We really wanted – and deserved – a weekend away. A get-away-from-it-all 48 hours. But Life and all its complications meant that this wasn’t really possible right now. But watch out Next Year – we’re going to vacation the hell out of you. Hopefully.
So, instead, my bright idea was to plan a mini-road trip. We would head out east, to Lexington, TX, and try out what at least one of my social circle believes just might be the best BBQ in Texas.
Snow’s here we come.
But, first, we did out due diligence. Snow’s is only open on a Saturday, from 8am. And they stay open until all the meat is gone. If you’re not there by 10am, the internet said, your choice is severely limited.
Austin is about an hour away from Lexington (AKA “Where?” according to at least one long-term Texas resident). I wanted to be in the queue not much later than 7. So, we had to be up and out by about 6am. For BBQ. For breakfast.
This was the adventure, I assured people as I explained my weekend plans.
OK, they said. Like maybe it didn’t make sense. And I guess it doesn’t. Who wants 2lbs of smoked meat for breakfast? Who wants to queue for it? Especially as the whole of the week before had basically been rainy and cold.
But that’s the adventure, I said again, a little less certainly, as people backed away and smiled.
My wife, she was with me on this one. At least, she did a good impression of someone who was with me on the adventure, and that’s really all a person can ask for.
We were on the road, coffees in hand, Road Trip Playlist on high volume, by 6.15. It was dark, a little damp, and it felt good.
This is my insight on the post-apocalyptic genre (stick with me here): people are drawn to it maybe as a way to experience a rational fear but as adventure. We all worry, especially At The Current Time, that things are going to get pretty bad, geopolitically. And so, we’re drawn to stories about that time. But, as we drove out of Austin, with dark skies and empty roads, I wondered if, somewhere deep down, we weren’t also drawn to post-apocalyptic emptiness – like, say, Will Smith wandering around empty cities – because we’re attracted to the emptiness of the world, where no one else exists to bother us.
Being on the toll road at 6.30 on a Saturday morning – the quiet, the emptiness, the feeling like everything we saw belonged to us and us alone – was certainly a highlight of the whole adventure.
The lack of traffic meant that we made good time and were in Lexington exactly as planned. I don’t know if the bad weather had really put off other, less-adventurous gluttons, but the queue when we got there was not that intimidating at all. We were numbers 32 and 33. I know this because the people at Snow’s have this queue-management thing down pretty well. An old Texan guy comes out and talks to us. Tells us to start counting from the front so we each have a number. Then they’ll have a raffle.
He also mentions that we could have ordered ahead and get in and out in 10 minutes. “Guess you would have liked to be told that before now,” he drawls sardonically, as he eyes the back of the line. We laugh because we are now part of the BBQ experience and looking for anything that would add to the fun. This was why we were here, an hour out of bed and not yet fully caffeinated.
The couple behind us win the first prize to the raffle – a Monopoly-style bonus that gets them to the front of the line. We pretend to be pleased for them.
Later, my wife will say that standing in line was the best part of the trip, and I can see her point; that was the most unusual, particular part of the adventure. Being around other people, all committed enough to be waiting for smoked meat at a ridiculously early hour of a Saturday morning, sharing jokes about raffle prizes and the weather. An adventure should feel out of the ordinary, and this part of the trip was certainly that.
For me, though, it was the dark, emptiness of the freeway at 6.30am. But then, as regular readers should already know, as in 98% of my adventures on the road, I was a passenger during all of this, choosing the music, watching out for speed limit signs, and making an effort to look far more useful than I actually was.
Keen-eyed readers will note that neither of us has picked the food as the highlight. That might say more about us than about the food. But we’ll get to that.
At 8, people start moving forward, toward the smell of smoke and beef. We start to strategize. The first rule is the hardest: don’t get too much. Half a pound of brisket (you think you want more, but you don’t need more…let’s get enough but not so much you feel ill and greasy for the rest of the day). Pork ribs. Pork shoulder. I figure we might not be out this way again so I go against my better instincts and say we should try the chicken. I usually don’t bother with chicken at a BBQ place as it’s not that special and takes up prime brisket space in my digestion process. But, let’s get half a chicken.
And probably not bother with the sausage. For the same reasons we don’t usually get chicken.
In no time at all, we’re standing at the counter. The women running the place are friendly and efficient. “Do you have boxes for leftovers?” my wife asks.
“No you have to eat it all right here,” the woman serving us says, but quickly adds, “I’m just joking!”
“No, if we have to, we have to,” I assure her, stoically. I’m fully committed. In it to win it. Leftovers are for quitters. Everyone knows that.
We fill our tray, my wife gets sides because, well…who knows why? And we walk outside to eat at a picnic table.
And here’s the thing.
Well, first, let me say that in the 9 or so years I have lived here, I have eaten a lot of Texas BBQ. And I maintain it is among the finest food I have ever had. But this trip to Snow’s suggested something that I’d suspected for a while. I think I need a break from BBQ. Because I didn’t really enjoy it all that much.
And I knew it was good. The brisket was moist and melt-in-the-mouth. The rub was peppery and sharp, but not overpowering. The pork ribs were equally as good. Possibly the highlight. The chicken was flavorful, not as dry as smoked chicken can be. I wish I hadn’t got the sausage but I’d seen it sitting there and it looked so damn crispy and tempting – but it was sausage and I don’t really care for a lot of it. So, that was my fault. And we forgot the pork shoulder.
Lockhart will always be my first love for BBQ – and Smitty’s in Lockhart will always be Our Place. Snow’s is good, obviously. It’s a prize winner. If you go there, you’re getting good Texas BBQ and a worthwhile Texas experience. You’ll see a small town that isn’t as dressed up as Georgetown, or even Smithville or Lockhart. But I’m BBQ’ed-out right now. I prefer a good burger…or a really good pizza…or, maybe most of all, the joys of a perfectly cooked steak.
That’s not to say I can’t be tempted. Just not for a 6am adventure. Not for a while.