Slab BBQ & Beer Review (Austin, TX)
I had two motivations when I visited Slab BBQ. One, it was a place I hadn't been before, and I always like trying a new place. But two, I heard they had white sauce.
We'd posted a link to an article in early July about Alabama BBQ, and a twitter discussion had led to some people recommending white sauce for BBQ. So when I heard I could get some here I decided to try it. Their pits are out back but enclosed enough I couldn't get a good picture (and I was running late for work).
But this review is going to be a little different from the norm. Slab is primarily a sandwich shop. In fact, the only BBQ meat listed on the menu as available ala carte are the St. Louis Ribs. (I asked and you can order the other meats, but it's not what they normally do). In short, you're coming here for a sandwich.
After looking over the menu I decide to go all out and try "The Donk". This contains rib meat, chicken, brisket, pulled pork, sausage (this is ALL of their meats), Fritos, queso, and all four of their sauces (it also comes with jalapenos and pickles but I didn't get those). The four sauces are a standard red, a spicy mustard, a hot garlic-siracha, and a white sauce. They are all made onsite. I get the sauces and the queso on the side.
I decide to be scientific about this (well, as scientific as someone with a liberal arts degree can be) and break my sandwich into 12 bites. It will break down as follows: a bite of just plain sandwich, a bite with each of the 4 sauces, and a bite with all 4 sauces combined. I then repeat those 6 bites but with the queso added. However, I'm not going to comment on each bite, but a more general comment of how each seemed to impact the sandwich. The meat gets a base score, and the sauces and queso will get a + or - to that base score.
Meats: The flavor wasn't bad, and they were reasonably tender. What was missing the most was smoke flavor. Even on the plain bite I noticed almost no smoke flavor to speak of, and once you added anything it disappeared entirely. It tasted good, but not like a BBQ sandwich. 5.0/10 for just the meat itself.
Queso: To me, the queso distracted even more from any BBQ feel I was getting, whether with or without sauce. It wasn't a bad queso, but I go to BBQ places for BBQ and the queso increased the feeling that I wasn't eating BBQ. -1 to the base score when queso was added.
Siracha sauce: I have to lead with a disclaimer - I don't like the taste of siracha. It's not the heat. My boss let me taste some scorpion pepper hot sauce that I loved earlier. Siracha (and jalapenos) just don't appeal to me taste-wise. -3 to the base score when added, but this is strictly subjective based on taste.
Standard red sauce: This was a good sauce. It had just a little kick to it and wasn't too sweet. +1 to the base score when added.
Mustard sauce: This was excellent, and one of the better ones I've had. It had a nice spicy bite with a sweet finish that went well with the meat. +3 to the base score.
White sauce: I have to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from a white sauce. I knew it was mayonnaise based, but other than that I had no expectations at all. After trying my first bite of sandwich, I went straight to my sauce container to see if what I tasted was correct. And tasting it straight, I felt it was: this tastes like a mixture of Ranch and Caesar salad dressings. Thinking I might be a little harsh, I let my boss try it. Her first words were "Ranch dressing"? Five other people tried it. The general consensus was that this is what we put on salads in Texas. One person did suggest that it might be good on fish, and I could see that. But for pork or beef? Nope. -2 to base score.*
*Having never had a white sauce before, it's possible I got a bad one. But that's my take on my first experience with it. And let me clear, it's not that it tasted bad. In fact, I saved the rest and put it on my broccoli kale salad I had for dinner, and it was excellent. But it's salad dressing, not BBQ sauce. *
So how do I rate Slab BBQ?
Is it worth a visit? This gets a qualified yes. If you're looking for good BBQ with that wonderful smoky flavor, this may not be the place for you. But if you're looking for a good sandwich with some good sauce, this isn't a bad choice. In short, my sandwich was a good sandwich (esp. with the right sauce), it just wasn’t necessarily great BBQ.
Is it worth a trip? Nope. If you're traveling 60+ miles, there are better choices.