<span class="drop-cap">G</span>et there early,” warned my friend Pam. “We had to wait for an hour!” So three companions and I arrived promptly at six o’clock on a Saturday. “The wait could be an hour,” said the host, looking harried as more and more people jammed themselves into the small waiting area. The weather in Austin was cold and wet, and the crowd was in no mood to linger outside, even in the pools of warmth provided by heat lamps. Launderette—in a medium-sized storefront that once held a washateria—has been a hit since day one. And it was the subject of much speculation in the foodieverse long before that. Its two principals, executive chef Rene Ortiz and pastry chef Laura Sawicki, had aroused consternation and curiosity when they parted company with La Condesa and Sway, back in 2013, to open this new venture. Since they had already done Mexican and Thai, everyone wondered what was next. Ortiz, keeping his options open, was prone to statements like “I think of it as local in content and global in reach” and “I want it to be a simple cafe with extreme flavors.” But now that the wraps are off, it’s clear that the main thrust is modern Mediterranean. The menu has Snacky Bits (the word “snacks” being a sign of restaurant coolness). It also has small plates and large plates. Significantly, it has ten offerings of vegetables and salads. And there are sweets, of course. Informality and sharing are encouraged by the enthusiastic servers. It’s a whole new ball game. After milling around for a while and joining in the table-hopping (it seemed that everybody knew everybody else), we were actually seated in less than forty minutes. We peeled off our many layers of winter gear and immediately ordered five starters for the table, which was easy to do, given how reasonable the prices were. First to arrive was the French-style feta toast, which was mind-blowingly rich (turns out it’s an exceptionally creamy version of feta from Bellwether Farms, in California, that is whipped with a touch of its own brine). The crusty bread, from Austin’s Easy Tiger bakery, was spread with two pungent toppings, a paste of capers and golden raisins and a mixture of roasted bell peppers and eggplant. We realized too late that the two loaded pieces of toast would have been plenty, but we had also gluttonously ordered the lump crab version, with avocado and fennel aioli. If anything, it was richer, on a terrific, almost sweet semolina bread. After that, we tossed back a few caramelized cipollini lavished with an onion-chile balsamic dressing and then plowed through some paprika-and-pepper-seasoned fried oysters with a vinegary mojo-style dressing (cilantro, parsley, and oregano giving it a vivid green color). Then we attacked the tender charred octopus; good as it was, the bed of beluga lentils on which it sat was even better, with the depth of flavor of split-pea soup minus the mushy texture. We hadn’t even gotten to the mains, but it was obvious that Ortiz’s hallmark style—his penchant for powerful, multilayered flavors—was in play here. The words “curb your enthusiasm” do not exist for him. The downside is that while the results are exhilarating, they can become overwhelming, especially if you’re greedy enough to try nine emphatic dishes in one evening before you order dessert. But we did have time for a breather, since we were ordering as we went, so we took a moment to admire the space, whose casual, boxy interior has been transformed with an aqua-blue concrete floor, a curvy wood bar with sculptural wire chairs, and glistening white tiles in the open kitchen. (Check out the restrooms to see some adorable hummingbird wallpaper.) Revived, we next ordered the caramelized endive salad with generous crumbles of bleu des basques cheese. Then it was on to three entrées. Ortiz was his over-the-top self with all of them, which worked well with the garganelli, because the lusty Calabrian chile–spiked sausage paired nicely with the strong green flavor of curly kale (“We massage it with a bit of oil before we sauté it,” Ortiz later told me) and a snowstorm of grated pecorino. His style was also spot-on with the grilled prawns with saucy stewed Aleppo and Fresno chiles and a cooling splash of yogurt seasoned with crushed nigella seeds (a.k.a. black cumin). But enthusiasm pretty much obscured the delicate filet of red snapper with a lemony pine nut–gremolata garnish, because it also got slammed by a generous cauliflower puree (putting it to the side would have solved the problem). It’s so tempting to order one dish after another and end up full before you know it, but you must not skip dessert: Sawicki was named in 2012 to <em>Food & Wine’s</em> inaugural list of the five best new pastry chefs in America, and she has an uncanny ability to put ingredients together in striking ways. Her unconventional combinations—like an English sticky toffee pudding, candied ginger ice cream, and a luscious vanilla-scented cauliflower puree—are miracles of interlocking flavors. And if you don’t fancy her rosewater-pistachio parfait with grapefruit, fennel, and tahini–agave nectar powder, just order her kid-friendly sundae. It looks like a clown face and tastes like a birthday party. As usual, later on I called Ortiz to illuminate some of the more complex dishes (“If the menu explained everything, each description would be thirty words long,” he said, laughing). Once we got that out of the way, I asked how he had come up with his various ideas, expecting he would say that he was inspired by ingredients or recipes. But each time he would mention a chef he had known, years ago. He would say, “I kept remembering . . .” or “I wanted to do an homage . . .” or “I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t worked with . . .” After three or four of these, I stopped him and said that it sounded as though the menu had come from a stroll through his past. He thought about it for a second and said, “The menu incorporates all the things I have seen and done in my life.” I felt lucky to have experienced them, vicariously, and happy to have made the acquaintance of so many of his friends.
I saw a flight of "flavor infused" pickles on the menu, and I was immediately powerless. I had to order them. I was dining alone during lunch at this sports bar/live music venue/barbecue joint hybrid in a suburb north of Fort Worth. Olympics curling was on the television in my booth, but even the technicolor uniforms of the various countries couldn't compete with the brightly dyed stacks of pickle chips. The mango con chile flavor was missing, but the server promised to bring more of the watermelon, green apple, grape, or mixed berry once I determined a favorite. After a few bites of each flavor I opted not to have seconds on any, because who really needs the flavor equivalent of five Jolly Ranchers in one sitting? <p style="text-align: center"><a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pickles-BBQ-02.jpg"><img class=" wp-image-8794 aligncenter" alt="Pickles BBQ 02" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pickles-BBQ-02-700x700.jpg" width="504" height="504" /></a></p> All the meats are a la carte here. Baby backs come by the half or full rack. Ironically, the pickle provided gratis on the side was a warm and flaccid afterthought. I'm not sure if they use Mondays as a way to clear out the weekend's leftovers, but these ribs were desiccated to the point of crumbling and flaking away from the bone. It's as if they stopped midway through a bone-in jerky experiment and put the result on my plate. Their website claims that they "strive to bring the best and freshest barbecue to our community neighbors, day or night." Pickles needs to strive harder. <p style="text-align: center"><a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pickles-BBQ-05.jpg"><img class=" wp-image-8797 aligncenter" alt="Pickles BBQ 05" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pickles-BBQ-05.jpg" width="512" height="384" /></a></p> The brisket benefitted by direct comparison to the ribs. It was tender and moist enough, but it tasted more of paprika and beef broth than the advertised hickory smoke. Being forced to order a half pound of the stuff just to get a taste made it all the worse. At least seeing another warm pickle on this plate confirmed that they meant to serve it that way with the ribs too. <p style="text-align: center"><a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pickles-BBQ-03.jpg"><img class=" wp-image-8795 aligncenter" alt="Pickles BBQ 03" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pickles-BBQ-03.jpg" width="512" height="384" /></a></p> A bowl of pickled and fried tobacco onions strings was overflowing and came paired with a spicy dipping sauce. I didn't get much of the pickled flavor, but these were well executed fried onions. It was the only item I kept reaching back for. To be fair, there was enough in that bowl to fill me up, but man cannot live on onion strings alone. <p style="text-align: center"><a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pickles-BBQ-04.jpg"><img class=" wp-image-530527 aligncenter" alt="Pickles BBQ 04" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pickles-BBQ-04.jpg" width="512" height="384" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: left">I didn't try the smoked chicken, the sausage or any other sides. There is no option for a combo plate (except during the three hours of Sunday brunch) and the sides are generous enough to feed three or four. Sampling is not encouraged. With brisket, ribs, and onion strings I was already $24 into it, not counting the $6 pickle flight. Not even the personal television could justify the cost of ordering more, but I wouldn't encourage a trip here at any price.</p>
Photograph by Jody Horton
At Prause Meat Market in La Grange, there is a green paper sign right next to the barbecue counter. It reads "Sorry We Do NOT Make Sandwiches." It's a reminder to customers that this is a meat market where meat—smoked or raw—is sold by the pound. If you want a sandwich, you've got to bring your own bread. Others in Texas are more accommodating. <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Prause-Sandwich-Sign.jpg"><img alt="Prause Sandwich Sign" class=" wp-image-530536 " height="373" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Prause-Sandwich-Sign-1024x683.jpg" width="560" /></a> I dare you to order a sandwich (see sign above his left shoulder). Photo by Nicholas McWhirter Some barbecue joints make a pretty incredible sandwich that goes beyond the familiar chopped beef, and one day I'll make another list that explores the wonder that is the chopped brisket sandwich. But today I've focused on what I consider to be some of the greatest sandwiches across the state. (And a note to barbecue sandwich-makers across the state: rib sandwiches where three or four pork ribs <em>with the bone still in</em> them are soaked in barbecue sauce and stacked between two slices of bread does NOT qualify as an edible sandwich for obvious reasons.) I chose these sandwiches because they taste good (obvious), not just because they sound good. What I mean by that is a sandwich should be better than the sum of its parts, and it takes more than just a tempting description. I recently ordered what I thought would be a slam dunk at a popular chain in Houston. It included jalapeño cheese bread (great), sliced sausage (good), barbecue sauce (not bad), and rubber-like pellets of underdone chopped brisket (very bad). So without further delay, here is my ranked list of the top ten barbecue sandwiches in the state. <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Stanleys-Motherclucker.jpg"><img alt="Stanleys Motherclucker" class="wp-image-12281" height="360" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Stanleys-Motherclucker-700x525.jpg" width="480" /></a> Mother Clucker. <strong>#1. Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ, Tyler – Mother Clucker</strong> Components: jalapeño cheese sourdough, smoked chicken thigh, fried egg, cheddar cheese, spicy barbecue mayo, candied bacon, and guacamole (on request). This sandwich just sounds ridiculous, but it's nothing short of ridiculously good. The smoked chicken thigh will make you rethink using a chicken breast on a sandwich ever again. It's perfectly moist, tender, and smoky. If the BBQ mayo doesn't enrich it enough, the yolk will once it's broken. Just because it has egg and bacon, don't relegate it just to breakfast. Texas's best barbecue sandwich should be enjoyed all day long.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Sutphens-sandwich.jpg"><img alt="Sutphens sandwich" class=" wp-image-530533" height="384" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Sutphens-sandwich.jpg" width="384" /></a> Sutphen's chopped pork with the works. <strong>#2. Old Sutphen’s Bar-B-Q, Borger – Chopped Pork With the Works</strong> Components: squishy white bun, sauced chopped pork, coleslaw, onion rings, pickles, and onions. I ordered this sandwich to go, and it came with the coleslaw and onion rings on the side. I'm not sure if they meant for it to all go together on the bun, but I wouldn't have considered anything else. Thankfully there were more of the fluffy, crispy, tempura-fried onion rings than I needed for the sandwich so I got a bonus appetizer. The pork is stewed until it falls apart. It's mixed in with some drippings and a sweet sauce. Add in the crispy coleslaw and it becomes one of the best barbecue bites in the Panhandle.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pecan-Lodge-Pitmaster-Sandwich1.jpg"><img alt="Pecan Lodge Pitmaster Sandwich" class="wp-image-8866 " height="280" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pecan-Lodge-Pitmaster-Sandwich1.jpg" width="420" /></a> Pitmaster Sandwich. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter <strong>#3. Pecan Lodge, Dallas – Pitmaster Sandwich</strong> Components: sweet white roll, chopped brisket, pulled pork, sliced sausage, coleslaw, fresh jalapeño slices, and barbecue sauce. It's looks like a mess, but this one really comes together after a couple bites. The brisket is ultra smoky, while the pork is a bit more subdued. The back of your throat starts to feel those jalapeños on the third bite, but the heat remains in a constant dance with the cool slaw to keep things regulated. My only quibble with this one is the bun. It's too substantial and a bit too sweet. Luckily they warm it on the griddle first, but I'd prefer if they just went back to the sesame seed bun in the photo above. No matter, it's one of the best in Texas with either bun.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/La-Barbecue-El-Sancho.jpg"><img alt="La Barbecue El Sancho" class=" wp-image-8815" height="384" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/La-Barbecue-El-Sancho.jpg" width="384" /></a> El Sancho. <strong>#4. La Barbecue, Austin - El Sancho</strong> Components: squishy white bun, chopped brisket, pulled pork, sliced hot guts, and pickled onions. It's a miracle that the staff at La Barbecue manages to get this sandwich to stay upright. It's taller than an iPhone 5, but if you can get all of the elements in one bite it is something special. Bags of buns are placed into a warmer, so when one is brought out for the sandwich it has been lightly steamed. The pickled onions provide the proper crunch with welcome acidity all in one topping. The brisket and pulled pork are so good here, so adding in some of Texas's best sausage only helps matters. I really didn't notice that it was missing barbecue sauce. It's one of the few sandwiches that wouldn't benefit from it. Warning—you'll need more than a few napkins when you're through with this one.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Tipsy-Texan.jpg"><img alt="Tipsy Texan" class=" wp-image-8807 " height="325" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/tipsy-texan-1024x576.jpg" width="420" /></a> Tipsy Texan. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter <strong>#5. Franklin Barbecue, Austin – Tipsy Texan</strong> Components: squishy white bun, chopped brisket, sliced sausage, barbecue sauce, pickles, slaw, and onions. It's hard to get to the front of this line and not order a few pounds of fatty brisket, but if you need a change of pace and a full stomach, the Tipsy Texan will do it. The sandwich is named after mixologist and author David Alan, who must be very proud. When you pick it up, you'll wish you had a third hand, and it's best to slagle it (eat it all without setting it down). The bun just barely survives under the weight of all that rich, smoky beef, and the slaw provides much needed crunch. Get a few slices of brisket on the side if you feel like you must.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Macs-BBQ1.jpg"><img alt="Mac's BBQ" class=" wp-image-8827" height="288" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Macs-BBQ1.jpg" width="384" /></a> Chopped brisket and jalapeño sausage. <strong>#6. Mac’s Bar-B-Que, Dallas – Chopped Beef and Jalapeño Sausage</strong> Components: squishy white bun, chopped brisket, sliced jalapeño sausage, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions. Mac's is an old-school joint without any pretension. They also don't have any specialty sandwiches on the menu. What they do have is a two-meat sandwich platter where you can choose your own. My regular order here is the smoky brisket, chopped, with a generous amount of jalapeño sausage slices atop it. The buttered and grilled bun provides a protective sogginess barrier, so don't even think about leaving off the deep red barbecue sauce made in house. Add an order of fries and ranch beans for a well-rounded meal.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Bohemian-Special-e1392176233649.jpg"><img alt="Prophets of Smoked Meat / Southeast Texas 2011" class=" wp-image-8822 " height="280" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Bohemian-Special-e1392176233649-700x479.jpg" width="420" /></a> Bohemian Special. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter <strong>#7. Mustang Creek Bar-B-Q, Louise – Bohemian Special</strong> Components: squishy white bun, sliced brisket, quartered sausage link, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions. The Bohemian Special was made famous by Robb Walsh when he called it the <a href="http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2008/12/the_best_barbecue_sandwich_in.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">best sandwich in the state</a>, and the legend only grew after it was featured in <em><a href="http://gardenandgun.com/gallery/bbq-sandwiches" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Garden & Gun</a>.</em> Sausage from Prasek's down the street is cut lengthwise into four spears and placed on a generously sauced bottom bun. Thick slices of smoky brisket were piled on top. The addition of pickles and onions provides a nice crunch. It's a bit sloppy and hard to share, but you won't want to anyway.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Freedmans.jpg"><img alt="Freedman's" class=" wp-image-8812" height="315" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Freedmans-700x525.jpg" width="420" /></a> Freedmen's chopped brisket and beef rib sandwich. <strong>#8. Freedmen’s Bar, Austin – Chopped Brisket and Beef Rib</strong> Components: squishy white bun, sauced chopped brisket, and beef rib mixture. This is not your average chopped beef sandwich. Evan LeRoy uses the leftover beef ribs and brisket, chops them together, and folds in the sauce. It's an impeccably simple construction, but the result is better than plenty of more complicated sandwiches I've enjoyed. The meat and sauce mixture starts to moisten the bun and they seem to lock together in smoky matrimony. You have to open up wide for each bite, but it's gone before you're ready to see it go. You'll find it only on the specials board, and it's a mere $5.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Slow-Bone-pork-sandwich.jpg"><img alt="Slow Bone pork sandwich" class=" wp-image-530534 " height="356" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Slow-Bone-pork-sandwich-e1392171923326.jpg" width="430" /></a> Pork sandwich at Slow Bone. <strong>#9. The Slow Bone, Dallas – Sliced Pork With Slaw</strong> Components: squishy white hoagie roll, sliced pork, coleslaw, and vinegar barbecue sauce. This is a do-it-yourself sandwich for those Carolinians missing their pork and vinegar. Get the sliced pork sandwich and add a side of coleslaw. There are two sauces here at Slow Bone, but you want the thinner one on the condiment bar. Put it all together and it's a flavor that isn't normally found at a Texas barbecue joint these days. Given the length of the well-made bun and the generous serving of pork, you don't really need anything else for a good lunch.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Neelys-Brown-Pig.jpg"><img alt="Neely's Brown Pig" class=" wp-image-530535" height="342" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Neelys-Brown-Pig-e1392171827201.jpg" width="408" /></a> Neely's Brown Pig. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter <strong>#10. Neely’s, Marshall – Brown Pig</strong> Components: squishy white bun, sauced chopped pork, secret sauce, lettuce, mayo, 87 years of history. This sandwich isn't for everyone. It's somewhere between pulled pork and a sloppy joe. The pork is smoked then minced in a buffalo chopper. The Neely family's secret sauce is mixed in, and a heaping scoop of the whole mixture is placed on a bun. The addition of lettuce and mayo sounds way out of place, but it ends up tasting like slaw after it's warmed by the meat. You can also try the brisket version instead. It's called the Brown Beef, but you might as well just go ahead and order both.   <strong>Honorable Mentions:</strong> <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Baby-Back-Shak-Chopped-Boudin.jpg"><img alt="Baby Back Shak Chopped Boudin" class=" wp-image-530529" height="420" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Baby-Back-Shak-Chopped-Boudin-700x700.jpg" width="420" /></a> Baby Back Shak. <strong>Baby Back Shak, Dallas – Chopped Beef With Boudin</strong> Components: squishy white bun, chopped brisket, boudin, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions. Every sandwich at Baby Back Shak comes with a side. Fortunately, they let you pick boudin as your side if you'd like. Their brisket isn't great because it's pretty tough, but it's just fine chopped up. Once you add sauce, pickles, and onions it's even better. To really crank it up, you have to empty the filling from the boudin on top. It's like a Cajun chopped brisket sandwich.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Colemans-BBQ-01.jpg"><img alt="Colemans-BBQ-01" class=" wp-image-8828" height="313" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Colemans-BBQ-01-1024x765.jpg" width="420" /></a> The sliced pork sandwich at Coleman's. <strong>Coleman’s BBQ, Clarksville – Sliced Pork Sandwich</strong> Components: squishy white bun, sliced pork, coleslaw, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions. The barbecue here has received praise from <em>Texas Monthly</em> in the past when it made it into the Top 50 in 2008. When I went back last year I noticed this Texas rarity on the menu—a sliced pork sandwich. It comes on a large buttered and grilled bun, and is served with a piping hot bowl of barbecue sauce. This thin spicy sauce seeped into everything when poured over top, making it the best item at Coleman's.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Jambo-Texan.jpg"><img alt="Jambo Texan" class=" wp-image-530531" height="560" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Jambo-Texan-700x933.jpg" width="420" /></a> The Jambo Texan. <strong>Jambo’s BBQ Shack, Rendon – The Jambo Texan</strong> Components: Texas toast, sliced brisket, chopped brisket, bologna slice, pulled pork, split sausage link, and pork ribs. This behemoth would get a higher spot on the list if you could actually eat it as a sandwich. It's about eight inches tall and includes a couple of pork ribs, which makes wrapping your mouth around it pretty challenging. At just $12, it's the best-value six-meat sampler plate you'll find anywhere in Texas.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Da-Jasper.jpg"><img alt="Da Jasper" class=" wp-image-530532" height="560" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Da-Jasper-700x933.jpg" width="420" /></a> Da Jasper. <strong>Meshack’s Bar-B-Que Shack, Garland – Da Jasper</strong> Components: squishy white buns, sauced chopped brisket, sliced hot link, and barbecue sauce. What you see above is not two sandwiches. That is Da Jasper, which cannot be contained by a single bun. Just grab a fork as soon as you get your order. The bottom buns disintegrate almost immediately after soaking in several ladles of barbecue sauce. Meshack's is to-go only, so don't eat this in or on your car if you care about its condition.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Prines-BBQ.jpg"><img alt="Prine's BBQ" class=" wp-image-8809" height="560" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Prines-BBQ-700x933.jpg" width="420" /></a> Prine's chopped brisket and pimento cheese. <strong>Prine’s BBQ, Wichita Falls – Chopped Beef and Pimento Cheese</strong> Components: squishy white bun, chopped brisket, brisket au jus, barbecue sauce, and pimento cheese. This isn't on the menu, but I was staring at an enormous tray of pimento cheese in the case as I waited on my sandwich to be constructed. When I sheepishly requested that it be added, owner Allen Prine smiled and said people ask for it like that all the time. The brisket here is minced pretty fine with a knife, then mixed with barbecue sauce and brisket drippings to form a sort of meat paste that is spread onto the bottom bun. Jalapeño slices are added on top for good measure. Prine placed the whole shebang into the microwave for about eight seconds to warm the bun and melt the cheese into the meat a bit. It was a gooey mess, but it was truly unique.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Spicy-Mikes-Taos.jpg"><img alt="Spicy Mike's Taos" class=" wp-image-8806" height="336" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Spicy-Mikes-Taos.jpg" width="448" /></a> The Taos. <strong>Spicy Mike’s Bar-B-Q Haven, Amarillo – The Taos</strong> Components: squishy white bun, chopped bottom round, green chiles, and spicy barbecue sauce. Mike Havens doesn't use brisket in his chopped beef sandwiches. He grabbed a chunk of smoked bottom round (which tends to be a bit drier than brisket) and placed it on the cutting board along with a couple spoonfuls of green chiles. Those chiles find their way into plenty of other menu items, and they're the reason he calls this one the Taos, after the city in New Mexico. It all goes onto a bun and is topped with your choice of barbecue sauce. At Spicy Mike's, you choose the spicy sauce.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Stiles-Switch-Diablo.jpg"><img alt="Stiles Switch Diablo" class=" wp-image-8816 " height="336" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Stiles-Switch-Diablo.jpg" width="448" /></a> Buford T's Diablo Sandwich. <strong>Stiles Switch, Austin - Buford T's Diablo Sandwich</strong> Components: squishy white bun, sliced brisket, split sausage link, pickled jalapeños, and barbecue sauce. This is a sandwich full of good stuff. The sliced fatty brisket is incredible, as are the links. Pickled jalapeños add some bite, but they were all piled in the middle, making for a mouthful of them. The cold bun straight out of the bag could use some warming of some kind. It kept the sandwich from really coming together as it likely would have if it were grilled or steamed. It's still a great sandwich, but I found myself picking off that beautiful brisket when I was halfway through it.   <a href="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Vencil-brisket-sandwich.jpg"><img alt="Vencil brisket sandwich" class=" wp-image-530541" height="336" src="https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Vencil-brisket-sandwich.jpg" width="448" /></a> Brisket and sausage sandwich at Taylor Cafe. <strong>Taylor Cafe, Taylor - Chopped Beef and Sausage Sandwich</strong> Components: squishy white bun, sauced chopped brisket, split sausage link, pickles, and onions. It's not fancy. They chop yesterday's leftover brisket, mix it with barbecue sauce, and top it with some pickle chips and sliced onions. A link of homemade beef sausage is the foundation. It will make you full and it will make you happy, but none of that really matters. If you eat it at the west end of the counter just inside the door you can talk with ninety-year-old owner and legend Vencil Mares while you eat. Have a beer. Chew slowly. Listen more than you talk. <em>If we missed your favorite barbecue sandwich in Texas, please list it in the comments below. Feel free to tell us your favorite chopped beef sandwich too, and we'll make sure to try it before the next sandwich list is completed.</em>

After more than a year in the making, countless months of recipe tweaking, many hours of agonizing over every decorative detail, three days of  “friends and family” service, and a weekend of being quietly open for anybody who was smart enough to figure out what was going on, the Pass and Provisions will finally—make that FINALLY—open for real today, at 807 Taft, in Houston. Well, actually, it’s just the Provisions half of the dynamic duo that will open. The Pass, in a separate dining room, is still being agonized over. But in six weeks, it will slide open its vast iron door and the two halves will be complete. As anybody knows who has been following the saga in food media columns and blogs, the “P’s” are two restaurants in one. Provisions is the casual side, the Pass the fine-dining side. The Pass will be more exclusive, with 36 seats; Provisions  seats 54. A bar area and outdoor patio will increase the chair count. (Prior to this, the space had been Gravitas, chef Scott Tycer’s lauded but ultimately doomed restaurant, which closed abruptly in January of this year.) The chef/partners behind P&P are Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan, who have serious creds. (Between the two of them, they have worked at Aquavit, August, Fiamma, Auerole, The Modern, and Gordon Ramsey at the London. Also Viajante in the United Kingdom; Chicago’s C-House, and Houston’s Kata Robata.) Last Friday they gave me  a tour of the final preparations and treated me to a sampling of Provisions’s menu.

Seth Siegel-Gardner.
Gardner: “We will always have a ham of the day at Provisions. It could be an Italian ham like a prosciutto di Parma, a domestic ham that we are excited about, or something we made and cured in-house.”
Prosciutto on a slate with pumpernickel aioli
Gardner: “This is thin-sliced prosciutto sitting on top of aioli that we have enriched with toasted pumpernickel crumbs. On top we have sprinkled dehydrated whole-grain mustard. We are huge fans of mustard.”
Deli slicer.
Gardner: “We are just trying to do simple, delicious food. You can see the ham being sliced. You can see the pizzas baking in the wood-burning oven, or a suckling pig—well, maybe a half or quarter suckling pig. The oven can get up to 850 degrees—that will make the skin nice and crispy.”
Terrence Gallivan
Gallivan, “We roast everything in that oven. When we put cherry tomatoes in there, they burst and create this delicious ‘sauce.’ We like a mix of woods—post oak, pecan, mesquite—to get a balance of smoke flavors and heat.” Bagel in a bottle. Gardner: “This is our ‘everything bagel’ dish. The bottom layer is pickled cherry tomatoes. Then there’s a layer of smoked salmon and potatoes, then some crème fraiche with chopped red onions. The top is cream-cheese-chive foam. There are potato chips on the side that are dusted with ‘everything bagel’ spice—toasted poppy seeds, sesame seeds—it’s basically breakfast.
Last-minute dusting.
Gallivan, “We have purposely not released that many pictures, partly because we weren’t finished, but mainly because we wanted the final product to be a surprise.” Gardner, “We wanted a sense of drama. We want people to walk in without knowing what they were about to see.” Honoring Antone’s, a previous occupant. Gallivan: “It seemed important to pay homage to Antone’s, because it was such a Houston institution. The building originally was an Italian import company. The owner married, and his wife started selling po’boys. This is the actual sign that hung outside. The landlord still had it, and we redesigned it so it would fit inside.” Pâté en croute with pickled vegetables. Gardner: “It’s basically a puff-pastry-wrapped terrine with marinated prunes, some liver forcemeat, then some pickled vegetables, and an upland cress salad.” Gallivan: “It starts with sweetbreads that have been roasted in a pan with loads of capers and parsley and lemon and other goodies. Then we layer it with the prunes, which we cook down with port wine and shallots and spices.”
Provisions dining room, with butcher block tables.
Gardner: “The menu is a placemat that covers the whole table.” Gallivan: “In the middle of the room is one very long table with sliding leaves, which are the individual tabletops. They can be pushed together to make a communal table, or pushed apart (even removed) to make smaller tables.”
Harissa-flavored buccatini with Gulf shrimp and broccoli bits.
Gardner: “We put a little bit of a spin on everything—so this is house-made pasta flavored with harissa. We toast some garlic, sauté the shrimp, and top the whole thing with breadcrumbs and finely minced raw broccoli.”
Not abstract art, but the floor of a basketball court.
Gallivan: “The wall in the dining room was a basketball court from a gym that was part of an old Baptist church in Dallas. Our decorator found it for us. She was amazing. We had a lot of ideas about what we wanted, and she took them and made them better.”
Lemon meringue “pie” with bay laurel ice cream.
Gallivan: “This is our take on lemon meringue pie. We have pound cake as the base instead of a crust, with lemon curd on top. The flat white pieces are dehydrated meringue. Amarena cherries are the garnish, and we add a scoop of bay laurel ice cream. We finish it with a little bit of orange powder.” Gardner: “We love savory things, but we love doing the pastry side too.”
Let there be lights–above the main entrance.
Gardner: “The building was pretty dark, and we wanted to warm it up. We made the windows in the dining room bigger, so we could take advantage of the sunlight streaming in. We also added this lighting, which is over the front door. If you want to, you can stay in the bar all night—you can get the full Provisions menu there. And of course you can eat in either of the two dining rooms.” Open for business today! Gardner: “Before we found this location, we had been looking for over a year. The minute we walked in here, it felt right.” Gallivan: “The footprint was awesome. We took over a huge space and turned it into three small spaces—the bar, Provisions, and the Pass. Gardner: “We could see the restaurant we wanted to build. And now it’s real.”       807 Taft  Houston (713) 628-9020.