June 2008 Issue

Features

Desperate Housewives

In this excerpt from writer-at-large Sarah Bird’s new novel, How Perfect Is That, the realities of life in early twenty-first century Austin become all-too-clear to a defrocked socialite.

Feature

The Risk Premium

Most American consumers understand that the invasion of Iraq has contributed to the skyrocketing price of oil. But there’s another reason why we’re paying so much per barrel and gallon: The countries where crude is available in abundance are increasingly dangerous places to operate. Russell Spell, of Conroe, can tell

Taylor: Louie Mueller Barbecue

Forty-nine years of post oak coals in the pit have smoke-cured the building, which previously housed a ladies’ basketball court and a grocery market. Louie moved in with his barbecue business in 1959; his son, Bobby, took over more than three decades ago, but not a thing has suffered from

Luling: City Market

You’ve come for wholeness, for satisfaction deep within your soul. Your searching has brought you here, to the company of fellow pilgrims in the snaking line. Slowly, you advance across the tile floor, past the knotty-pine walls, and up to the inner sanctum: a glass-enclosed chamber where a host of

Lockhart: Smitty’s Market

Don’t bother going in the front door. You’ll end up in the parking lot behind the boxy brick building anyway, doing the Smitty’s shuffle: At peak hours, the lines invariably stretch out the back door. Patiently, you inch your way forward, passing the waist-high brick pits and perusing the list

Lockhart: Kreuz Market

The old Kreuz Market was like a one-room chapel. The humble brick building off the courthouse square in Lockhart had turned out divine smoked meat since 1900. But just as churchgoers nowadays worship in larger halls, so too does the visitor to the new Kreuz Market, which opened in 1999

Lexington: Snow’s BBQ

The best barbecue in Texas is currently being served at Snow’s BBQ, in Lexington, a small restaurant open only on Saturdays and only from eight in the morning until whenever the meat runs out, usually around noon. Snow’s is remarkable not only for the quality of its meat but

PITS: The Encyclopedia Entry

The traditional way to prepare Texas barbecue is in a pit, the more smoke-infused and grease-encrusted the better. The word “pit” harks back to the days when meats were cooked over smoldering coals in an earthen pit or trench, especially for large gatherings. Nowadays, such buried ovens are extremely rare,

Ode to . . .

Ode To BrisketWhen you’re a food writer, people are always asking about the best meal you’ve ever eaten. I know they’re expecting tales of an unforgettable lunch at Michel Bras or a poetic kaiseki meal in Kyoto or a beluga extravaganza on the banks of the Volga, but what always

Honorable Mentions

Nineteen joints we couldn’t countenance not noting at all.AMARILLO Beans N Things A cozy country cafe plunked down on a busy city street. 806-373-7383BRADY Hard Eight Pit Bar-B-Que Meats are cooked cowboy style directly over hot mesquite coals. 325-597-1936DALLAS Baby Back Shak

Feature

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Every family has its myths. Some are intended to reveal, and some are intended to conceal, and sometimes the intentions can get confused. The problem with myth, however, is that it can overpower history. That’s what happened in the case of my father, who died when I was four. Only

Ode to Pulled Pork

Though I am proud to claim Texas associations, I am from the South. So when it comes to barbecue, my first thought is not of brisket but of pork. Does a pig have brisket? It may be hard to find, on a pig.A cow spends more time standing up and

Ode to Ribs

The waitress says the man at Table Three is making noises.You’d think she would be used to grunting when the sun goes down at Melvin’s Rib Château,but this one’s whispering amen into his marinade, getting sauce all over his Armani.It could be he’s an escapee from a gated communityof

Ode to Sausage

President George W. Bush will leave Washington, D.C., the city where I, a boy from Houston, now reside, every bit as divided as it was when he first hit town. This is too bad, but a far bigger disappointment is that he has not spent a farthing of his political

Ode to Brisket

When you’re a food writer, people are always asking about the best meal you’ve ever eaten. I know they’re expecting tales of an unforgettable lunch at Michel Bras or a poetic kaiseki meal in Kyoto or a beluga extravaganza on the banks of the Volga, but what always pops into

Ode to Sauce

Barbecue sauce is like a beautiful woman. If it’s too sweet, it’s bound to be hiding something.— Singer, songawriter, and actor Lyle Lovett has been eating barbecue for 49 of his 50 years.

Ode to Potato Salad

Potato salad is one of my four favorite vegetables, right up there with tuna salad, deviled eggs, and slices of Velveeta. You need a mustardy tang and some starch to balance the overpowering sweetness of barbecue sauce. That’s where the masters in the art of salade de pommes de terre

Ode to White Bread

There was a time in this country when you could eat a wonderfully flavorless slice of this substance and not feel like a villain. But that time is long ago, back in the days before iceberg lettuce, white bread’s vegetable companion in blahness, was driven underground. And though iceberg lettuce

Ode to Slaw

I love living in Texas, but I believe we underestimate our coleslaw, which is usually served in a little cup, off to the side of the meat. I contend it is capable of more responsibility than that. In Mississippi, where I grew up and ate my first barbecue, it was

BBQ08

Eighteen hungry reviewers. 14,773 miles driven/flown. 341 joints visited. Countless bites of brisket, sausage, chicken, pork, white bread, potato salad, and slaw—and vats of sauce—ingested. There are only fifty slots on our quinquennial list of the best places to eat barbecue in Texas. Only five of those got high honors.

Reporter

Book Review

How Perfect Is That

How Perfect Is That marks Sarah Bird’s return to the madcap plotting that was her stylistic calling card in late-eighties novels like The Boyfriend School. It’s an entertaining flashback, but why now? The Texas Monthly writer-at-large was coming off her two finest novels, The Yokota Officers Club

The Franchise Babe

As the father of the golf novel (exhibit A: Dead Solid Perfect, circa 1974), Fort Worth’s Dan Jenkins holds license in perpetuity to exercise the genre’s clichés, which he does with relish in The Franchise Babe. Self-absorbed pro golfers and sizzling golf moms in “jacked-up minis” are just

Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found

San Antonio–born journalist Marie Brenner borrowed her memoir’s title, Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found, from the childhood nickname given to her and her older brother, Carl, with whom she was endlessly at odds. The nickname takes on a more literal aspect when Carl

Sam Gosling

A decade of research by this University of Texas at Austin psychology prof has led to new ways of understanding the relationship between individuals and the spaces they inhabit, as he now reveals with Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You.Snoop posits that our possessions open a window onto

Herb Kelleher

“If a shoe factory closes in Seattle, you can’t move it to San Antonio and have it competing there within a couple of hours, but with airplanes you can. I’ve always said that I want us to strike with the speed and alacrity of a puma.”

Tom “Spanky” Assiter, Auctioneer

Assiter, who lives in Canyon, is the founder of the auctioneering firm Assiter & Associates. He has been an auctioneer for 25 years and has hosted approximately four thousand auctions. In 2007 he was inducted into the Texas Auctioneers Association Hall of Fame and the National Auctioneers Association Hall of

Music Review

Sonidos Gold

As big years go, Grupo Fantasma has had one of the biggest: Austin’s eleven-piece combo played festivals across the country, appeared on national TV, and even struck up an alliance with Prince. Now comes a fourth CD, Sonidos Gold (Aire Sol/High Wire). Though the album scores appearances from

Music Review

Beautiful World

Her lilting voice is a half whisper, her words evocative. At the top of her game, Austinite Eliza Gilkyson adds to her remarkable string of successes with Beautiful World (Red House). Musically, Gilkyson is expanding her palate beyond the usual singer-songwriter fare, leading musicians Mike Hardwick, Cindy Cashdollar,

Music Review

Real Animal

Can the Alejandro Escovedo who couched his earlier songs in a fog of romantic imagery be the same one spelling things out on the autobiographical Real Animal (Back Porch/Manhattan)? The San Antonio–born singer, an inveterate rocker who writes tender ballads like “Slow Down,” has always been a study

Frankie Miller

The Victoria-born country star, now 77, had a stellar career in the fifties and sixties that is all but forgotten. His emergence from retirement, along with the newly released deluxe box set Blackland Farmer: The Complete Starday Recordings, and More (Bear Family), may just change that.You landed your first

Web

Jeff McCord with Frankie Miller

The Victoria-born country star, now 77, had a stellar career in the fifties and sixties that is all but forgotten—but his emergence from retirement, along with a deluxe box set, Blackland Farmer: The Complete Starday Recordings, and More (Bear Family) may just change that.Jeff McCord: You were born in

Web Exclusive

Interview with Sam Gosling

A decade of research by this University of Texas at Austin psychology prof has led to new ways of understanding the relationship between individuals and the spaces they inhabit, as he now reveals with Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You.Snoop posits that our things open a window onto

Recipe

Nutella Panini

8 slices pannetone, challah, brioche, or other light, sweetish bread 1 jar of Nutella (hazelnut chocolate sauce) About 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted 1 jar caramel sauce (unless you have a favorite recipe) Whipped creamIdeally, this should be made in a panini press. If you don’t have one, heat a

Dough Pizzeria Napoletana

When you dine out for a living, you can get a bad “been there, ate that” attitude. While other people are e-mailing each other like crazy over their latest find, you’re hitting the “delete” key as fast as possible. But a few months ago, notes from readers about a San

You Can Take the BBQ Out of Texas . . .

MANHATTANHill Country Barbecue MarketLast year, word of a new barbecue restaurant spread through New York’s Texas-expat community. Usually, this kind of thing doesn’t cause much of a stir. We see a lot of “Texas barbecue” joints up here where they take a brisket that tastes like pastrami and drench it

Columns

Miscellany

It’s Pat

With all due respect to the assembled face-wipers on page 6, the brains, not to mention the gullet and the stomach, behind our latest list of the best barbecue joints in Texas is executive editor Pat Sharpe. Who else could it possibly be? For a generation or more, Pat’s led

Roar of the Crowd

Kidding Around

Your piece on the 68 awesome things to do with your kids was terrific but incomplete when it came to family-friendly train rides [“Child’s Play,” April 2008]. You missed the Austin Steam Train, which runs vintage trains every weekend on a 33-mile route into the Hill Country, and the

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