Monday, January 30, 2012

Blue Ribbon Barbecue

AUSTIN: Blue Ribbon Barbecue
120 E. 4th St.
Austin, TX 78701
Open Daily 7-9

A non-descript glass storefront on a faceless downtown Austin high rise does not scream "Barbecue Joint", but Blue Ribbon Barbecue deals with it location related hurdles well enough. One of those hurdles is how to serve great barbecue without a smoker. The solution thus far has been to ship in already smoked meats from a satellite smokehouse in Taylor, Texas, and reheat it in this downtown kitchen. I first ran into these purveyors at a Super Bowl party in Dallas where they were dishing up some impressive banana pudding for several hundred attendees. I was hoping on this visit that their meats could match the pudding in quality.

Ribs weren't ready, so a plate of brisket, pork and sausage would have to do. Also, much to my dismay the banana pudding wasn't ready. While disappointing, this is a good sign since it is made fresh every day, and doesn't start as a box of powdered banana flavored swill. The meats didn't seem to match my memory of the pudding from several months earlier. Brisket had well rendered fat, but was lacking good smokiness. The meat itself was overcooked and a bit dry, like it may have been held over from the night before. Sides of potato salad and cole slaw were above average, as was the smoked sausage, but none of them were particularly memorable. Pulled pork had better flavor, but it was also on the dry side. Nice bits of the crust were mixed in to give it a nice smoky flavor, but it would have been better in a taco.

Breakfast tacos are also a house specialty and it was still early in the day so we decided to grab one stuffed with eggs and sausage. It was adequate if not incredible. The prepackaged tortilla could have been warmer, but the homemade salsa was a great addition.

We finished off the food pretty quickly, but before we could head out the door the lone employee informed us that the banana pudding was done. It was still warm and hadn't had a chance to set up in the cooler, but he let us try a cupful anyway. It was perfect. My friends, the pudding alone is worth coming back for.

Rating **
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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.