit of a bread aficionado, and their bread is decent but nothing great), they *should* be in trouble. It's even worse that it's just Land-o-Lakes Honey Butter, something that can be obtained outside of their "hallowed" walls. But with their locations (in Austin, at least), they seem to thrive off the butter, which along with the views, causes enchantment to its visitors and gets a lot of repeat business.

Austin proper's BBQ isn't very good, so it's sad that this well-loved establishment with good locations has to fail so badly at the things that matter most.

Tim said...

Give it another try. The beef ribs are usually great--a solid 4, sometimes 5. The brisket is a little dry for me.


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.