Just seven days removed from trying a brand new BBQ trailer, I knew it was time to visit an old name in Texas barbecue. John Mueller (pronounced Miller) of the Mueller dynasty is remaking his name after a decade of being out of the barbecue scene. A lot has changed since he closed the doors of his popular Austin spot in 2001, namely the meteoric rise of his former pitmaster Aaron Franklin. He’s been back in full force since October 2011 with a trailer in South Austin turning out all kinds of smoky goodness and looking to reclaim his spot at the top of the BBQ food chain.
We stepped up to the trailer on Sunday just after noon with no line, and no line means happy customers. Our friend Derrick, Ev, and I basically said “give us some of everything” and the team made us a sampler tray for three: turkey, pork ribs, beef sausage, and of course brisket. Unfortunately they were out of the beef short ribs, which have garnered a bit of a following by those in the know. We also got a side of the baked squash and given some white bread and BBQ sauce to round things out. I love that they broke out a fresh rack of ribs and cut some choice pieces for us to enjoy.
We took our seats at a picnic table and got ready to dig in. The food has been touted as tops in the city right up there with Franklin, so we were all expecting big things. Starting with the turkey, I thought it was good, but nothing really special. It had a spicy pepper rub on the outside that overpowered any smoky flavor it would have picked up while cooking. I moved onto the beef sausage, all made in-house instead of importing from some of the big sausage houses in Elgin or Taylor. Like the turkey it had a heavy dose of spicy pepper. The meat is coarsely ground and really tender inside the snappy casing. I thought the texture was spot on but it was just a touch heavy on pepper. The rest of the group were less impressed.
I moved onto the brisket, because this is Texas and the only thing that matters is brisket. I happened to like this brisket despite even the moist pieces being a touch dry. It was salty just how it should be, but lacked a little juiciness. Ev & Derrick were less enthused about it, so I found myself defending its good rub, thick smoke ring, and tasty fatty pieces just under the bark.
Of everything we ordered, the standout was the pork ribs. Maybe it was because they were pulled fresh from the smoker and sliced right in front of us, or maybe we were just in a porky mood, but they were delicious. The glaze created an almost candy-coating that I found myself picking at even after I threw in the towel. It may be hard to tell from
the picture, but the ribs were enormous, especially when you see them laying next to a slice of Wonder Bread.
p>A lot of hype surrounds JMueller Barbecue, some warranted and some not. I went in with high expectations and unfortunately overall they weren’t met. I was surprised by the pork ribs, enjoyed the sausage, and liked the brisket enough, but nothing blew me away. I’d certainly be up for a return visit, as it was still above the average in terms of barbecue, probably ranking in 3rd (behind Franklin and Woodpile if you must know). And when I do I’ll be sure to try those beef short ribs, skip the turkey, and get some more brisket to see if it can prove this day as an “off” day. Regardless, I’m happy to have another barbecue spot in Austin to keep pushing the envelope and make everyone better.