I ended up eating even more 'cue than I had planned on this trip to Texas.
First stop was Angelo's in Ft. Worth. Brisket there was strange. Beefy, moist, tender, and with a big smokering of about half an inch but virtually no smoke flavor---smoke may have been masked by an odd formaldehyde taste that the edges of the slices of brisket had. I've read that there are substances that can be applied to meats to make a big smokering, but this was the first time I've wondered if I encountered it while dining. Pork ribs were meaty with little fat, but again no smoke--same complaint I had against Railhead's ribs. I know Angelo's is a Ft. Worth institution, but I don't think I'd make a return visit.
Lee's in Haslet was better, top of the heap of the DFW places I've been. Brisket was what I think is in the black tradition--cooked until falling apart tender. Lightly smoked, moist. No complaints about Lee's brisket. Pork ribs were a bit fatty, but still very good. Hot links(always glad to see those on the menu) were better than the sausage, but both were good. Sauce was similar in flavor to Angelo's but a little thicker and a little tastier.
Holy Smokes(in Dallas) is another joint I wouldn't return to unless I was in the mood for pulled pork which was actually pretty good there. Brisket was dried out and sliced extremely thin which I assume was to try to disguise that it was dried out. Pork ribs were also sorta dry. I ate there on a Monday and wonder if I might have been served some meats that were held over from the weekend. Sausage was the typical commercial type sausage(as was Lee's) that you tend to find in North Texas--good though. Sauce at Holy Smokes was nice--thin type with a good balance of flavors.
It had been a few years since I'd been to Clark's Outpost in Tioga. Brisket wasn't quite as smokey as I remember it being on my last visit, but it was still very smokey. Lean and tender. Also had sausage. I like Clark's sauce, but IMO it really only complements their ribs which I passed up this visit. Sides were better this time. I think I was there in the winter before. Deep fried corn was a lot sweeter this time. I still like Clark's.
Then...on to the big leagues. Louie Mueller's was great. I've seen some negative comments on the board about LM's, but I must have hit the place on a good day. Brisket there was excellent. It was almost but not quite too peppery--but I like a lot of black pepper. Tender, moist, just enough fat. This was the best brisket of my trip and right up there with Black's and City Market-Luling in my book although I'd still rate those two slightly higher. Wanted to try both sausages but they didn't have the jalapeno. Black's had been my favorite sausage but LM's was right up there. It's been a year since my last trip down to the area, so I don't know if my memory is good enough to make any comparisons that are really valid between this trip and the last. Also had a beef rib which I got to make up for missing out on the jalapeno sausage. LM's sauce was good(possibly the thinnest sauce I've ever had) with some flavors to it that I couldn't figure out(did somebody say pickle juice was in it?). Didn't use much of it--just didn't need it.
Hadn't planned to go to Lockhart, but I missed Smitty's last time, and the lure was irresistable. Brisket was better than what I had at Kreuz last trip. Pork chop wasn't as good as Kreuz's. Sausage was close to what I remember Kreuz's being like. I'm still a Black's fan when it comes to Lockhart. It was difficult for me to leave Lockhart after only eating at one place, but I wanted to make it to Cooper's without being stuffed to the gills.
I was hoping for goat at Cooper's, but they didn't have any. Cooper's it a tough one for me to rate. I thought their brisket was really good. It was tender and moist and strongly flavored of mesquite smoke. Their "Big Chop" wasn't as good as I'd hoped it would be, and their jalapeno sausage wasn't anything special either. Some kind of sauce probably would have helped those, but I'm not a fan of a lot of vinegar and Cooper's sauce was pretty heavy with it. Still, I'd give Cooper's high marks for the brisket alone; it's different enough from most 'cue to make Cooper's worth a visit. I liked it a lot, but I'm not sure how well I'd like a steady diet of mesquite smoked barbecue.