I suffered tremendously recently at the annual South by Southwest Music Conference in my former stomping grounds of Austin, Tx. Four days of drinking top-shelf margaritas in the sunshine, riding a sweet cruiser, wining and dining gratis and catching up with old friends under 70 degree sunny skies left me hungry for some ‘real food’ as my pa would say. I’m telling you it was rough… However, it the midst of this shameless hedonism, I vowed to share with my readers at least one culinary facet of this amazing town (other than the fact that Norcal Mexican food loses to Tex Mex hands-down!)
Anyway back to the topic at hand….I don’t think many Austin residents will argue that Sam’s is the best there is to be had. Salt Lick, Country Line, Artz Rib House, John Muellers, and Iron Works usually win that order. But, no one will argue that Sam’s no-frills ‘flava’ is unparallelled. I think Sam’s biggest claim to fame is it’s celebrity clientelle. The predominately black and quickly gentrifying East Austin neighborhood is more than a lil seedy. Of course, if you share my penchant for edginess you couldn’t be more pleased. Stevie Ray Vaughn was known to make appearances several times a week late night during his heyday. They are open late-night which further adds to the ‘dirty south’ charm (2am weeknights 3am weekends). After the clubs close, the place gets packed with hungry, hammered live music lovers. When I called to line up an interview, Wanda answered the phone and was warm, kind and more than enthusiastic to answer some questions. And they have free wifi, who’d a guessed?
As we rolled into the debris-littered parking lot, our mouths began to water at the succulent and distinctive smell of BBQ sauce and roasted beast. Making our way up the dilapadated front steps of the porch we push forth a rickety barely patched together screen door. Once inside we placed our order at the counter and settled into a creaky red painted booth. Between catching up and trying to distract one another from our hunger, my guest and I marveled at the huge number of celeb photos. My goodness, it seemed EVERYONE had been there. Beyonce, Bobby Brown, autographed photographs thumb tacked to the wall which miraculously survived a fire in 1992 (which the community raised money to rebuild) leaving them just a little smoky, like the bbq itself….
The selections range from pit-roasted pork ribs, house-made hot links, fully-marbled beef brisket, mutton, chicken, sandwiches or combo platters offering up meat by the pound with a gloriously thick southern style, smokey-sweet BBQ sauce, crinkle cut dills and fresh onions and the usual side selections of tater salad, beans and slaw. Viva la carne!