Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bill Miller BBQ

Put that in your pit and smoke it.


OK, here's the thing.1

BBQ is like music. If you go to the rock section of a music store, you will find everything from The Beatles to Black Sabbath. How can one category accommodate Sonny and Cher, David Bowie, Tom Waits, U2, Chicago and Barry Manilow? And don't even get me started on jazz. There's Dixieland, Big Band, bebop, cool, acid, smooth . . . When you can have Kenny G and John Coltrane in the same section you realize that the category has become meaningless.

And so it is with BBQ. As a native Texan, I knew that other states made spurious claims to create things they called BBQ. (Provide some examples here.) But when I moved to Honolulu I discovered things had really gotten out of hand. You say BBQ there and you might get Korean BBQ (kalbi and bulgoghi) or Mongolian BBQ (stir-fry everything in sight).

So, when I returned to Texas, it was time to find some real BBQ. But there was lots to do on the house and little time for cooking or roving the terrain for eateries. One afternoon I was deeply involved in watching Andrew replace the bathroom faucets when The Woman returned with some BBQ. I told Andrew to come on down when he was through and went to investigate.

Before we go further, it must be noted that the debate on what constitutes good BBQ is just as subjective and sometimes acrimonious as similar debates over music. I've seen blog posts dissing the quality of Bill Miller's BBQ and others praising it. This kind of thing won't end until Pat Metheny kisses and makes up with Kenny G. All one can do is eat it and speak the truth as one finds it. Your mileage may vary.

For me, good BBQ isn’t just about the meat. Of course the meat has to be good. I should be so good that you can eat it without smothering it in sauce. Tender, not dry, and full of that wonderful smokey flavor that is a Texan’s birthright. And Bill Miller has been doing that right for over half a century. They use hill-country mesquite wood to cook all their meat. It soaks right through so the chicken is great even without the skin.

But good meat is table stakes for good BBQ. To go from good to great, it’s all about the beans. This is where many places fall down. They make a good start with the meat, but they neglect the beans. Make this your motto in life and you will find success: Never neglect the beans. And this is where Miller gets it right in spades, not overcooked and swimming in a nice gravy.

Of course they have everything else, including some great sweet tea. I still haven't actually seen the place, but maybe one day I'll get down there and eat the stuff in its natural habitat.


1. ® Chris Reneau.


shanna said...

Of course the sell "sweat" tea in Austin. But the stuff they bottle at the end of summer tastes a little over-ripe.

As a native of Kansas City, I must heartily endorse the Jack Stack beans. I'm a "just gimme the ribs" kind of gal, and even I'll slow down to eat a bowl.

kelly said...

surely you've had something to eat since the 17th...

Brad Whittington said...

Sure I have. But it's not Sunday, yet!

kelly said...

. . . it wasn't the first time she had been oblivious . . .