After receiving many wonderful tips from you nice folks- we were able to have a truly amazing trip to Austin- taking advantage of all it had to offer (food wise at least).
Unfortunately our trip was cut short due to snow in NY-- but we certainly made up for lost time.
Coffee at The Hideout on Congress- in preparation for a full day of BBQ eating we ate very little-- we had pumpkin banana bread and coffee. While the banana bread was all wrapped up in plastic- it was still very nice. And the coffee (from a NYer's point of view) was alright.
We pulled up at 11:30 a.m. and the place was relatively quiet (fewer than 10 people) which gave us time to take pictures/ask questions and the like. We had previously decided to order the same thing at each place in order to be able to properly compare each and every BBQ joint. So it was brisket and ribs at Kreuz's. With crackers? While I don't quite understand this-- I won't question what obviously works for Texas Q lovers.
The ribs were peppery- slow cooked to perfection. My main complaint was that the ends- which were understandably less juicy and dried out- tasted like jerkey thanks to the pepper. However, the juicy part of the ribs was totally fantastic. Complete fatty buttery goodness. The meat was just falling off the bone.
The brisket was alright- but it was underwhelming to be honest. It had a nice smoky taste- but it was way way too dry. Perhaps we caught them on an off day.
overall we gave Kreuz's a 7.
I have to admit this place was the most disappointing. I dug on the space-- but the fish buffet and pie case in that tiny entryway was no fun at all and did not get me in the Q mood.
The brisket was way better than Kreuz's-- they totally nailed the smoky flavor to perfection. It was really juicy - which tied nicely in with the flavor. Perhaps it was a bit too smoky- but I liked it that way (others did not).
The ribs-- I'll come out and say it-- were absolutely awful. They were completely inedible. They tasted worse than a bad ham.
We took more pictures and got out of there in a hurry.
Overall Black's got a 4.
There's no doubt in my mind-- this place was the BEST! I only wish this was our first stop. We had to adjust our ordering as it was Friday (no ribs) so we had a pork chop instead.
First let me say that their meat looked so good in the pit-- many pictures were taken. The meat man could not have been nicer-- he gave me free rein to take as many pictures and ask as many questions as humanly possible.
The brisket was out of this world- smoky-- but not too smoky. The meat had been salted to perfection (better than the meat at Kreuz's and Black's). It just melted in your mouth. The outside was crispy and the fat-- was better than bacon fat (a true accomplishment). I almost passed out- it was that good. I also refused to talk while ating for fear it would take away from how perfect it was.
The pork chop was also outstanding. Both tender and juicy. Now, it didn't hold a candle to the brisket-- but was easily the second best dish of the day. I only wish I could have eaten more-- but as you can tell-- we had already eaten quite a bit before we got there.
Overall- solid 9 (ribs would have made them a 10 for sure)
And that was just lunch!! (Making up for lost time)
For dinner we weren't so hungry- no surprise there. So we headed over to Central Market to peruse all the goodies there (the one off 290). Now, had it been a year ago (before I had ever seen Whole Foods in the AOL building in NY- largest in the city) I might have fainted at the sheer size. But I was prepared. You guys are truly lucky-- we bought a bunch of stuff to take home (spices teas) and some stuff for a picnic the next day- rain didn't ruin it. We also picked up a bunch of cheeses and wine for dinner. They're wine store is really nice and well laid out. And a sales person was quick to offer help (declined by a vinophile in our group out of pride- but greatly appreciated). We got some prosecco, red (Sequoia grove reserve Cab- v. nice) and some beautiful local cheeses. Pure Luck dairies is awesome. We got out to visit the Dairy in Dripping Springs- and that is one amazing place. The cheeses- chevre- pure-crisp-tangy perfection. The Ste. Maure- my favorite- like boucheron but better-- and their feta were outstanding.
Lunch from Central Market- turkey meatloaf- tasty not dry. Haricot vert with almonds- a little too oily- but nice. And Israeli couscous with veggies-- nice (and the lady at Central Markets picked out all the olives for me-- I fell in love with her immediately)
Dinner at Castle Hill
Boy, you guys weren't kidding- this place was great.
We had the gumbo- smoky black bean and duck- great flavor and not too salty. We also had the crab cakes- nice-- but the sauce was off-- I ate it with the salad with gorgonzola instead. And dumplings (I forget what was in them-- but I thought they were alright as well). For a main dish we had the pork, the pork and the lamb. While I could appreciate the pork there was something about the sauce that I didn't love. The creamy spicy thing was great-- but not my cup of tea. However, the cheese grits it came with. Out of this world-- I would fly back to Austin just for that side. Our waitress explained that they werent true gritsit was more like a country version of risotto with asiago cheesenot to be missed.
The lamb was perfection- perfectly cooked- perfect sauce and side pairings. It was mouth watering and simple. I think the sauce was just a glaze.
For desert we had Amy's ice cream- which we had heard so much about-- and it was fantastic-- really fresh and natural tasting. We also had the peanut butter pie- which was so rich I couldn't have more than one bite (imagine a really thick reeces peanut butter cup). Our waitress was amazing and the whole experience was wonderful.
The rest of the trip was great-- tex mex breakfast- more cheese-- but I've already gone on too long
We took tons of pictures-- which I will have to figure out how to post one of these days.
Thanks again for all the fantastic tips- you made our trip a complete success.