The Texas BBQ Posse returns to Snow's BBQ in Lexington. (L-R) Mark Vamos, Jim Rossman, Bruce Tomaso, Chris Wilkins, Michael Ainsworth, Gary Jacobson, Daniel Goncalves & Tom Fox. (Photo ©Tom Fox)

We weren't on the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston. And it wasn't snowing. Still, James Taylor would have liked the scene.

In the early morning sun, a white frosting covered the fields along the highway from Austin to Lexington, Texas. Ice crystals glistened, almost as if they made their own light.

It was a nice way to begin a barbecue tour, especially since we were headed to Snow's BBQ, open only Saturdays, where brisket for breakfast remains one of the Posse's favorite meals since we first visited the place in 2009.

I recently moved to Austin so Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins and I were driving from there, an hour or so west of Snow's. Others were making the road trip from Dallas, about 180 miles north. A few more Posse members would join us at later stops.

Legendary Snow's BBQ pitmaster Tootsie Tomantez works the pits during our visit. (Photo ©Tom Fox)

Over two days, the Posse ate at seven places, most ranked among the top handful of barbecue joints in the state, including Franklin Barbecue and La Barbecue in Austin.

Other stops, all in Austin, were John Mueller Meat Co., Freedmen's Bar, Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ, and Micklethwait Craft Meats.

We also planned to visit Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew, but were so stuffed from earlier eating that we had to wave the white flag of smoked meat and surrender until another time.

"Not a bad bite was taken, though some of us, like me, took too many bites," Posse member Michael Meadows said of the tour.

Taste highlights were the brisket at Franklin, the brisket and egg tacos at Valentina's, the pit chili at Freedmen's and just about everything on the menu at La Barbecue, a food trailer that also offers free beer and live music.

The massive beef rib at La Barbecue was a hit with the Posse. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins)

"My absolute favorite was the beef rib at La Barbecue," said Scott Montgomery, Meadows' brother-in-law, making his first tour with the Posse.

Wilkins ordered the giant rib -- at $22 a pound it cost $47 -- and shared it with everyone. My 21-month-old grand daughter, Ella Gagne, loved it, too.

Ella also dined on the spicy pinto beans at Franklin the next day. That was a love-hate relationship. She'd eat a few beans, cry and clamor for water to ease the heat, then take another bite and repeat the process. It's early in her barbecue-eating career, but she appears to have the makings of a first-rate Posse member. She is a little crystal that does generate her own light.

Her four-month-old brother, Jake, also made a couple stops with us. He smiled a lot so he fit right in with the group, but he didn't eat any barbecue. Maybe next time.

The longest lines we encountered were at La Barbecue and Franklin. Steve Hecht, a reader of this blog from California, saved us a lot of time at La Barbecue. He was making a tour of Texas joints, based in part on some of our posts. He was near the front of the line and discovered we were near the end so came back to talk.

Hecht then let us piggyback on his order, saving us at least an hour and a half of waiting. Thank you, Steve.

Man's best friend joins in the line at Franklin Barbecue on a chilly Saturday morning. (Photo ©Tom Fox)

Sunday morning, while the main Posse party went to Valentina's for breakfast, I got in line at Franklin at 7:35. The place opens at 11 a.m.

It was 36 degrees and there were already 20 people and one dog ahead of me. The first person in line told me that he arrived at 5:30. We all wore parkas or several layers of warm clothing and head coverings. Some wore gloves.

The wait, even in the cold, is a social experience and the time goes fast. People bring chairs and drinks and play cards or other games. The guy behind me had been a U.S. Army tank commander in Europe who was soon deploying to Korea. I got a quick lesson in depleted uranium tank-buster shells.

My daughter, Libby Gagne, mother of Ella and Jake, joined me about 90 minutes or so into the wait. She lives a short distance from Franklin and brought hot coffee and pastries. The Posse contingent from Valentina's arrived soon after that bringing extra tacos.

Brisket breakfast tacos at Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ. (Photo ©Tom Fox)

"That's the best breakfast taco I've ever eaten," Wilkins said, handing me the warm bag. Libby and I sampled one. Chris might be right.

After the doors opened and we moved inside, our attention was drawn to a photograph of Aaron and Stacy Franklin and crew at their original trailer, first set up in 2009 near I-35 and 34th Street.

The menu listed the price of brisket then at $13 a pound. Now, it's $20, more than a 50 percent increase. Seems like a lot, but Austin home prices have also shot up over the same span. Shelter and barbecue, after all, are two necessities of life.

Stuffed, we headed to our last stop, Micklethwait, a short drive away. It's a trailer operation in a nice park-like spot. Some of the Posse had headed back to Dallas after Franklin.

The few of us left ordered a three-meat platter with a couple of sides. We barely picked at the food but it was all good. I found myself thinking that this would be a great weekday lunch spot for anyone living in Austin, then quickly remembered, that's me!

I'll be back.

Return to Austin BBQ Tour

Saturday Jan 23

6:30am: Leave Dallas, meet at Snow’s around 9am  (178 miles to Lexington)

9am: Snow’s BBQ, 516 Main St, Lexington, 979-773-4640. Open Sat. 8am–12pm or until the meat runs out.  (66 miles to Austin)   (Texas Monthly Top 50)

noon: La Barbecue, 1906 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, 512-605-9696. Open Wed & Sun 11am-6pm or until sold out, Thurs-Sat 11am-9pm or until sold out.   (Texas Monthly Top 50)

3pm: John Mueller Meat Co., 2500 E. 6th Street, Austin, Open Thurs-Tues (closed Wed) 10:30am-6pm or until sold out.  (Texas Monthly Top 50)

7pm: Freedmen’s Bar, 2402 San Gabriel St., Austin, 512-220-0953. Open Tues-Wed & Sun 11am-10pm, Thurs-Sat 11am-midnight.

Overnight in Austin

Sunday Jan 24

8:30am: Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ, 7612 Brodie Ln, Austin, 512-221-4248. Open 7 days a week 8am-10pm.  (trailer/breakfast tacos)

11am: Franklin Barbecue, 900 E 11th St, 512-653-1187. Open Tues-Sun 11am-until the meat runs out.     (Texas Monthly Top 50)

1pm: Micklethwait Craft Meats,  1309 Rosewood Ave, Austin, 512-791-5961.  Open Tues-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 11am-3pm.

2:30pm: Head back to Dallas (195 miles)

Out late Saturday lunch at John Mueller Meat Co. was stellar.   (Photo ©Tom Fox)
The wait at La BBQ was over two hours from the back of the line. (Photo ©Tom Fox)
Ribs are pulled off the pit at Snow's BBQ in Lexington. (Photo ©Tom Fox)
The Texas Capitol dome hovers in the background across I-35 from Franklin Barbecue. (Photo ©Tom Fox)
The brisket, ribs and sausage at Franklin Barbecue were among the best of the weekend. (Photo ©Tom Fox)
A photo of Aaron & Stacy Franklin from their original BBQ trailer hangs on the wall at Franklin Barbecue. (Photo ©Tom Fox)
Posse member Jim Rossman enjoys breakfast at Snow's BBQ. (Photo ©Tom Fox)

Austin Top 5 plus Snow's

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Texas BBQ Posse eBook Let the Meat Speak for Itself

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