Pitmaster Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge in Dallas shows off his brisket at the 2013 Texas Monthly BBQ Festival.

Note: Posse members Libby and Mike Gagne, who live in Austin, attended Sunday’s Texas Monthly BBQ Festival (TMBBQ Fest 2013), which brings together many of the best joints in the state. Libby and Mike were guests of Phil Winters of FoodyDirect, an Internet food site that advertises on this blog. Here is Libby’s report from the event.

We queued up at about 11 a.m. and were admitted to the festival at noon, and enjoyed a “Golden Hour” of reduced lines and access to 21 of the best BBQ places in Texas. During our wait in line, we formulated a strategy to maximize our hour before the doors opened to general admission at 1 p.m. Three places were at the top of our collective lists because at least one of us had not tried them yet: Opie’s BBQ, Pecan Lodge, and La Barbeque Cuisine Texicana.

“It’s like speed dating but with food,” Phil said.

A definite festival find was Opie’s (Spicewood), which delivered on brisket, sausage, and turkey.  It was the only participant rated 4.5 or higher by Texas Monthly that all three of us had not previously tried and it’s good to know it’s practically in Austin’s backyard.  We each got fattier pieces of brisket, which were moist, with good texture and good smoke.  Phil was lucky enough to get an end piece and couldn’t believe how moist it was.

There was some good heat on the jalapeno cheese sausage, although no noticeable snap.  But it definitely delivered on taste and texture, so it was two out of three and was among the top sausages of the day. Turkey is an often overlooked or minimized protein, maybe because when it’s bad, it can be very bad. But I really appreciate when it’s done right.  Opie’s did it right and offered up turkey with a tasty rub that was still moist and had a very good overall texture.

Pecan Lodge (Dallas) was popular from the beginning of the festival, and immediately drew a line of people. Only Franklin Barbecue (Austin) had a more consistently long line, which deterred us, for fear of wasting the precious golden hour on one place that we have been to many times before.  Justin Fourton was slicing the Pecan Lodge brisket for each visitor and offering up smiles as well as some delicious smoked meats.  The sausage had a great snap and spicy flavor.  The smoke was more pronounced on the brisket, which the Posse appreciates, but the meat was not as falling-apart moist as some other places.

We tried to visit Lockhart Smokehouse (Dallas) at this point as well but they were not yet serving food so we moved on down the line.

Pitmaster John Lewis of La Barbecue in Austin cuts brisket.

The brisket from La Barbecue (Austin) put the other briskets that we tasted in perspective.  (Remember, we avoided Franklin because of the long lines.) It set the gold standard for us – perfect texture and fantastic smoke.  Plus, pitmaster John Lewis offered up the best sausage of the day with excellent snap, possibly the most important element to us when it comes to sausage.  It was less spicy than most of the others we tried, but still had a lot of flavor.  It was so good several of us went back for seconds, and even thirds.  We had the opportunity to meet LeAnn Mueller, co-owner of the joint.

According to one yearly festival attendee, Snow’s (Lexington) brisket has not traveled well in the past or lived up to expectation in this setting.  But this year it more than redeemed itself and arguably served one of the top three briskets we had all day.  The sausage had good snap but not a lot of flavor compared to others.

Stanley’s (Tyler) consistently has one of the best ribs and this year was no exception.  Absolutely fantastic.

Overall, the festival had a great layout with the higher-ranked places situated at the end of each segment of tents, and the lines directed away from the middle walkway and seating area.

Oh, we do have another suggestion about how to make the most out of the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest. At one point, we made a crucial custard run across the street to Sandy’s Hamburgers. Although the festival had some good looking pie, that custard really hit the spot. And the walk freed up some space for a few additional barbecue samples when we got back. It was the cherry on top of a very delicious Sunday.

Pitmaster Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin works the serving line.


Left to right, Kerry Bexley & Tootsie Tomanez of Snow’s BBQ with Libby Gagne & Phil Winters


Brisket, turkey & sausage from Opie’s BBQ in Spicewood.


Brisket & jalapeno beef sausage from Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor.


Left to right, Mike Gagne, Libby Gagne and Phil Winters at the 2013 Texas Monthly BBQ Festival.

Leave a comment

Don O.

4 years ago

Hah! I think they were standing right behind us in the VIP line.

Gary Jacobson

4 years ago

Don, what was your strategy for the Golden Hour?

Don O.

4 years ago

Gary, it's on my blog, sorta. The main goal, of course, is to get through as many as you can before the gates open for the masses of general admission patrons. Our first 3 were going to be Snow's, Franklin, and Pecan Lodge. We wanted to compare those 3 side by side. Unfortunately Snow's was not ready to serve when we came upstairs, there was already a significant line for Franklin (it seemed every person in VIP went straight there), so we just went over to Pecan Lodge. By the time we got back over to Snow's, they had a line. After that it was just run around and eat meat. My thinking was don't spend that VIP time standing in line, spend it sampling BBQ.

Don O.

4 years ago

Gary, I just checked my pix and you can actually see Libby and Phil about 10 folks behind us in the line. Check the 4th photo down on my blog, they are behind the guy with the white hat. I knew I had seen them in line!

Gary Jacobson

4 years ago

I see 'em…You had a very similar approach to the golden hour…http://donobbq.blogspot.com/2013/11/2013-texas-monthly-bbq-fest.html

Gary Jacobson

4 years ago

Don, good post. Does fasting the day before really work? Posse member Gary Barber goes exactly the opposite. He eats as much as possible to stretch the stomach…Competing bbq theories, I guess…Your post was better than any DV included in his "news" roundup (http://www.tmbbq.com/bbq-news-11-1-11-7/)…

Russ E

4 years ago

Good to see you guys blogging again. Thanks for the story and pics. Wish I could have made the trip to Austin for this.

Don O.

4 years ago

Gary, thanks for the nice comments. Yes, fasting the day before works well for me. That's something I learned as a KCBS judge and have used at all the big fests, too.

Oh, btw, I hear the pre-order wait for Franklin is now out to 6 weeks!


4 years ago

Don, good post. I liked the crunch but the flavor could have been deemed on the bland side, even with the jalapeño bite. Mix this with Buzzies BBQ sauce though and you have a real winner. I usually don’t judge with BBQ sauce but for Buzzies I will because I liked the sauce so much.

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