There are folks out there that cook chicken and burgers on a gas or charcoal grill, slap some sauce on 'em, and call it "BBQ". We are not one of those folks. Our "Barbecue" consists of the 2 true barbecue food-groups - Cow and Pig. In order to qualify as true 'cue, meat must possess the "pink ring" of tasty love that can only come from a low n' slow wood-fired pit.
In the mid-'90's, we came into possession of a true 'cue pit, with a grill big enough to do about 40 lbs of ribs or brisket, and a firebox set low and off to the side. After receiving a little instruction on how not to burn the crap out of hundreds of dollars of meat at a whack, we got our initiation into the world of Barbecue. Living in the culinary wasteland known as AK, we thought our barbecue was right up there with the best, surely worth a Michelin or two...
...Then we went to Texas. The Wife is originally from Texas, and the In-Laws live just outside of Austin, so we made the inaugural, obligatory "New-Future-Son-in-Law" journey over the holidays. It was on this trip that we made the first of many journeys to the Wife's childhood home, the scrubby little sulfur-and-crude-smelling central Texas town of Luling. Luling is a fairly unassuming little town, with 3 points of history going for it, to wit:
1. It is a historic "end of the road". In the late 1800's, the Southern Pacific Railroad had a "Sunset" spur that terminated in Luling, and it was also the terminus for a freight line originating in the Mexican state of Chihuaha.
2. It is the site of one of the most productive oil strikes in Texas (and American) history.
3. It is the home of Luling City Market
On this inaugural visit to Luling, we stopped in at City Market, which the Wife had warned us "didn't mess around with that sissy 'cue", meaning that they had the two food-groups - Cow and Pig - and there weren't a whole lot of frilly sides gettin' in the way. Meat, meat, and more meat, that's why a fella went to City Market, she said.
That was 11 years ago. Every time we get back to Texas, there is always time allotted to go to Luling. Along with Taylor and Llano, Luling forms the "Barbecue Triangle" of Central Texas, home to such august institutions as Cooper's, Black's, Smitty's, Kreuz, Louie Mueller, Davis, Vencil's, Luling Barbecue, and of course, City Market.
First-time visitors are greeted to the sweet smell of Post Oak smoke, permeating every nook and cranny of the building. To get your meats, you walk into the pit, first contemplating the extensive menu.
No Plates. No Trays. No Holders. And, like the sign says, "No Forks - Use Fingers." Everything gets slapped down on butcher paper. And whatever you do, don't ask for Chicken...
After the Carnage, the remnants are rolled right back up and bagged for later gnawing. Notice the level in the sauce bottle, pre- and post-feast.
A note about the sauce: As we consider ourselves barbecue gastronomes, we feel qualified to tell you that this sauce is some of the best Pig sauce available anywhere.
If you ever find yourselves somewhere in the vicinity of Luling, TX, do yourselves a favor and pull up to City Market and get a taste of what Real Barbecue is all about.