Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review of Mann’s BBQ in Austin, TX

A word of disclaimer. Before I started teleworking I used to be a regular at Mann’s (it is close to work). My wife and I would get BBQ from there 2x a month, and usually 2 meals worth at a time. While this is before I started doing reviews, my memory of them is that they weren’t necessarily the best at anything, but were pretty damn good at everything. Jim and Sallie (the owners) were there all the time providing friendly service, and the food was always good. Worth waiting a bit in line if you were there at lunch time. But it’s been a while since I’ve been (over a year). 

On this visit, the casual atmosphere is the same, but something is different. I realize pretty quickly what it is. It’s 11:50am and there’s no line at all. That surprises me, as usually by this time I’d expect at 20 minute wait. But maybe it’s a fluke. I also notice that neither Jim nor Sallie are there. In fact, I don’t recognize anybody. I’m doing takeout for a group at work, so I order a large family pack: 2 pounds fatty brisket, 2 pounds ribs, 2 pounds original sausage (I added an extra pound), and 6 pints of sides (2 each green beans, pinto beans, mashed potatoes). It’s about 10 minutes back to work. 

Ribs: Have a good flavor, but are a little chewy. They are also all small with not much meat. If it was just one or two, that would be fine, but all of them are this way. Score: 6/10 just because of the small meat ratio. 
Sausage: Excellent flavor, but again is very chewy. I remember it use to have a nice snap on the casing, but not this time. The chewiness is severe enough that I’m actually having to cut with a knife. Score: 5/10. 

Brisket: I have to wonder what happened. This used to be one of their better items. I always liked it a lot, and my wife considered it one of the best in the area. It’s tender, and … and that’s all I can say about it. There’s no flavor (other than the basic meat flavor) at all. I’m not tasting any smoke, and almost no seasoning. If it wasn’t for the bark, I’d think I’d gotten a pot roast (and a poorly seasoned one at that). It just doesn’t taste at all like it is BBQ. Score: 3/10.

Is it worth a visit? I’m on the fence on this one. I’ve had numerous meals there in the past that were much better. So I’m wondering: did I just happen to hit the place on that one rare bad day that anyone can have? On the other hand, there’s been a lot of changes in the hours, I didn’t recognize anyone there, and all three of the trifecta were worse than I remember. I’m wondering if the business is being sold or passed on. If so, is the magic gone? I’ll probably give it another chance if I’m in the area, but I’d certainly understand if others decided not to.  

Is it worth a trip (Trip: traveling 60 minutes or more just for the BBQ, no detours or other business)? No. Even at their best they weren’t quite that good. And with this last visit they aren’t worth the risk.