This week I visited two places that have been on my “wishlist” for years now – Caribbean Chicken & Fish, and Quickly.

caribbean chicken & fish

I first read about Caribbean Chicken & Fish on Chowhound, via a post by Steve Drucker, whom I don’t know personally, but he was one of the first, if not the first person, singing the praises during the early Peter Chang dynasty. That to say, when he went on and on about how great the jerk chicken was, I took note.

caribbean chicken & fish

I’d never heard anyone else say a word about this place, but funny timing, the AJC wrote about them earlier this month. I wasn’t aware until I saw the article posted on the restaurant wall last night. You can read it online here. Wait, you don’t have a login to AJC? Me neither.

caribbean chicken & fish

Based on my Jamaican dining experience, which I can count on one hand, I’d say this place is pretty great, and we were getting the last bit of food near closing time. The jerk chicken is super flavorful, lots of spice, but not over the top. It’s super aromatic and intoxicating, and especially popping with the side of sauce they provide, which is reminiscent of a ginger spiced Worcestershire. Oxtails are good. Sides were varied and enjoyable. We had cabbage, plantains, and rice and beans.

caribbean chicken & fish

The roti stuffed with sides and goat was also a fine choice, but I’d go with the Oxtail/Jerk chicken combo again over that. They are open breakfast lunch and dinner, and they offer quite a bit to try. I wish I lived closer, I’d go again this weekend, if that says anything.

Next up, Quickly on Buford Highway, the Taiwanese beverage hangout spot (no tables, only couches) that also serves chicken nuggets and similar fried snacks.

It was 100F and an orange slush sounded pretty damn good. I saw two women bring in their young ones for frosty drinks in the ten minutes I was there, and it seemed a good parenting move.

Quickly

Here are the spicy chicken nuggets. The roof of my mouth is still recovering from the first fiery delicious nugget. It’s sort of like Chik-Fil-A nuggets, but saltier, spicier, and with even more MSG. In other words, amazing.

They are served with a little skewer for dainty eating. We wouldn’t want to get our grubby hands on those couches.

Quickly

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summer tomato pasta

One of my favorite summer dishes to make is a kitchen sink pasta based on a technique I learned from a Michael Ruhlman video a few years ago. The basis is that you chop up some ripe tomatoes and let it sit (unrefrigerated) a while so the liquid draws from the fruit, offering up a beautiful tomato water. This water serves as the starting point for a quick sauce, made silky and wonderful when mounted and tossed with a healthy amount of butter.

You can vary this any number of ways, but the foundation is always the same. This time I marinated the salted tomatoes with fresh chives, purple basil, thin sliced garlic, cured Calabrian chiles, and mint. The liquid is separated, gently pressing the mixture to get as much juice as possible without excessively damaging the texture of the tomato. The cooked spaghetti (bucatini works very nicely too) is tossed with the tomato water, pasta water, and butter until well coated – practicing a good pan flip will provide a superior, lighter texture versus stirring with a spoon or tongs. The tomato mixture is only added for the last few tosses before serving.

This version was finished with crumbled feta, more chiles, pan crisped blanched almonds, more herbs, and some grilled Italian sausage. Plenty of good salt and pepper is crucial as well.

It’s silky and crunchy, popping with herbs and sweet summer tomatoes. We dined outside after a long morning of yard work, with a chilled glass of Lillet with bitters. It is the shizz, and various versions will be made in our home for the next two months. If you have any good variations along these lines, do tell.

summer tomato pasta

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Kreuz

For more than six months, I’ve been wanting to post these photos, but haven’t found the time. Wait, time isn’t found, it’s made, as my father reminds me. He being the likely source of my fastidiousness which fuels the type of person (A/INTJ) who spends a month writing spreadsheets and plotting maps for a dude’s trip around Central Texas with a few goals – eat barbecue until we might explode, discover where the bar is set when it comes to Texas barbecue (namely beef), and come home and brag to everyone that they haven’t had good barbecue if they haven’t been to the Austin area, which served as base camp for this endeavor.

I don’t have the time nor the expertise to go on and on about the history, the popularity, and what’s considered the best in Texas. I won’t wax poetic about each stop. There are plenty of other good resources. The Texas BBQ Posse site is a great one. Another is Daniel Vaughn of Texas Monthly, the respected blogger/architect turned barbecue critic who was kind enough to reply to my inquiries on destination, given the time constraints of the weekend at hand. He provided the basis for a great itinerary, which I supplemented with information from my friend Michael who had a Texas bbq guest post here a couple years ago.

There would be one major loss on the trip – to eat at Franklin BBQ on a Saturday would cannibalize the majority of the prime time of our trip, with waits up to five hours for the most famous bbq restaurant in the country. I don’t regret it, as we hit three top tier spots in the time it would have taken us to eat at Franklin. I figured I’d always have another shot at it, and in a few weeks I return to Texas for part-time graduate school and have allotted the time I need. I’m still not excited about spending the extended time in line, but I’ve read Franklin’s new book too often and watched his videos endlessly and feel obligated to make the Hajj, and I hit seven other area spots on the prior trip, so I’ve made my peace.

Let’s begin in Lockhart, the soul of Central Texas bbq. It’s an easy drive south from the airport and doesn’t have the popularity and real estate issues of Austin spots, so there’s not so much concern about what time they will still have meat. We began at Kreuz Market (pronounced ‘Krites’), a massive structure which can likely feed the whole town, and has probably done so as they’ve been open for over a century.

Kreuz

The pit room is definitely something to see, with smokers unlike any I’d seen.

Kreuz

We generally tried brisket, sausage, and ribs everywhere we could on the trip. We learned quickly to pace, ordering as little as a quarter pound of each meat to split amongst the three of us.

We had a great moment at one spot, where after placing my order an older woman said to us, “ya’ll boys must be on ture.” At the surprised look on my face, she followed, “Ya didn’t order enough for three men, so you must be on ture.” We were made, and indeed a couple of times we saw groups of men on meat pilgrimages, though we refrained from group t-shirt or aprons, as we saw on one group in Taylor, Texas.

Unfortunately I found Kreuz to be all hat and no cattle – it was as greasy as it appeared below, grisly, and while undeniably beefy, and thankfully not dried out, it just felt sloppy.

Kreuz

Next up – Smitty’s Market.

Smitty's

What a crazy pit room, the walls blackened from years of wood smoke.

Smitty's

Sausages are another mainstay in Texas BBQ, which has its roots in the meat preserving Germanic smokehouses of old, and Smitty’s is known for theirs, and I did find them to be excellent. Not that I know shit about what makes a good Texas sausage. Not too greasy, but plump and juicy, nice emulsification (not grainy or falling apart), maybe some spice and other discernible flavors – that’s what I consider good.

Smitty's

I didn’t find the brisket to be much better than Kreuz, though the lean brisket was interesting. I later re-read the signage above, where the lean indicates it is shoulder. We didn’t realize this at the time, but it turns out what we were eating wasn’t actually from the brisket/pectoral muscle of the cow, but the shoulder clod. It may explain the tougher texture and unique beefy flavor, which leaned more towards the prime rib spectrum to my tastes. See? This trip was educational already.

Smitty's

The last stop in Lockhart was Black’s Barbecue, which I found to be the best of the lot.

Black's BBQ

It just looks like it’s going to be better as they present their offerings all pretty like.

Black's BBQ

Welcome kids! It’s the meat candy store, what may I slice you?

We were fairly stuffed by this point, and made the drive back into Austin to our hotel.

Black's BBQ

For dinner #4 we walked over to the Wonderland bar and food truck park, sampling a lot of the food from Thai-Kun.

Thai-Kun

It’s good Thai food, especially coming from a (stationary) truck. We had to wait forever though. I really dig the whole bar setup with a food truck out back or in front, we saw it a few times in Austin.

Thai-Kun

OK. This shit is taking too long. Let’s just move on to my favorite spot of the trip and the best barbecue I’ve ever had. Yep, just went there. This is it – Snow’s BBQ. It’s an hour drive east of Austin, they are only open on Saturday’s, and they open at 8AM. Eating breakfast outdoors at Snow’s, directly next to the smokers that have been chugging all night, with cows mooing in the background, is basically the smoked meat equivalent of praying at the Wailing Wall. (That’s the 2nd irreverent religious analogy, if you are keeping score at home)

Snow's

I ordered my meat and accidentally stole a koozie right here.

Snow's

The first of many Instagrams happened here.

Snow's

The brisket was insane, but the ribs actually stole the show. I mean, they were perfect. Seasoning, texture, doneness, just…haunting. Seriously, when we drove away, we had a crisis situation as we debated getting more barbecue against the fact that we had a full day of eating up ahead.

Snow's

The smokers.

Snow's

A cross section of brisket with flat and point represented in one glorious bite.

Snow's

Sausage took a backseat to the other meats. We did not order the chicken, because apparently I’m dumb. No matter, this will be rectified in a few short weeks.

Snow's

Snow’s representing my new school.

Snow's

We proceeded north and stopped at Southside in Elgin for lamb per Mr. Vaughn’s guidance.

Southside

Brisket was a dry waste of space to me, but the mutton ribs were surely worth a try for something different. Elgin is known for sausage too, and with good reason. It was great.

Southside

Close up on mutton ribs.

Southside

Southside may not be a special destination, but it was on the way to our next stop at Louie Mueller.

Louie Mueller

Inside LM.

Louie Mueller

Frito Pie, brisket, short rib. It was all very good, but the pepper-laced short rib was out of sight. Gorgeous.

Louie Mueller

Here’s the inside again with menu.

Louie Mueller

But I’d prefer to look at the short rib again. Look at that sexy bitch.

It was a productive morning. I’d had the best brisket, lamb, sausage, short rib, and pork rib I’d ever tasted, all before noon.

Louie Mueller

But onwards we pressed, back to Austin for La Barbecue, a trendy place with a line second only to Franklin. They offer a free keg of beer to keep spirits lubricated.

LA BBQ

Hey, I’m bored in line for two hours, I’ll take photos of wood piles and stuff, like it’s some noble journalistic endeavor!

LA BBQ

Imagine a world where photographing people picking up trays of food is interesting.

LA BBQ

We finally got our stuff, and they were out of the hot guts sausage, which I’m told is the best in town. I was really fired up to try the sausage, so I was a little bummed out that they were out of a few things. The turkey was pretty good but it was still turkey. The brisket was superb. Sides, which are an afterthought out in the countryside (as in, beans probably come from a can, unadorned in any way), were the best of the trip. Not that I needed any additional sustenance at this point – by Louie Mueller I was considering the design for a portable bbq tasting spit bucket (maybe make it look like a little smoker?)

LA BBQ

La’s smokers.

LA BBQ

Another neato photo of meat.

LA BBQ

We went back to the hotel, I may have thrown up, then we felt a bit famished so we went and had beers and snacks at Easy Tiger.

Doughpuncher

We again walked to a bar for dinner, this time ordering from the truck out front – Via 313. I didn’t know anything about them, but it turns out it’s Detroit style pizza. Also turns out, it’s amazeballs bar food craving pizza. Crispy, greasy, nice ingredients.

Detroit Pizza

The next morning was breakfast tacos before we shoved off for Dallas. Sigh. One day, Atlanta, great breakfast tacos will be a reality.

Breakfast Taco

We stopped in Central for Kolaches, the Czech pastries I had not tasted since I was a toddler living in Dallas.

West Texas Kolaches

These are kolaches. They have stuff in them. Fruit, hot dogs, basically anything.

West Texas Kolaches

The final stop was Pecan Lodge, one of the few highly regarded Dallas barbecue restaurants open on Sunday’s. The line was long and we really only had time for one stop before our flight anyways.

Pecan Lodge

We were informed that if would order five pounds of meat, we could skip the line. It’s something like $80 and it includes sides and bread. It’s worth it, and guarantees you get things on short supply, like the short rib. Don’t be the guy who didn’t get the five pound platter who said to me at the bar, “If I don’t get a short rib, I’m going to lose my fucking shit.”

Pecan Lodge

I ordered the five pound trough, and noticed a gentleman next to me also waiting for his platter. This was about four minutes before the entire restaurant realized Alton Brown was there, and started approaching him for photographs. I wanted to tell him I was a fan, but decided not to bug him. Instead I just took creepy sneak photos of him. On second thought, maybe I should have just said hello. Or I could have said “hey, don’t you follow me on Twitter?”, which for some reason he does, and is sort of a thrill for the food nerd in me.

Pecan Lodge

Here’s the platter.

Pecan Lodge

I’ll rank it as such:

  • Short rib (badass)
  • Pulled pork (very, very good)
  • Ribs (pretty good)
  • Brisket (very disappointing)

Pecan Lodge

I must point out, I admittedly forgot to specify lean or fatty and presumed we’d get a mix. This was all lean as could be, and quite dry. Difficult to eat by this point, considering our shared digestion issues. We maybe ate half the platter, because we were dying, and because I’d rather pay more and waste food than wait in line. If I’m being honest. I am sorry I wasted food. It’s sort of weird to ask people sitting next to you if they want the leftovers from something called a “trough” that three heavy breathing dudes were just face down in a few minutes prior.

Pecan Lodge

All in all, a fantastic trip. Well worth the adventure for any barbecue or gluttony fans. What I saw of Austin I really enjoyed. Can’t wait to go back in a few weeks. If you are into this sort of thing, maybe I’ll post photos from Snow’s and Franklin. This time I could use Twitter’s periscope to first person live video blog eating a Snow’s rib or Franklin brisket. What a time to be alive, eh?

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Pizza & Tacos & Stuff [Le Fat, Tasty China, Lusca, Villa Real, more]

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Nuevo Laredo – Tortas and Stuff

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Nuevo Laredo is right by my house, but I don’t go often as it gets crowded and parking can be difficult, and waiting around the parking lot with a one year old isn’t much fun. There are plenty of Nuevo detractors (they still rock the No Meredith Ford sign in the window) but it scratches an itch. And […]

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