UK BBQ Mag Autumn 2017 - Page 49

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A 6am alarm on a Saturday is never a good start to a weekend. Or is it? A lot of people would think you were nuts setting a phone alarm that early for any reason let alone to drive out into the countryside and to eat BBQ food, but then there are also lots of people who know why Snow's BBQ in sleepy Lexington in the state of Texas is worth the wake up call.

As part of an amazing roadtrip I was extremely fortunate to take in 2016, the BBQ Gods shone down on us meaning our stay in Austin spanned over a Saturday which also meant a trip to Snow's was a possibility. Saturday, Saturday. Why does it keep getting mentioned? Well Snow's isn’t like most other BBQ joints out there in many ways, but the standout one is this. They open one day a week only and I bet you can already guess what day it is? That’s right, Saturdays. A visit any other day of the week will end in disappointment and no BBQ. And why so early, why the 6am alarm? Well Snow’s opens at 8am, and they have a line of people that starts to form well before that.

So the alarm went and with tired eyes we prepared ourselves for the drive out from Austin centre to Lexington which is about 50 miles east; the fortunate part of this all being that when you head out of Austin at 6.30am there isn’t much traffic at all; long stretches of road where you can see for miles and barely another car in sight. So an hour later having spotted live briskets roaming the fields along the route, and at one point even seeing a wild boar that seemed as big as a small car we pull up along Main Street where Snow's resides. You can see immediately from the surrounding area that Lexington really is a quiet town. And I mean quiet. The population is only roughly 1200 people, like a small village in the UK. When we arrive we see a small red wood panelled building that has faded in the harsh Texas sunshine with a tall sign outside letting you know that this was indeed 'Snow's BBQ. Every Saturday’. Big sheets of rusty corrugated metal lined the ramp up the front door that has been pictured by many a BBQ fan.

It seems we are in luck as only 20 or so people are stood in line and we knew at this point that getting up so early was a good idea. We pulled up onto the grass area to the right of the building to park up to join the line and we greeted by the sight everyone wants to see at a BBQ joint. The smoker. Or smokers we would later see. A huge great offset tank style smoker with counterweights on the lid and seven separate temperature dials at different levels of this black and rusty beast. Broken breeze blocks lay next to smoker and dirty grease buckets underneath catch every drip of fat that frees itself from this smokey chamber. You get the impression that health and safety in England would never allow this BBQ magic to happen. Which makes you kind of sad and makes this visit all the more special.

Stepping out of the car the very first thing you notice is the smoke. The thin wisps of wood smoke leaving each stack are almost invisible on their own, but the orchestra of wisps from not one, two but three massive offset smokers plus the two brick pits and the grates tucked into the corner turning logs into glowing hot embers mean you cannot avoid the smell as the smoke leaves the edges of the tin roof into the damp morning air.

The line for our visit consisted of people from all walks of life. Us being BBQ fans who have traveled all the way from the UK for moments like this, to locals who are there to get their feast take back to family and friends. Old and young people stand side by side for the same reason. Smoked BBQ meats. And as the 8am opening time approaches you feel the atmosphere change as people ready themselves for the crucial moment of choosing exactly what you want to order.

The door opens and the first people in line shuffle their way into the building and moments later sit down at the benches next to the pitts with their trays of chosen meats and sides and soon enough it’s us stood at the door. Once inside there is a small counter run by 3 or 4 ladies who have the art of the quick serve down to a fine art. There is almost no time for hesitation here and the buzz of the electric knives cutting through the meats is enough to put anyone but a seasoned local off their ordering stride. But we knew what had to be done.

“Please may we have some brisket, ribs, sausage, turkey and pork should steak. Please. Thanks. Please”

All of the meat at Snows is sold by the pound and so not knowing if they sell in quarters or halves is always the obvious newbie question. But having already hit some Texas BBQ spots on this trip when asked how much of each I knew half pound of each would be plenty.

The tray landed in front of us and the excitement stirred once again as we left the shack to the outside benches to find a seat. We asked a couple who were already sat at a bench for 4 if we were ok to join them. 15 minutes later with tales of BBQ and dogs we were now friends with Joe and Jenn. Their dogs have the best names all names after household applicances (Friddge, Toaster and Chipper). True story.

Out of the corner of your eye you can’t help but watch the hive of activity going on in and around the smokers and outside kitchen area. This whirlwind of activity has a name and one that’s well know now amongst the BBQ family. Tootsie Tomanetz or Miss Tootsie as she is better known. Now her story is a tale in itself and I urge anyone to look up some articles on this lady as she is as real powerhouse of BBQ. And if you didn’t know… She is 82. She still works harder than pretty much anyone I know including myself and she is 82 years of age. In the whole 2-3 hours we were at the restaurant I saw her take a seat for all of 30 seconds before she was up again and doing something else. Whether that something else be collecting hot coals from underneath the grates, basting the chicken in the pitts, stirring the new batch of sauce with a boat paddle or slicing a brisket for a take away order. She does it all and she does it all the of the time. A legend in the true sense of the word.

By her side the owner of Snows Kerry Bexley also runs around doing what needs to be done to keep the BBQ wheels turning.

So back to the food. It’s good. Very good. And don’t just take my word for it as my opinion accounts for very little. But what backs up my statement is that Texas Monthly (the publication that reports on Texas life and has done since 1973) also run a Top 50 BBQ joints in Texas and in their 5th publication of the list that appears every 4 years or so Snows BBQ just placed Number 1. Who did they knock off that spot from the last list? Franklin BBQ. So now you know.

The food here is simple. Good quality meat over smoke and fire. The rubs used are the basic Texas staple of salt and pepper. They meat is mopped whilst it smokes away. That’s it. There is BBQ sauce at the table should you care to use it but beware of the eyes that are looking at you. Unlike the state itself and most things in it, sauce isn’t that big in Texas. People prefer to let the meat do the talking and talk it does. Everything we had on our plate was cooked perfectly. No chewy ribs of tough brisket here. Each mouthful of all of the meats made the trip worthwhile. The smoke was well balanced, the seasoning didn’t overpower any of the meats and the textures were all as you would imagine it would be if you could cook an A* BBQ meal.

After finishing up and talking to our table friends some more we could feel the stares of people wanting to sit and enjoy their meals, and so not wanting to make people wait we said goodbye to Joe and Jenn and headed over to the pitts. This is the kind of place you could sit and watch people work in for hours and never get bored. The huge steel lids sat on top of the brick built pits that hold the BBQ delights we had just eaten just scream ‘real BBQ’. We were lucky enough to a few brief moments to talk to both Kerry and Miss Tootsie and even grab a few pictures too. We left our mark there with a sticker as we did at many of the BBQ spots on the tour and slowly walked back to the car. On our way back we notice that a group of the local children had set up a table by the entrance selling cakes to the people in line. A stroke of genius from them as after all the smokey, salty and peppery meats then something sweet is just whats needed. No matter how full you are. So now with cakes in hand we set off to the car and the drive back to Austin.

If you ever find yourself in Austin Texas then I urge you to consider a visit to Snows. Yes there are plenty of fantastic BBQ joints in the city but none that quite have their own Miss Tootsie. And none that are the current Texas Monthly number 1. My advice would be that since achieving the number 1 spot that the lines are now much much longer so get there early.

But my best advice? Go there on a Saturday.

Happy earting.

Open kitchen.

Jon Rolls @R0LLSY

Snow's BBQ - By Artust