If memory serves, and sometimes it doesn’t in my advancing years, no one on the Texas BBQ Posse has ever gone shopping for party clothes, cowboy boots and hats before one of our smoked meat tours.
That’s exactly what Kelsey Pribilski and Jess Pryles do in the middle of the premier episode — about Austin — of BBQuest, a new digital video series from Beef Loving Texans, a consumer brand of the Texas Beef Council.
No matter. The main focus for Pribilski and Pryles remains the food. And they get excellent marks from me and Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins for finding good — and different — barbecue in ATX.
“I really enjoyed the first episode,” Wilkins said. “The production values are high for a Web-only series and the storytelling is simple and to the point. This episode is every bit as good as several BBQ-related shows I've seen on TV. I'm looking forward to episode two.”
The joints featured in the premier episode of BBQuest, which runs a bit over 20 minutes, are LeRoy & Lewis, Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ, and Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. The shopping, at Allens Boots on South Congress, occurs before a visit to Cooper’s, where Beef Loving Texans hosted a “secret” taping party last March.
For a party like that, Wilkins and I probably would have gotten new duds, too.
For me, a strength of the show is the quest for unusual barbecue fare. The show wants to find, and sample, “under the radar” items, on the menu and off. At LeRoy & Lewis, that included a barbecue bagel with brisket schmear and brisket chocolate chip cookies.
“We just try to mix it up,” co-owner Evan LeRoy tells Pribilski and Pryles. Pribilski is an actress and barbecue fan. Pryles, the local host for the Austin segment, is an author, cook, and creator of the Hardcore Carnivore brand.
Future BBQuest shows will feature the barbecue of Houston (Sept. 13) with local host Chris Shepherd, San Antonio (Sept. 20) with local host Johnny Hernandez, and Dallas (Sept. 27) with local host John Tesar.
At Valentina’s, Pribilski and Pryles sampled several items including brisket tacos and Gauchos Nachos. The nachos are not on the menu, “but if you ask for it, they make it,” Modesty Vidal tells Pribilski and Pryles. Modesty, her husband, Miguel, and his brother, Elias, own and operate Valentina’s.
At Cooper’s, owner Terry Wootan served Pribilski and Pryles a sampling of brisket, beef ribs, sirloin, and prime rib on butcher paper. “You gotta put you’re fine china down. Don’t break it,” Wootan says.
For the secret menu item at Cooper’s they go to the bar where Wade Soape, the bartender, serves them a Bloody Mary made, in part, with barbecue sauce. It’s called the Pitmaster.
“It makes so much sense that I never would have thought to put barbecue sauce in a Bloody Mary,” Pribilski says.
Why is it called the Pitmaster, she asks. “Because the pitmaster is the first person here and the last one to leave,” Soape says.
A few years ago, the Posse had a brush with video fame. A Dallas production company approached us with the idea for a possible BBQ reality TV show. We made a mini-pilot. It went nowhere.
That experience, though, gives us a good perspective to view BBQuest. We think it’s very good.
“Obviously, the hosts are engaging and work well together, that helps keep you interested in what you're watching,” Wilkins said. “I also like that they didn't choose the usual suspects. The three joints they chose show the incredible diversity of the Austin barbecue scene.”