Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ruby's BBQ

512 W 29th St
Austin, TX 78705
Open Daily 11-Midnight

You won't find Ruby at Ruby's since this joint is run by Pat Mares. In addition to being a pitmaster and smoked meat proprietor since 1988, she is also a board member of the Central Texas Barbecue Association. We didn't get to meet on this rainy Sunday afternoon, but a pleasant staff member (probably a UT student from next door) took my order from the counter just inside the door. I then sat at my table with my order number proudly displayed. I wish I could have gotten a glimpse of the offerings from the counter, but this full size menu requires a full kitchen. Of course you get all the standard BBQ meats and sides, but there are two kinds of beans, cole slaw and potato salad in addition to the salads, cajun, and tex-mex favorites, all made fresh.

When my standard order of ribs and brisket arrived with the simple sides of cole slaw (vinegar rather than creamy) and beans (BBQ rather than black beans), I knew the brisket had some serious potential. From their website I learned the reason for this. Their "all natural beef brisket comes from Dakota Farms and is processed in their own plant in South Dakota. The cattle are fattened without the use of hormones and no antibiotics are used at critical stages. While this beef is leaner (20-25% less fat) than other U.S. beef, it is juicy and retains a great smoky flavor. After the briskets are prepared with a dry rub of mixed spices, they are smoked with oak wood in brick pits for 12 - 24 hours." You can visit those all brick pits, fashioned after the pits at Smitty's, if you ask nicely.

Those brick pits are full of nicely smoked meats, of which I got a good sampling. The brisket was indeed leaner than I'm used to, and the fat was mostly trimmed away. What was left were adequately moist, and incredibly smoky beef. The deep smokering was enveloped in a beautifully thick crust which cracked beneath my teeth. The meat had minimal seasoning, but great natural flavor. The ribs ha the same smokiness, but they had been cooked dry. The flavorful meat had little bark, and it took some work to get them off the bone. What they seemed to lack was rendered fat of any sort to keep things moist. Given the quality of the brisket, these ribs may have been an anomoly, but they cost them in the rating.

If you're interested to learn more, you can find and excellent oral history of the joint that was put together by the great folks of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and this history was also documented in the recent book Republic of Barbecue. Happy reading.

Rating ***
Ruby's BBQ on Urbanspoon


Broderick Chesterfield III said...

I grew up with Ruby's and loved it, eating there three times a week for seven years.

I moved from Austin to sanity and haven't been back to Ruby's in about 10 years, so it's good to hear the brisket is as good as I remember.

Don O. said...

Next time, get their awesome fried potatoes as a side.

TG said...

Ruby's was the first BBQ i ever had back in the '90s. I've been surprised to read over the years that some people are critical/dismissive of it, since it seemed fabulous. But I also like lean brisket, so that might explain it.

Tammy said...

Hello! I think this is their website:

Anonymous said...

We just ate at Ruby's and thought it was fantastic. I regret we didn't go sooner. We just don't seem to pass though that area at meal time very often.

Granted, all I had was brisket, but that's all I ever get.

I think it was better than any place we have been including a couple of the more famous ones.

They got dinged for ribs. Thats a real shame. Dont let that hold you back. The brisket was fantastic as were the BBQ beans, vinegar slaw, and collards.

Unknown said...

On my first try, Ruby's was awful. The brisket was horrifyingly dry. I told myself I wasn't going back.

This is until we were hanging out on April 20th and we were hungry for some 'cue. I can't fathom why we would be so hungry in the afternoon on that day, but we just were.

Stopped by JMMC only to see it was closed. My friend kept mentioning ruby's and I hated the idea every time. Lo and behold, this is where we end up.

Instead of ordering a plate I order by the pound--fatty brisket, sausage, ribs. Brisket was soft and delectable. Not enough fat for my liking, but it was still surprisingly good. Lots of smoke. Would have preferred a "bark-ier" crust. Sausage was good. I tend to like sausage as long as it has a bit of spice and a snap. This sausage passed the test. The pork ribs were cut across the bone, and although tasty, weren't cooked that well. Smoky and savory, yes. Seasoned well, fat rendered through, proper balance of softness and bite, no.

One might be inclined to blame my change of mind on my altered consciousness, but I'll chalk it up to my improved ordering skills.


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.