John Brotherton finally quit his day job. That’s something he couldn’t do in 2012, when he opened the Hall of Flame barbecue food truck in Pflugerville. Even when that business morphed into a partnership that became Curly’s Carolina, Texas Barbecue in downtown Round Rock, Brotherton was still working for the man. The joint closed in 2014, and he thought his barbecue dreams might be crushed for good. Then last year, along came a borrowed pit and a pop-up with lines so long an Austin news truck came up to Pflugerville for a segment last year, and Brotherton was back on track.
Brotherton continued to capitalize on his success. The first day Black Iron Eats opened its doors in Pflugerville, he met owner Kelly Gerry. They made a deal. Brotherton would supply smoked meats to the business, and Gerry would use them in his sandwiches. Their first collaboration resulted in the brisket French Dip (sadly not available when I visited). “Sales were just crazy,” Brotherton said. But he was just a smoked brisket vendor, and Black Iron Eats wasn’t much more than a to-go counter. Gerry and Brotherton both wanted more, so they became business partners.
After an expansion—there’s a dining room now—and a barbecue-centric menu overhaul, Black Iron Eats became Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue. The small storefront in a strip center in Pflugerville is still mainly a sandwich shop, but these aren’t your run-of-the-mill barbecue sandwiches. Smoked turkey breast piled high on a fresh roll was dressed with pesto instead of barbecue sauce. The burgers aren’t grilled, they’re smoked. The thin, well-done patties are just juicy enough, and the bacon and melted cheese don’t hurt.
The kitchen puts out its own cured pastrami as well. It was sliced thick and piled high in a messy Texas Reuben sandwich. The sandwich might be better served with less dressing and a shorter stack of the salty meat, but it’s a good deal at $9 considering its heft. I preferred the smoked brisket banh mi, one of the best barbecue sandwiches I’ve tasted recently. It’s built on a bread from the Baguette House in Austin, which provides a great foundation. Don’t be scared by the unlikely combination of the house made kimchi and smoked brisket. It gives good ol’ pickles and onions a run for their money.
There’s plenty to choose from, and I didn’t get close to trying the whole menu. Of thirty unique sandwiches in rotation, they choose seven for the weekly menu. You can also get a limited variety of smoked meats by the pound. I snagged some sliced brisket when I was in, and would be happy to eat it all by itself. As Brotherton says, “I don’t want people thinking I’m making these sandwiches to cover up some overcooked meat.” He makes good use of post oak in the Bewley pit he borrowed from Houston pitmaster Russell Roegels. A new smoker is on the way, as are more changes. Within a couple weeks there will be a full barbecue menu every day along with dinner service. We’ll be back for a full review. In the meantime, get the Pflugerville for some of the most creative barbecue sandwiches in Texas.
Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue
15608 Spring Hill Ln #105
Pflugerville, TX 78660