Friday, August 26, 2016

Brotherton Barbeque & Catering (AKA BBQBrotherton - Pflugerville, TX)

Brotherton's Website, Facebook, Twitter, & Yelp Page 

Those who follow BBQ may know John Brotherton from former locations Hall of Flame BBQ in Pflugerville or Curly’s in Round Rock. Some may also know that he currently runs Brotherton BBQ as a catering business. But he does do the occasional pop-up. On Wed, 7/27/16, he did one at The Growler Bar in Pflugerville? How’d it go? Well, apparently there were long lines and police controlling traffic:

I missed that one (Wednesday and Tuesday aren’t the same day?), so when I heard he was doing another one on Friday 8/26, I figured I needed to swing by. I also thought I’d be smart and show up about 45 minutes before opening. Good call, as I was “only” about 100 people back in line. (Note to self: show up much earlier next time).

The line was a lot like the line at Franklin: very casual with a lot of socializing. The Growler staff was checking on people, and everyone was very willing to hold your place while you went and got a drink or hit the facilities. A lot of people have come out specifically to see John, and I personally recognized Bryan (@BBQ Bryan) as well as Robert from Fullhouse BBQ. They bring by samples of burnt beef belly, which are excellent!

John is extremely friendly, and is spending a lot of time with the crowd chatting about pretty much everything and anything they want. KVUE news shows up and spends some time interviewing John as well as taking some establishing shots of the crowd. He does take a few people (including myself) back behind the trailer and we get some larger than normal samples of brisket while we’re waiting for our order. I end up with a lovely piece of burnt end that is just the right combination of crispy and tender, and I’m suddenly very glad I’ve already ordered or else my wallet might be in trouble.

(Hey... The first taste is free)!
They are serving ribs, pork belly, brisket, turkey, and sausage (mild and jalapeno/cheddar), but run out of ribs just before I order and mild sausage just after I order (but before I get my food), so I’ll be trying brisket, turkey, and pork belly. 
Pork Belly: The pork belly is nice and tender without being overcooked or greasy. It has a light smoky flavor, some nice pepper, and a hint of other spices. Don’t worry Charlotte, Wilbur died for a noble cause. I score it 8.5/10.  

Turkey: The turkey is extremely tender and juicy. There’s a medium amount of smoke, and a strong black pepper flavor. I also had an end piece with some skin on it and it was nice and crispy. I’ll score it 9.0/10.

Brisket: The brisket has a very strong smoke flavor (a personal preference of mine) as well as a lot of black pepper. There’s also a touch of sweetness to it I can’t quite place, but accents the pepper nicely. It is a classic example of melt-in-your-mouth. I had a large burnt end in my order, and it showed that the one I got as a sample from John was no fluke. This is brisket done right. Call it 9.5/10.

“How good can it be? It’s just a trailer,” was a comment I did overhear from one person while I was getting a drink and waiting for it to open. This did seem to be someone who was not waiting for the BBQ. It’s always interesting to see how people react to food trailers. Austin seems to enjoy them for the most part while Georgetown seems reluctant to embrace them. Based on the line I saw and the comments from the people around me in line (most of whom were from Pflugerville), there doesn’t seem to be too much problem with the food trailer in that area.

Pflugerville could use some good BBQ on a regular basis, and the BBQ from Brotherton BBQ certainly qualifies. John has indicated in other interviews that he does plan on opening a truck and eventually a brick and mortar place at some point. (A few of us did comment that there’s a nice empty lot next to The Growler  J  ).  But in the meantime we’ll have to be satisfied catching him at the occasional pop-up (unless you have a catering need).

Is it worth a visit? Is it worth a trip? I’m combining these two because with three scores of 8 or higher the answer is obviously “yes” to both. I do have to throw in the disclaimer that because of the nature of his business, you’re either going to have to catch him when he’s working a pop-up or else hire him for catering (I don’t think you’d regret it). Hopefully we’ll see him on a more regular basis sometime in the relatively near future. 


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Inman's Kitchen Review (Llano, TX) 

Inman's Kitchen Website, Facebook, Instagram, & Yelp Page 
Working at a contact center like Mike, myself and (until recently) James, you can hear about a lot of different places throughout the state. But someone suggested Inman’s Kitchen to Mike, and added “It’s better than Cooper’s”. Now Mike is a HUGE Cooper’s fan, and I’ve enjoyed my trips out there enough to know that this is a pretty big claim. So Mike, James, Hank (Mike’s brother-in-law) and I drove that way to see how it measured up.  

Inman’s is located on HWY 29 in Llano literally about 300 yards past Cooper’s (and there’s another BBQ joint between them). They have a good selection on their menu, but are apparently known for their turkey sausage. I’m looking forward to trying this, since I’ve only tried one previously and I’m not sure what the norms are on texture and snap. But I’ll be trying their turkey sausage, ham, pork ribs, pork tenderloin, turkey, and brisket. The others aren’t as adventurous (or hungry) as I am so they try roughly two things each. I also brought back pork tenderloin, brisket, and jalapeno/cheddar turkey sausage for Scott, and some pork tenderloin for Tish. (So note that Scott’s and Tish’s scores are going to be based on reheats).

Pork Ribs: The pork ribs have an excellent flavor, with some very nice spice and a nice smoky taste. However, they are somewhat tough and chewy. Grant came out and spoke with us, and did say that he had realized their best work. So, flavor is excellent but definitely not the best preparation. Score: Tom 6.5/10.

Ham: The ham is tender, and has a light smoky flavor. There’s a hint of pepper and some salt. It’s not overly fatty, which is something I’ve noticed at other places at times. Score: Tom 8.0/10.

Turkey: The turkey is extremely tender and moist. It has a light spicy taste, and a heavier smoke flavor than I find in a lot of other turkeys. It’s really good. Score; Tom 8.5/10.

Turkey Sausage: The sausage has an excellent flavor, with spice and pepper dominating (and some garlic). Unlike my previous adventure at Killen’s, this is definitely a lot more tightly packed and firm. Maybe too firm, as the casing is very tough and a bit difficult to bite through. But the flavor is excellent. Hank tried it as well. He wasn’t as excited about it, but admitted that he had tried a sample of the Jalapeno cheddar, which was much better so he was comparing it to that. Scores: Tom 8.5/10, Hank 6.0/10. Avg: 7.25.

Jalapeno/Cheddar Turkey Sausage: Scott: Has an excellent flavor. It’s not very hot but you can really taste the flavor of the jalapeno. The casing is a bit tough. Score: Hank 8.0/10, Scott 8.5/10. Avg: 8.25.

Brisket: The vast majority of the brisket we were given was lean…. And despite that it was still very tender and moist. It has a very nice smoky flavor and falls apart nicely. There’s noticeable black pepper. No one is disappointed. Scores: Tom 8.0/10, Mike 9.0/10, Hank 8.0/10, James 8.0/10, Scott 8.5/10. Avg: 8.3.

Pork Tenderloin: The pork tenderloin is a nice pink all the way through. Tasting this, I suspect they brine it before smoking (and my wife suggested the same). Whatever they are doing, it works. IT is incredibly tender (I was able to cut an inch-thick piece with a fork), has a lovely smoke flavor, and there’s some nice light spice as well. If I’d come out here and gotten nothing but this, it would have been worth the 60+ mile trip. Scores: Mike 8.5/10, Hank 9.0/10, James 9.0/10, Scott 9.0/10, Tish 10/10, Tom 10/10. Avg: 9.25. 

I have to admit I was skeptical of the “Better than Cooper’s” claim. This was a place I hadn’t heard anything about until Mike learned of it. But it goes to show that you can find excellent BBQ everywhere, sometimes right next door to another excellent BBQ place. Is it better than Cooper’s? That’s a tough call. In truth, when you start dealing with scores of an 8 or higher, you’re dealing with individual preferences in taste. I can certainly see why someone might say this place is better, and I’m not sure I could argue the opposite strongly. They each have their strengths. The true winner is the city of Llano, which has at least two excellent choices for BBQ.
Is it worth a visit? Definitely 

Is it worth a trip? Well, it’s 67 miles from my door to their parking lot, and I certainly think it was a day well spent, so yes.  

Mike’s Comments: Cole slaw was dry which I prefer to over mayonnaise versions.  Inman's has homemade bread which is outstanding and several varieties of homemade pies. I took home a cherry pie. The crust was flaky and the pie delicious. Cooper's is still the best!