Micklethwait Craft Meats, the excellent barbecue joint near downtown Austin, had a new look when we stopped there for lunch this week.
“Gussied up” was the term that immediately came to mind, though it might be a tad high brow for a trailer operation. But it sure looked nice.
The space leading to and under the service windows is now covered with pea gravel and several large concrete pavers, and a new planter near the main seating was ready for some greenery.
Before, that area was mainly dirt and a little grass.
Bobby Lovelett, who runs the place with owner Tom Micklethwait, said the upgrades were made in just the past week or so. “We’re always looking for improvements,” he said.
Another improvement since we last visited about a year or so ago, were canopies over the two seating areas. Those were especially nice when it started to mist right after we got our order. We could sit outside, out of the rain, instead of heading to our car.
“For a trailer operation, there’s a growing sense of permanence,” Sherry Jacobson said. “Clearly, they want to give customers some creature comforts.”
What hasn’t changed at Micklethwait Craft Meats is the food. It’s still outstanding.
We ordered the three-meat plate with fatty brisket, a big pork rib, and knockwurst sausage. We also got a half-pound of the oak smoked chicken salad, a relatively new item for the barbecue operation. Lovelett and Micklethwait served it at their deli trailer, which closed last year.
Sherry started on the brisket while I tried the chicken salad.
A couple minutes later I asked: “What does it mean that I’m still eating the chicken salad and that plate of barbecue is still sitting there?”
“It means it’s good,” Sherry said.
Made with toasted almonds, pickled grapes and arugula, it was very good. Though, it could have had a more smokey flavor.
“The brisket is fantastic,” Sherry said, holding a piece up with a fork. “This is the star of the plate.”
The brisket was just as good as the brisket available a few blocks away away at famous Franklin Barbecue. And it cost $18 a pound, rather than the $22 a pound we paid at Franklin a few weeks ago.
“Why would you wait in line at Franklin when you can get this so close?” Sherry wondered. That may be one of the great, unanswered — maybe unanswerable — questions of the Austin food scene.
In the hour before noon on the Wednesday we visited, there was a steady stream of customers at Micklethwait, but no line backup of more than a few minutes before anyone could order.
While the sausage was just o.k., the rib was very good, excellent even. But as tastings go, it came at a huge disadvantage. The last ribs Sherry and I had eaten were at Smokey D's BBQ in Des Moines, Iowa. Micklethwait’s weren't in the same league, but nothing that we’ve ever tasted in Texas, or anywhere else, has been. I know that sounds like sacrilege. But it’s true. Soon, we’ll publish that story about our experience at Smokey D’s.
With the chicken salad completely gone, we headed home. On the way, we drove past Franklin. It was 12:15 and not a monster line by Franklin standards, but it was still out the door and around the length of the building. The people at the end would be eating a very late lunch.
Micklethwait Craft Meats, 1309 Rosewood Ave., Austin, (512) 791-5961. Open Tues-Sun 11am until the food is gone.