Two years ago, we announced the opening of the Black Box Barbecue trailer in Georgetown. It was supposed to lead to a brick-and-mortar restaurant that would become the long-term home for John Mueller’s barbecue. The trailer made our list of the best new barbecue joints in Texas Monthly‘s May issue, but then it closed in September. This weekend, the Dark Prince of Texas Barbecue is back. Mueller will serve his barbecue inside Granger City Brewing in Granger, starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Mueller’s fourth barbecue business in eight years will be referred to simply as “Barbecue by John Mueller.” Rather than serving customers from a counter, the brewery will offer table service with Mueller preparing trays in the kitchen. When I asked about the extent of the menu, Mueller replied, “the whole thing.” That means brisket, sausage, pork ribs, pulled pork, smoked turkey, and his signature peppery beef ribs. He’ll also serve all the sides he offered at Black Box, including the cheesy squash. “I can never get away from that squash,” he said. “There’s no money in it, but everybody loves it.”
I asked Mueller why Black Box closed, and he explained that the trailer operated on a temporary permit that ran out. When they sought a special-use permit to continue, “The neighborhood behind us revolted. We weren’t going to get the city council votes to stay open.” The @BlackBoxBBQ Twitter account remains active, as does the website, and both mention a new venture coming to Granger. A recent tweet even hints at two locations, but Mueller said this new venture has no ties to his former Black Box partnership. “It’ll just be me,” he said. Follow his recently unlocked @JSM_Meat account for more details.
Granger City Brewery will expand its hours to Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mueller will serve during those same hours, at least until he’s sold out for the day. When I expressed surprise about his plans to serve eleven hours a day, he said, “We’re gonna cook a lot of barbecue.”
Mueller will be cooking on a new five hundred gallon smoker, a gift from Primitive Pits owner Jimmy Daniel. According to Mueller, “He said, ‘If you like it, keep it. If you don’t like it, send it back.'” Mueller likes it, saying that it holds heat well even at the 400-degree temperature he prefers for smoking meat.
Mueller got his start working with his father, Bobby, at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor before leaving the family business for good in 2000. With this new location, he’s inching closer to his hometown, which is just eleven miles down Texas Highway 95. He has also traded the abundant traffic of Interstate 35 through Georgetown for a backroad highway, but he’s not worried because of the healthy business the brewery generates. Incidentally, Granger City makes nine craft beers, none of which Mueller himself drinks. “I drink Bud Light, but they sell that there too,” he said.
Barbecue by John Mueller
Granger City Brewing
109 W. Davilla St., Granger
Thur-Sun 11-10 (or sold out)