State Fare: Hit the Hill Country Barbecue Trail with June Naylor
Some years ago, a few of us journalists were sitting around the Star-Telegram newsroom, talking about barbecue. A handful of colleagues from out of state had the audacity to say they couldn’t understand why we Texans thought so highly of the barbecue here. They kept going on about how their Carolina pulled pork was so wonderful or how their Memphis ribs were the beginning and end of great barbecue.
Appalled that they hadn’t yet been to Central Texas to eat the finest barbecue in existence, I set out to change their minds. With fellow road warrior and friend Bud Kennedy, we came up with a plan to baptize the uninitiated with a barbecue bus tour.
One Saturday, we all went on a march through several of the hallowed halls of barbecue near Austin. We fed those Southerners until they cried, “uncle,” and then we fed ‘em some more. They came away convinced that our smokehouses do indeed dispense barbecue worthy of passionate praise.
And to this day, other friends keep asking when we’re going to do this again. The time, barbecue fans, has come.
Texas Toast Culinary Tours offers the Hill Country Barbecue Bus Tour, based from Austin, April 23-24.
For those of you whose hearts skip a beat at the mere mention of Louie Mueller’s or Kreuz Market, we’ll make your dreams come true. For anyone who was intrigued when Texas Monthly found the state’s best barbecue last year at a little-known place called Snow’s, your chance to check it out is here.
And for the rest of you whose sheltered life has kept you from discovering barbecue beyond pulled pork, we’re ready to improve your lot in life.
Just get yourself to Austin, and Texas Toast Culinary Tours will do the rest. Board the bus with us and we’ll take you along small roads lined with wildflowers to visit a few of the sweetest towns in the Lone Star State. We’ll eat at several legendary barbecue joints, eat some enjoy good, cold beer, good music and wagonloads of fun.
We’ll meet at noon, Friday, April 23 in Austin, pointing the bus toward Shiner, Texas. There will be a BBQ snack on board, then a tour at the Spoetzl Brewery, from whence good brews flow. Afterward, we’ll head on to Gonzales for more good nibbles before heading back to Austin for a barbecue supper (at Ruby’s, which is altogether different from Rudy’s) and plenty of live music options.
You better wake up hungry on Saturday, because we’re heading out for a daylong tour of barbecue joints in Lexington, Taylor and Lockhart, with some opportunities to stretch our legs and see some cool Texas landmarks and drink a cold beer or two in between.
After a return to Austin to freshen up, we’re off again, making our way down to the hamlet called Gruene for a Saturday night of more good eating, followed by live music and longnecks at the oldest dance hall in Texas.
You’ll be on your own on Sunday, but we’ll provide you with a suggested itinerary that includes good brunch ideas in Austin, as well as a Hill Country driving route. We’ll give you info about Luckenbach, where Willie and Waylon had all that fun; and Fredericksburg-Stonewall, with good winery and dining stops.
Trip cost: $195 per person, which includes transportation to our BBQ destinations out of Austin on Friday and Saturday; snacks, dinner and some beer on Friday; lunch, dinner and some beer on Saturday; cover charge at Gruene Hall; gratuities; and tour guides. (If you want to join us Friday only, it’s $125; Saturday only, $135.) Register for the trip now at www.texastoastculinarytours.com .
(Not included in registration prices are transportation to Austin, breakfast, lodging and extra alcohol.)
For lodging, note that Texas Toast Culinary Tours has arranged for you special rates at some Austin hotels, if you desire. You’ll book directly with the hotels. Hurry! Some of these hotel deals expire in the first few days of April! See www.texastoastculinarytours.com for all the offers.
June Naylor is State Fare Editor of EscapeHatchDallas. A Fort Worth-based food writer, cookbook author and restaurant critic, June has been a journalist on the Texas food scene for more than 20 years. Join her on one of her culinary adventures: TexasToastCulinaryTours.com.