Friday, September 30, 2016

La BBQ Revisited (Austin, TX - Aztec Food Park

La BBQ Facebook, Twitter, & Webpage 

It has been a little over a year since I visited La BBQ, and in that time they moved from their old location to a new one on East Caesar Chavez. Mike mentioned he and Johnny were going to pick up some BBQ and I headed on down to say “Hi”, pick up some for Tish and myself (and Scott chimed in for some as well), and see what (if anything) had changed.

They are now located in the Aztec Food Park, and lines do start forming early. There were about 15 people ahead of us and another 40 or so behind us at 10:45. When I get to order (more on that at the bottom) I order moist brisket, pork ribs, turkey, sausage, and a beef rib.

Sausage: The sausage is still their hot gut. It had a flavor last time that didn’t quite appeal to me. Not sure what they changed, but this is definitely better. It is still excellently prepared, with a nice snap, and there is some very nice heat in the flavor. Incidentally, if you like savoring the different flavors of your BBQ I’d eat this one last. I’m now scoring this 8.0/10.
Pork Ribs: They still have a wet rub in the process, but there’s definitely a better crust this time. They have a nice combination of sweet and spice, and are tender without being overcooked. I’m now scoring them 8.5/10.

Beef Rib: The beef rib has a nice smoky flavor, and is nice and tender. There’s a lot of good pepper and it isn’t as salty as last time. Call it 9.0/10.

Turkey: The turkey is tender and juicy, with a nice amount of pepper in the rub. It has a nice smoke flavor as well. Call it 9.0/10.

Brisket: The brisket is as excellent as I remember. It has a nice bark, is moist and smoky, and there’s a nice pepper flavor as well. Still 9.5/10. 

It looks like the move hasn’t hurt La BBQ in terms of quality. Everything was either the same or has improved. They are definitely turning out one of the best smokes in the area, and it is worth checking out if you have the time.  

And if there’s a catch, it is going to be time. In my last write-up, I commented that as a trailer the line seemed to move slower. It sparked a post on perception, as I had been in a line half as long as a Franklin line, but still waited 2 hours. 

But today there were 15 people in front of us, and they weren’t all separate orders. Line started being served at 11:00, and I got my order at 11:58. So basically an hour to serve 18 people (and not 18 orders). I’m not sure what’s slowing things down (although it seems that take-out orders may be part of it) and maybe I just caught them on a really bad day. But be aware that the wait at La BBQ seems to be a lot longer than the norm (even for trailers). 

Is it worth a visit? Absolutely. *

Is it worth a trip? Again, absolutely. * It is some of the best BBQ in the area. 

*With the caveat that the wait may add substantially more to the time than the norm. 


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Porker's BBQ Review (Naples, FL @ Naples Beach Brewery) 

Porker's BBQ Facebook, Twitter, & Yelp Page (Website is there; but not really up yet)

You've heard mention of Al, who lives in Marco Island, Florida and has posted to this blog a few times. Our friend Loni and I went to visit him. While the bulk of the time was spent eating seafood (Loni may live in the Houston area but I live in Austin), we did want to see if there was good BBQ in the area. As luck would have it, we were able to combine the trip with some good beer.

Porker's is not a typical business (at least by Texas standards). As near as I can tell, they are a small trailer only open Friday and Saturday at the Naples Beach Brewery (you were wondering why that was linked above, weren't you?).
(Al's comment: In talking with the guys, it looks like they have a commissary in the same park as the brewery, but that is mostly for the catering side of things.)
Despite being small they have a fairly good selection of meats. We hit the brewery about noon on Saturday, and ordered our BBQ about 12:30pm. They do a combo platter for one or two, so we just got it for 3. It consisted of pork belly, pork ribs, brisket, burnt ends, original sausage, and jalapeno-cheddar sausage.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Sausage: Al and Loni tried this one. It is an all-pork sausage. They both felt that while the basic preparation was good (juicy, good snap), the cheese was overpowering. That's one thing I seem to hear a lot about this particular type of sausage. It's hard to strike the balance, and too much cheese can get in the way. They rule it as decent, but not great. Loni gives it 6.0/10. Al gives it 6.5/10.

Brisket: Al and I try the brisket. It is tender and moist. Both of us agree that it is a touch heavy on salt, and light on pepper and smoke. There's a decent bark on it, so it is partially the rub and partially the wood. It is definitely on the high end of good, but not quite into great. The burnt ends (they were served separately) don't really change our impression. Al and I both give it 7.0/10.

Pork Ribs: The ribs have a good crust on them. There's a nice smoke flavor, and they are definitely tender without being overdone. There's a lot of meat on them. The rub has some nice pepper but also just a touch of sweetness from their sauce. Al and I both give them 8.5/10.

Pork Belly: The pork belly has a good smoky flavor. It's very tender and there is a very nice pepper flavor to them. They are a touch sweet as well. Loni gives it 8.0/10. Al and I give it 8.5/10.  

Pulled Pork: Again, there's that touch of sweetness, and an excellent smoky flavor. It's moist without being greasy. It tastes just fine without the sauce, although sauce doesn’t hurt it. Loni gives it 8.0/10. Al and I give it 8.5/10.

Pork Loin: The pork Loin is tender and moist with a nice crust. It has a nice smoky flavor and  a good touch of spice with just a hint of heat. Al and I both give it 8.0/10.

Original Sausage: This is also a pork sausage. There's a nice snap in the casing. You can taste smoke, some spice, and just a bit of heat. It's very tender and juicy as well. Al gives it 8.0/10 while Loni and I give it 8.5/10 (and Loni liked it enough that she ordered a second link to nibble on while Al and I were drinking).

The question I asked before I left on this trip was "Could anyone recommend a good BBQ place in South-West Florida"? No one came up with any suggestions. But it looks like we managed to find some anyway. Porker's is definitely turning out some fine quality smoked meats. Nothing scores below good, and everything pork related (except the jalapeno-cheddar sausage) rates as excellent and can hold its own with anything over here.
(Al's comment: It's my oasis in a BBQ desert. :-))

Is it worth a visit? Absolutely.
Is it worth a trip? Absolutely, with a disclaimer. To the best of my ability to determine, it is only open on Friday and Saturday at the Naples Beach Brewery. The Brewery is certainly worth a trip in itself, and there are some board games there as well as the usual TVs showing sports, but you may want to consider whether you pack the young kids up for a 60+ mile trip just for the BBQ if the venue doesn't appeal. But then, what's not to like about great BBQ and great beer?