The main room at City Meat Market. Full Custom Gospel BBQ
Rating: 4.25 Opened: 1941 Pitmaster: Gerald Birkelbach, age 57 (since 1982) Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit Pro tip: For a living history lesson, just sit quietly and watch the old-timers.
A welcome landmark on U.S. 290 between Austin and Houston is the boxy brick building of City Meat Market, in Giddings. The red painted sign reads “Bar-B-Q and Sausage”—sausage being one of their specialties. Walk through the main room, with its high ceilings, two rows of tables covered in plastic Christmas tablecloths (we last visited in late January), and aged cream-colored walls, and into the sooty back room, where you can order the famous links (80 percent beef, 20 percent pork) straight off the pit. The filling is pleasantly coarse in that way that you only find in homemade sausage, and the casing has a good snap. We could have kept eating these perfect links all day. We were less enthusiastic about the brisket, which cooks at a fairly high heat on an indirect pit for just five and a half hours. While the final result is seductively smoky and has a flavorful salt, pepper, and cayenne rub, the meat itself was a little tough. The ribs, on the other hand, do beautifully under this treatment. They are superlative: ultra-tender, delectably sweet, and infused with post-oak smoke, much like the absolutely succulent chicken. As at any proper joint, black pepper is used liberally, and not just on the meats. It punches up the tangy, sweet sauce (one of our favorites in Central Texas) and gives a nice kick to pinto beans too. Admirable attention has been paid to the stellar potato salad, a bold and mustardy twist on the classic. Banana pudding is enjoyable enough once you forgive the fact that it looks like a meringue and isn’t a pudding but a blob (with an oddly firm outer shell) of cream cake.
101 W. Austin (U.S. 290), 979-542-2740. Open Mon–Fri 7:30–-5:30, Sat 7:30–4. citymeatmarket.biz