For me, getting up at 5:45 AM is always a huge struggle. I need real motivation to do so, and in this case, on a Saturday morning in Austin, that motivation would be BBQ. Perhaps the best BBQ on earth.
Snow’s BBQ is in Lexington, about an hour east of Austin. They are only open on Saturday, from 8 AM to whenever they run out of BBQ (usually around 10-11). Joe had a plane to catch at 11:30, so our only chance of sampling Snow’s BBQ was if we were the first ones in line.
By the time we checked out of the hotel and got on the road, it was 6:20 AM. After driving through fields, seeing the sunrise, and passing what looked to be an iron-ore mine, we arrived at Snow’s in the sleepy town of Lexington at 7:13 AM. Snow’s is a small red shack, across the street from a rusted water tower. The pits are located behind the shack, and next to it are several wooden picnic tables. When we got there, there were already cars in the parking lot, but we couldn’t tell if they belonged to patrons or the employees. In any case, since we were there 45 minutes before they opened and there was no line, I was the first to sign the visitor’s ledger for the day. We had some time to kill, so we decided to walk around and check out the town of Lexington.
We walked to a nearby bar, where the owner told us that the Texas Monthly article proclaiming Snow’s as the “Best BBQ in Texas” had brought in tons of business to Lexington the last couple months. Joe asked if there was any place we could get some coffee, and the bar owner pointed to the Cattle Purchasing facility. He said they serve breakfast in the room next to where the cattle are weighed and purchased.
So we went there, and Joe ordered a small breakfast and some coffee.
When he finished, we started to walk back to Snow’s, and when we were almost there we noticed a small line had formed, about 6-8 people deep. We quickly got in line, and less than 10 minutes later, the doors were open.
We got 1/2 lb. of brisket, a large portion of pork chop, one sausage link, two pork ribs, 1/2 smoked chicken, and some burnt ends.
Again, we did our visual inspection. The brisket looked ultra moist, and the smoke ring was more pronounced than Taylor’s, albeit still somewhat subdued. The sausage looked a little dried out. The burnt end looked intensely smoked. The chicken appeared dry. The pork chop looked unassuming. The pork ribs looked run-of-the-mill.
Now for the taste. The brisket was extremely well-smoked, but not enough to overpower the flavorful rub or the beefiness of the meat. There was quite a bit of fat, and although the smokiness had seemed to permeate into the fat, it still anchored the beefy flavor of the brisket. The fat also gave the brisket a velvety texture without crossing into “too greasy” territory. The meat itself was extraordinarily moist, and although the brisket slices did not have much of a crisp bark, the burnt end made up for that. The burnt end was a concentration of smokiness and salty rub, so it was best eaten in small bites. The combination of the crunchy bark with the luscious, fatty meat made it the platonic ideal of burnt ends.
The pork chop was a complex chunk of meat. Some parts of it were smoky and crusty, but too dry. Some parts were moist, fatty and flavorful but lacking in smokiness. Some parts were meaty but tiresome to chew. To appreciate it fully, I had to make sure my bites included each of the three strata. Only then did I realize that it was a phenomenal pork chop.
The sausage was dry, a bit bland, and had a stubborn casing, although the grind was nicely coarse.
I found the chicken to be a bit dry as well, and although it had some smokiness to it, there wasn’t that much flavor to work with.
As for the pork ribs, I do not remember them.
It’s hard to decide which brisket was better, Taylor Cafe’s or Snow’s. Taylor Cafe’s brisket relied a bit more on the rub for its flavor, while Snow’s chose to lead with smoke. Taylor Cafe’s was less greasy and had a bit more of a chew and a crisper bark, while Snow’s was slightly fattier and had a softer, if somewhat more one-dimensional mouth-feel.
Add to that the context of our eating prior to each meal. At Taylor’s, we were eating our fourth meal of the day within six hours, so I was thoroughly stuffed by the time I put that first piece of Taylor Cafe brisket in my mouth. As for Snow’s, well, it was the first meal of the day, but it was also the 13th BBQ place we had eaten at, and the previous day we had eaten at four BBQ joints.
So I can’t decide which brisket I liked more. I have to put both Taylor Cafe and Snow’s BBQ together at the top for brisket, way above the rest of the competition. Overall, if you take into account the other meats we ate, I’d have to rank Snow’s a bit higher due to their amazing pork chop.