Austin, Texas, is where I get much of the inspiration for my barbeque, and few places are as iconic as Rudy’s.
This past weekend, I flew into Dallas and then drove to Austin for Irene and Andrew’s wedding. I had about a day of free time after the wedding, so I figured I’d do some barbeque related activities to make up for the dearth of posts this month. The wedding itself was quite nice (congrats, you two.)
If you’re from Texas, you might be wondering why I’m dedicating a post to Rudy’s, of all places. (It’s definitely not so that I can make a subtle reference to the 1993 American biographical sports film about a guy that sucks at football.) There are better places in Austin, such as Franklin’s, La Barbecue, Micklethwait, John Mueller’s and so on.
The first reason for doing so is because many of the more “traditional” barbeque places tend to be open for lunch, and then close when they sell out. Rudy’s, a chain of restaurants-cum-gas stations, are more flexible in evening hours.
The second, is that Rudy’s has a special place in my (clogged) barbeque heart, having likely been my first exposure to real Texas brisket. I distinctly recall wondering why we were eating at a gas station as I was on some junior high school orchestra trip, only to later discover the brilliance of cream corn and brisket. That took place pre-2008 before many other places became well known (for instance, Franklin’s, probably the most famous barbeque joint in Austin, opened in 2009).
I was also already riding the nostalgia train anyways, after seeing a bunch of people from my college years at the wedding. During that time period, Rudy’s was also regular staple of our healthy college diets.
For people not from Texas, Rudy’s is likely a bit of anomaly and a bit of a tourist trap. The first was established close to San Antonio in 1989; they’ve now expanded throughout Texas and as far north as Colorado.
First off, they are almost always conveniently attached to a gas station, and adorned in “country” platitudes and rather cheesy signs. A fancy handwashing Jacuzzi machine usually sits in a corner somewhere; you stick your arms in two holes filled with spinning jets of water. Feels nice.
Other features include a “Cutter’s Cam,” an overhead camera showing the carving process of various meats. The workers occasionally do the thing where they yell something indiscernible together as a matter of teamspirit or something.
Rudy’s stocks a fairly varied menu for a barbeque place, providing staples such as brisket, sausage and pork ribs, as well as other meats such as chicken, turkey and prime rib. Sides include beans, coleslaw, potato salad and cream corn. The meat is usually ordered in half pound increments. Brisket, the main appeal of Rudy’s, is sold in extra lean, moist and “Cutter’s choice” options (the latter likely being a combination of the two). I have no idea why anyone would ever get the lean option. Everything is loaded onto freezer paper instead of plates.
We ended up getting about a half-pound portion of brisket, along with some ribs and sausage, courtesy of Assistant County Attorney Yoon. Technically, Travis County paid for our meal?
The quality overall, I’ve found is mostly consistent between stores; usually the moist brisket is juicy enough for me, which is the most general barometer with which I measure barbeque quality. The ribs are cooked to just before fall off the bone and have just the right amount of pull.
One thing that I have noticed, however, is that the brisket has a tendency to over-salted, according to my tastes. So much so, you would think Rudy’s was trying its best to cure the world’s population of iodine deficiency, one brisket at a time. You can attempt to cut the salt with complimentary pickles, bread and onions. The bark can also get very crunchy on the ends, which makes me wonder whether or not they’re wrapping their briskets and/or cooking at a relatively higher temperature.
Nevertheless, I’d still recommend Rudy’s, especially if you’re out of town or if you’re short on time. It’s a plus if you can appreciate (or tolerate) the kitschyness of the venues.
In other news, I had originally planned to do a post on the Korean barbeque that we had a few weeks ago, but it turned out less inspiring than I thought. It essentially had boiled down to “I went to the store, bought pre-made stuff and cooked it,” though I guess did miss out on a opportunity to write about how to make rice.
As the weather starts to get colder, I might consider doing more restaurant reviews or make new sections for this blog. I figure I still have maybe about a month before things get too unbearable, though I do plan to have at least one snowbeque this year. We’ll see.