Three BBQ Places to Eat Before You Die | John Dunaway

"The times they are a-changin’…” This age old adage holds as the years go by, but even with these changes consistency ties us back to our roots. Humans have cooked over fire since the dawn of time, refining the process and establishing styles which have those far-reaching traditions, ones we must all keep alive.

Now BBQ is done across much of the country, argued by many depending on their own roots which style reigns supreme. This is a discussion that is best held around the fire of a nice BBQ when you have plenty of time as the meat slowly cooks itself to perfection. With each region having specific notes that define their style, one item that holds true across all purists of BBQ is that there is a vast difference between barbecuing meat and grilling it.

Today, I’m going to share my 3 favorite spots in Austin, TX, where Central Texas BBQ reigns supreme. Early Czech and German settlers to this region brought with them a long tradition of butchering meat, especially in the realm of sausage from “the homeland.” In those days you couldn’t just throw meat in a convenient refrigerator so the excess needed to be utilized before it spoiled. The abundance of oak trees gave them a hot burning wood which they smoked this meat over to prolong its life. Sprinkled the simple ingredients of their sausage, black pepper and salt and Central Texas BBQ was formed.

In my three favorite spots, La Barbecue, Freedmen’s, and Franklins, you will still find your meats served on butcher paper. Although side dishes have been added to these restaurants, pickles, onions and jalapeños will also be a staple simply due to tradition. If you see saltine crackers and hot sauce, you’ve really hit tradition. As migrant workers looked for a meal after a long day in the sun, they would stop into local butcher shops to buy up the smoked meats which were far cheaper than fresh cuts. Around the front, grocers carried very basic items of saltines, a possible hot sauce and some local produce which paired well with the meat. As BBQ was an after-thought, fancy sauces were not sitting around to slop on your meat. The next time that you roll through Central Texas and wonder why these staples are so consistent, you’ll no longer think of the butcher paper use and thick crust on your meat as a trendy decision. It’s simply tradition.

Whichever style of BBQ suits your fancy, remember that this product is not an afterthought. It took many hours of patience to produce these plates of love, one you should appreciate when done well. Those whom cut corners are not worth the time. Keep tradition alive! Now go light yourself a fire, grab a few cold ones and smoke some meat with your friends because BBQ is simply best when shared with those you appreciate.

Feeling hungry? Read some of other food-related dispatches on the Over + Under Journal:

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