As settings go, Whitfield’s, the new barbecue trailer in southern Austin, might be in the most un-photogenic place we’ve encountered during a decade on the barbecue trail.
“If it’s not first, it’s close,” Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said during our recent visit.
Located near the intersection of Brodie Lane and Davis Lane, the trailer and pits sit on a large gravel parking lot. No trees. Nearby, portable awnings cover a few picnic tables, also on gravel. When the wind blows — and it did — dust swirls in the air.
We arrived at about 4:15 p.m. on a Thursday, just after the place opened. It was hot, 98 degrees. A few people were in line and a cameraman from a local TV station was shooting video.
The joint, open just a couple weeks, has attracted attention because of the partners involved: Austin chef Josh Watkins, who has worked at The Carillon and the Driskill Hotel; Scott Fogel, who has worked at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ and Stiles Switch; and Kasey Studdard, an offensive lineman on UT’s 2005 national championship team who went on to play for the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Studdard, with a big, bushy beard and a big smile, took customer orders.
Is your place better than Cedric’s, I asked Studdard, referring to Cedric Griffin, a teammate of Studdard’s on UT’s championship squad and a partner in J. Leonardi’s barbecue trailer in Austin.
“Yep,” Studdard said. “We’re selling out everyday.”
Gotta love that winning attitude. But Wilkins and I ate at J. Leonardi’s the following day. And while Whitfield’s has some excellent offerings, we don’t think it’s traditional barbecue is yet on a par with J. Leonardi’s.
Along with the Texas barbecue staples brisket, sausage, and ribs, Whitfield’s offers many other items including specials like smoked shrimp ceviche, and sides like fried potatoes with tallow and strawberry vinegar. There are also many pickled dishes including beets, strawberries, blackberries and peaches.
We ordered brisket, ribs, jalapeño cheddar and beef sausage, half a chicken with white sauce on the side, the potatoes and beets.
The brisket and jalapeño cheddar sausage were very good. The potatoes and beets were excellent. Wilkins and I disagreed on the ribs, which were cooked fine, although I thought they could have used a stronger rub and more flavor.
“It’s subtle, but good,” Wilkins said of the taste. “I can use a little subtle.”
The chicken had a nice flavor, with and without the white sauce. But as we dug deeper, it became apparent that it wasn’t fully cooked. Nearer the bone, there were splotches of red.
I took it back and Fogle gave me another half. It, too, was undercooked. With dark and light meat, chicken is tough to get right, especially in volume.
We stayed until about 5:45 p.m., talking with Jason Salas, a blogger with Austin Texas Food. There was never a long line at the order window, just a steady stream of customers the whole time. Most people ordered to take home.
“No cooking tonight?” I said to one woman with two kids walking to a car with their order.
“No,” she said, smiling.
In that regard, Whitfield’s is taking advantage of a good market opportunity among people who may be tired of cooking at the end of the week. The joint opens at 4 p.m. on Thursdays and stays open until 7 p.m. on Fridays, perfect for take home dinner.
The place opens at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Bottom line for the Posse: Whitfield’s has lots of potential, but is still a work in progress. We need to make a return visit after the place has been open a while.
Whitfield’s, 9001 Brodie Lane, Austin. Open Thurs 4pm-8pm, Fri 11am-7pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4pm.