Comment: Craig Hickman aka DairyMan indulges in the tantalising succulence that is the Texas barbeque.

If you're ever in Texas, you owe it to yourself and your taste buds to try Texas barbecue.

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This isn't a Kiwi-style barbecue – there's no gas and hotplate – this is charcoal, mesquite chips, smoke and hours and hours of cook time.


There's a whole culture attached to Texan barbecue; it's about friends and family coming together, welcoming people into your home and taking the time to get to know what's happening in people's lives; it's about friendship and community.

The most well-known barbecue place in Austin is Franklin's, established in 2009.

Franklin's have sold out of brisket every single day since they opened. While they're famous for brisket and ribs, they're more famous for their queue; think Queenstown's Fergburger on steroids.

By happy coincidence, my accommodation was only a five-minute walk from Franklin's, so I arrived at 11.30 on a Wednesday morning, half an hour after they opened, and joined the line. As we waited and shuffled forward, I eavesdropped on my neighbour.

The family in front of me were excitedly deciding how many pounds of brisket and how many sausages they would buy and fretting over whether the ribs would be sold out before they reached the counter.

The two young men behind me were in an earnest and highly technical discussion about the dimensions of their RV's cooler which, they finally concluded, would hold three pounds of brisket.

By the time I reached the counter I was relieved the ribs hadn't sold out, so I added a pound of them to my original order of a pound of brisket and two sausages. It was then I learned a valuable barbecue lesson: just because they sell it by the pound doesn't mean you have to buy it by the pound.

Everything was delicious, as you'd expect. The pork ribs had a nice hit with their spice rub, the sausages were dense and heavy with just a hint of smokiness and the brisket was amazingly succulent and tender.


All the meat stood alone without the need of additional flavour, but I helped myself to their famous coffee-infused barbecue sauce just the same.

Was it worth the $60? I don't think you're paying for just the meal; you're paying for the whole experience.

I walked past a few days later and there were over 200 people waiting their turn. They had lawn chairs and chilly bins, umbrellas and sunhats.

Kids were running in and out of the line and everyone was thrilled to be part of the experience. I know the British like to queue, but his was the first time I'd ever seen standing in line elevated to entertainment.

Million-dollar mutton

The day before I left Austin, I went to a totally different barbecue joint, and only then because the one I'd set my sights on was closed on Mondays.

As I walked further east into an area where gentrification only just had a toehold, past colourful murals of local African American heroes, I came across a weatherboard building with peeling white paint and a faded Pepsi sign on a precarious lean bearing the legend 'Sam's BBQ'.

I joked that it looked sketchy, but as soon as I stepped through the door I was in love.

Photo / File
Photo / File

The walls were covered in photos of long-past local events, there were booths with sagging vinyl benches and a pedestal wash basin next to the counter for the very necessary post-barbecue ablutions. Above all, I loved it because it was welcoming, and it felt comfortable and friendly.

I was greeted by a tall, rangy African American gentleman in his late sixties. His wide smile was full of gaps and when I asked him what was good, he laughed like I had made the best joke in the world. Everything at Sam's is good, he told me. Having learned my lesson from earlier barbecue experiences, I opted for a mixed plate, which let me choose two sides and two meats.

The sign out front proclaimed that Sam's sold Austin's best hot sausage, so how could I resist?

I rounded the order off with mutton and potato salad and green beans as sides. (You should always get the potato salad, it's unlike anything I've tried before, cold mashed potato with a creamy consistency and bursting with flavour.)

The sausage was excellent, and the mutton was all I could have asked for – rich, deep flavour and not at all greasy or fatty, which is no mean feat when you're cooking mutton flaps.

For the first time in my life, I enjoyed green beans; I don't know what he did to them, but they were crisp and delicious.

It wasn't until later when I was sent a news article about Sam's that I realised the man who served me was David Mays.

His family bought Sam's BBQ in 1976, and every morning Mays now struggles with the dilemma of whether to keep serving barbecue to the community he loves or take the five million dollars developers have offered him so they can build apartments where his building now stands.

Of all the barbecue places I tried in Austin – Franklin's, The Salt Lick, Stubb's – it's Sam's to which I'd return. Honest, delicious and with such a deep sense of history and genuine warmth that I didn't want to leave.

However, while Sam's was my favourite barbecue shop in Texas, it wasn't the most memorable experience.

Homegrown welcome

Katy Kemp, a Twitter friend, invited me to visit her family ranch: Kemp Angus Farm.

I knew I was going for lunch and a farm tour, but I was expecting maybe some sandwiches and a coffee.

Katy's father and her brother Kurt had prepared a homegrown Angus chuck roast in the smoker they'd built out of an old propane tank: a truly impressive wheeled contraption that could be towed anywhere you felt the need.

Oh Lord! The smoke ring on that roast was perfect, the meat was tender and juicy and the famous Kreuz sausage was thick and dense and absolutely did not need the mustard that Kurt liberally applied to his plate.

The delicious meat was served with a corn bake and stem-to-tip roast carrot, and I sipped my iced tea while listening to Mr Kemp talk about the trials of farming in Texas.

Lunch was topped off with Bluebell ice cream, another Texas institution, and followed with a guided tour of the Angus stud.

At the end of the day, no matter how good a barbecue place is, nothing beats being welcomed into a person's home and sitting down to a home-cooked meal.

I hope to return the favour one day.

- Craig Hickman is a dairy farmer and avid Twitter proponent from Ashburton.