Sunday, February 5, 2012

Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew

AUSTIN: Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew
6610 N. Lamar
Austin, TX 78757
Open M-Thur 11-8:30, F-Sat 11-9

Austin has traditionally been a jumping off point for barbecue trips to famous towns like Lockhart, Luling, Taylor and Llano. Great barbecue seems to surround the city, but the city has been getting a reputation of its own as a barbecue destination. Some have even started to question if there's a need to trek the forty-five minutes from Austin to Lockhart. Franklin Barbecue started these questions, and the Austin crowd got louder after John Mueller's return. The opening of Stiles Switch may just seal the deal. While matching the experience and ambiance that can be had at those hallowed barbecue temples, there's now no reason to leave the city for great smoked meat, whether you're in north, south or central Austin.


I arrived late on a weekday after pitmaster Lance Kirkpatrick had completed his day's work. Lance had worked for a long at Louie Mueller Barbecue (and is even referred to as Bobby Mueller's "right hand man" in this Food Network video), but his time there didn't end well. He tried his hand at upscale dining in Taylor for a short time, but it wasn't too long before rumors began to surface that a Louie Mueller alumnus would be opening a joint in Austin. A bit of a controversy leapt up when Wayne Mueller asked nicely (through a cease & desist notice) that Stiles Switch not use the Louie Mueller name when promoting the new joint. It seems that Lance and the crew, with a little help from their Klose pit "Megatron", are beyond the controversy.

When ordering brisket here, I'd suggest skipping the lean meat altogether. It was so dry it had grown fuzz. The smoke and seasoning were there, but go for the fatty cut if you want moist and succulent meat. If you know the Louie Mueller style, then you won't be surprised by the heavy black pepper seasoning. I was certainly pleased with it. The beef rib was equally well executed, but not to the level of John or Wayne. While smallish, the meat was well smoked, fat perfectly rendered out, and thick dark crust provided a nice textural counterpoint to the tender meat.

Beef Rib

Three sausages are made in house, and all have notable qualities. The all beef Thorndale had exemplary smoke and texture, but I just like a little pork fat in my sausage. Pork lovers who can take some heat will be well served with the jalapeno cheese sausage which is a 50/50 beef and pork mix with a spicy kick that's not timid. For me, the best of the bunch was the Switch original. The casing had a perfect snap, and hot fat rushed into my mouth when I bit into it. It's a beef link with 15% pork and 100% perfect seasoning. Not too salty, just enough black pepper and perfectly smoked. If I'd had a better link than the one I had on this evening, I'm not sure where it was.

The pork ribs had that same black pepper rub. The tips on these spares was overcooked and chewy, but the meat right at the bone was moist and tender. A meatier rib would have been welcomed.

Sides aren't and afterthought, but also not particularly memorable. Two slaws, vinegar and mayo based, are available. Vinegar slaw with jicama was soggy and missed the pop that I expected from vinegar. The chopped mayo slaw was well executed, but beans were too watery. Homemade banana pudding was a good way to end the meal.

After being open for less than two months, it sounds as if the neighborhood is embracing this new joint. Nice touches like having multiple Austin based breweries on tap show that Stiles Switch is embracing their city as well. Austin should be proud to have them in the barbecue mix.

Rating ****
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew on Urbanspoon


Ben said...

Wasn't there a Stiles Switch BBQ that opened, and closed within a few months, in Carrolton a year or so ago?

BBQ Snob said...

Ben - Close, but that one was called "Cobb Switch", and was named after a fictional railroad stop. This one is named after Stiles Switch just outside of Thorndale, and Stiles is also the owner's surname.

Scott R said...

I had a similar experience. Loved the Original sausage. The brisket and pork ribs were good but fould the heavy black pepper rub a little tiring after a while. Reminded me of J Mueller but fell short.

Donna said...

I've only been once since they opened (first week) and thought the brisket had potential, sausage was good, but pork ribs were pretty sad. I'm glad to have a decent BBQ option in the neighborhood. But it's hard to compete in Austin when Franklin and JMueller are both dishing out exceptional BBQ.

John said...

I just went to Stiles last week. I started at Louie Muellers but got there about 15 minutes too late so ended up at Taylor Cafe for some decent Q although it is the first Texas BBQ place taht puts sauce all over the meat. After Taylor Cafe I went to Stiles to try it out.

Stiles was very good. The beef rib was OUTSTANDING, rendered out perfectly with a thick crust. Brisket (a mix of moist and lean) was very good with a thick crusty bark and super tender and juicy...not as good as Franklins but top notch. Pork ribs were very good with lots of pepper in the crust but they were slightly cool so I don't think I got the best they had to offer. I got an "original" sausage and it was very good classic Central Texas but I do prefer my sausages on the dry side and this one was fresh of the smoker and a bit wet still. I would say that Stiles is very similar to Lockhart Smokehouse up in Dallas. All in all it was worth a stop and is very similar to Louie Muellers and J. Muellers. Near the top of the Central Texas BBQ lists for me.

Headed to Memphis and New Orleans next.

Kelly F. said...

I went a few weeks ago and I felt like it was the same caliber as Louie Muellers, Snows, etc... in the Brisket department (mine was not dry at all), and the Beef Rib department (the one I got was huge and perfectly smoked). Thought the sausage was very high caliber (I think I had the Thorndale). The pork rib left some to be desired I will agree. Having been to many of your 5-star rated joints, I felt Stiles Switch was at that level myself.

Unknown said...

Only ate the brisket and beef rib here. The moist brisket was nicely rendered and had a good looking black "crust," as Daniel pointed out. However, this is a misnomer, because the outside lacks the kind of bite you expect from a crust. Black pepper was present, sure, but the texture was too soft for my liking. Maybe I've been eating too much of John Mueller's brisket. Just to reiterate, though, the flavor and moisture of this brisket was superb, and the fatty burnt end I got was soft and delectable.

The beef rib was good, but somewhat disappointing in a couple ways. There was a nice, thick layer of fat on the top of the rib. However, it hadn't been properly rendered, and I ended up scraping some bites off and leaving them on the butcher paper. This is coming from a guy who will eat bits of leftover fat people have cut off their steaks. Also, the meat seemed a bit too soft--almost like pot roast. John's beef rib, although succulent, still has a little teeth to it. This beef rib had a little less bite to it.

Overall, this was a good experience. Need to try the sausage next time. However, I question whether I'll even return at any point considering how good JMMC is right now.


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.