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Texas Ranch BBQ in Austin

The sides shine at the trailer formerly known as 12 Bones.

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A full spread from Texas Ranch BBQ.
Daniel Vaughn

BBQ Rating

4.25

  • Opened

    2017

  • Pitmaster

    Marco Oglesby

  • Method

    Oak in a reverse-flow smoker

The brisket at Texas Ranch BBQ would be headline-worthy if it was served in Temple, but a half-dozen other barbecue joints in Austin provide smoked meats of this quality. Yes, the barbecue is superb, but the array of great sides it serves along side it is what really makes the trailer special. Thanks to a chance meeting between a seasoned pitmaster and a journeyman prep cook, Texas Ranch BBQ does it all.

After a rough day at work, Alonzo Sandoval was riding his bicycle down Austin’s South Congress toward home. As he passed by the site where the Texas Ranch BBQ trailer is now parked, pitmaster Marco Oglesby was out staining the deck of the new patio. Sandoval, who spent years in the kitchens of Austin staples such as Vespaio, Z Tejas, Perla’s, and June’s, stopped and asked if they needed help in the kitchen. He was hired the next day.

The Texas Ranch truck on South Congress in Austin

Daniel Vaughn

Sandoval’s expertise shows in the sides. The recipes are a result of Sandoval’s experience in professional kitchens in Austin and working alongside his grandmother in Oaxaca. “I make it a little bit Mexican, a little bit Italian, and a little bit of traditional barbecue,” he says.

Though the greens weren’t something his ever made, Sandoval’s taste like they came from somebody’s grandmother. Enjoy the tender leaves (no stems, he notes), but drink down the restorative broth, which has a base of chicken stock infused with garlic, onions, and bacon. Apples add a zing to his slaw. He rices red potatoes to get potato salad that scoops like ice cream, then adds a simple dressing and chunks of bacon (he’s emphatic about leaving eggs out of it). The mac and cheese looks more like alfredo, but there’s no parmesan—instead, it’s an unlikely mix of white cheddar, cream cheese, and mozzarella. Pinto beans fortified with sausage and bacon are as traditional as you can get with barbecue sides, but Sandoval puts his own twist on them by adding sautéed onions and celery at the end so they remain crunchy. The same textural difference is found in the escabeche, which mixes tender chunks of carrots, split jalapeños, and smoked cauliflower florets. The spicy pickled concoction is the perfect foil for the luscious slices of fatty brisket.

Sandoval says the only hand he has in the barbecue side of the menu is trimming the raw beef. That’s Marco Oglesby’s territory. Oglesby started his barbecue career at Opie’s in Spicewood, then moved to Schmidt Family Barbecue in Bee Cave before taking over pit duties at the new location of Kreuz Market in Bryan. He opened this most recent venture in June. The smoked meats at Texas Ranch BBQ are reminiscent of Kreuz’s. Choice angus briskets are seasoned simply with black pepper, garlic, and a heavy dose of salt. They’re smoked beautifully, and both the lean and fatty sides are spectacular, especially at $18.50 per (all orders are by the pound, with sides a la carte). I wish Oglesby would use his Kreuz influence do more to kick up their sausage game, but the original sausage from Hudson Meats up the road was good. Ample slices of butter-dipped turkey breast were juicy and offered just a hint of smoke.

Brisket, ribs, turkey breast, and sausage.

Daniel Vaughn

The sign out front and on the truck still says 12 Bones BBQ, the original name, so it’s no surprise that ribs are a heavy feature of the menu. (A decade-old joint in Asheville, North Carolina with the same name asked them to change it.) Both spares and baby backs get the same pepper-heavy rub. I liked the spares ribs a little more, but I have an admitted bias toward spare ribs. Maybe of each were spiced or glazed a little differently, it would make sense to order both.

Brothers Sergio, Eric, and Eduardo Varela own the barbecue trailer and the Papalote Taco House that it sits in front of. There are tables outside, but you’ll have to walk inside if you want dessert (or tacos or a bathroom, for that matter), because the trailer doesn’t serve it. “We had a smoked pecan pie and a dulce de leche cheesecake, but it didn’t sell,” Oglesby says. And as soon as he said it, all I wanted was dulce de leche cheesecake. At least there was still some broth left from the greens to cap things off.

Texas Ranch BBQ has brought some excellent versions of Texas barbecue staples to far South Congress. A stop here and LeRoy & Lewis, the trailer just around the corner, could make for a great mini-barbecue adventure. Austin barbecue now has another notch in its belt, but every other joint in town should be paying attention to the part of the menu not measured by the pound.

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  • Shawn Lucas

    Go texas BBQ always yummy .check it out this bbq making secrets here http://tinyurl.com/yct5md5h

  • Jeffrey Thigpen

    Not sure why the jab at Temple was necessary…We have great (overlooked) BBQ as well.

    • Daniel Vaughn

      I’m all ears, but wouldn’t you agree that a fantastic BBQ joint opening in Temple would be more newsworthy than another one in Austin?

      • Jeffrey Thigpen

        Let me know when you’re in town. We can go to Best Quality Meat & BBQ, Al’s BBQ Barn, or Fat Boy’s BBQ (with a name like Fat Boy’s, it has to be good.) As you are the expert, please forgive me if you are already familiar with these local establishments, but I think they go toe-to-toe with any in the state (except Kreuz, my personal, perennial champion.)

      • Larry Dockall

        I wish we had something decent in Waco. Offerings are pretty sad unless I’m missing something.

  • William & Laura Sanders

    Daniel, has this place changed hands since June 29th? Because this was my review at the time, which is so much different than yours that it is remarkable:

    “Well, my run on good BBQ officially ended today. Ma Kettle told
    me there was a new BBQ trailer on South Congress not far from St.
    Edwards, so I motored over for lunch at Twelve Bones BBQ.

    I’m not sure where to begin. The meat looked okay as it was being cut,
    but the sliced brisket and burnt ends were over-cooked and failed the
    pull test miserably. Both also lacked that beefy, smoky flavor that I
    associate with good brisket.

    Tried some baby back ribs as well. While they were done to my liking
    (not falling off the bone), there was something in the rub that just
    seemed off-tasting.

    I thought maybe I could rescue this meal with some well-placed BBQ
    sauce, but that was so bad that it made me want to drink lye to get rid
    of the taste of it.

    They had collard greens as a side, which you don’t find that often, so I
    got some of them as well. No salvation there either. They were
    over-powered by the use of jalapenos to the point that I just couldn’t
    eat them.

    Not recommended.”