Some of the best barbecue I’ve eaten recently was from an unassuming food truck parked in a gravel lot next to a Texaco station on the south side of Hutto. Dustin Pustka propped the Pustka Family Barbeque window open here just four months ago after a spell in downtown Hutto. After following chefs from restaurant to restaurant in Austin, and eventually the Woodlands, he tired of fine dining. Now he’s a full-time Pflugerville resident who’s fully in charge of his own menu of four meats and four sides, all executed like a pro.
Patti Pustka, Dustin’s mom, worked the window when I visited. Dustin shuffled cuts of meat wrapped in butcher paper back and forth between the cutting board and the smoker. It was Dustin’s father who taught him how to cook barbecue, but he jokes that Dad “finally admitted that his sons have passed him.” As for making sausage, he is self-taught. The links are mostly pork with a bit of brisket trimmings thrown in. A bite through the link emitted an audible snap, but it took some trial and error to get there. Pustka had to throw out many batches. “It was tough and dry, and you couldn’t bite through it for your life,” he said. The recipe is a basic Polish sausage with the addition of mustard seeds, and it’s spectacular.
There’s nothing bad to be found on the menu, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than what you’ll find thirty minutes away in Austin. I ordered the whole dang menu for just over $40, and the most surprising item was one of the sides. Elotes sound predictable enough, but at Pustka they’re served cold. Think corn salad with a dressing made of mayo, lime juice, and cilantro topped with cotija cheese and chile powder. Whole cobs are charred over a burner, and then taken off the cob, chilled, and mixed into the dressing. Each juicy kernel pops, and the smoky, charred flavor gives it an extra edge. The slaw has some green apple mixed in for zing, the beans are loaded with brisket chunks, and the potato salad is one of the richest I’ve had in recent memory. The mustard-heavy mixture is whipped smooth and mixed with plenty of egg. There’s so much, in fact, that I don’t think anyone would blink if it was used as the “yolk” in a deviled egg.
The rest of the meats are pretty standard. St. Louis-cut pork ribs were tender with a peppery rub and not a hint of sweetness. Lean slices of brisket were a perfect balance of tender and juicy. The fat cap had taken on a good bit of smoke and salt, and the pepper looked heavier than it tasted. Pustka says he prefers a lighter grind of pepper than the course stuff often found on Texas brisket, saying simply, “I don’t care for it.” The fact that he’s smoking only four briskets on the busiest days means not nearly enough people have found this place yet.
Chicken is the most expensive bite to get. It’s $8 for the smallest portion, a half chicken, but it’s a hefty size. The meat was ridiculously juicy with a good dose of smoke. The skin was almost transparent and wrapped the bird tightly like parchment. Every bite through the skin was crisp with just the right amount of pepper. I liked it dipped right into the sauce, a not-too-sweet tomato based version.
After a few bites of brisket, the barbecue, the truck, the name, and the pitmaster reminded me a bit of Guess Family Barbecue in Waco. While talking with Pustka, he noted that he and Reid Guess had worked together at Roaring Fork in Austin. They remain friends and share barbecue tips as well. It’s hard to pick a favorite between the two, and there’s no need to. Texas is lucky to have them both entering an already crowded barbecue scene in Texas and providing great barbecue to an underserved community. Guess Family Barbecue has done that for Waco, and now I have a whole new reason to look forward to future visits to Hutto.
550 FM 1660 South, Hutto, TX, 78634
Pitmaster: Dustin Pustka
Method: Post oak in an offset smoker
Year opened: 2017