What I love about the US is that I can actually feel, smell and taste a little history. And in Texas, it means eating through the handful of decades old barbecue places that are still thriving to this day.
One of these legendary barbecue places is Louie Mueller Barbecue in the teeny town of Taylor, TX, around 30-45 minutes drive from the state capitol of Austin.
Louie Mueller Barbecue started as a grocery store in 1946. To deal with the leftover meat because of the lack of refrigeration then, they barbecued all the leftover meat and sold it to customers. Three years later in 1949, barbecue sold more than the groceries and Louie Mueller Barbecue was officially born.
Imagine that, Louie Barbecue is 66 years old and still going. Isn’t amazing how they were able to keep this barbecue business over half a decade?
As I entered those wooden screen doors that creaked with age, I could hear the generations of customers buzzing in line and inhaling piles of barbecued meat on the tables reverberating through the black-as-night soot covered walls. If I’d wipe a moist towelette on the walls, I’d uncover layer upon layer of history.
What was it like to have eaten here post World War II? What would it like to have eaten here in a time of segregation? Was there even one in this rather remote town in Central Texas? What was it like when everybody donned acid wash jeans, leg warmers and spray netted hair? Were there any Asians like me who would come for barbecue? How affected where they when terror striked on 9/11? What was it like when an African American man was elected as President?
Perhaps everything would’ve been different then- the outfits, the hairstyles, the beliefs and values, except for that hankering for slow smoked meat. Somehow The Husband and I have developed that craving after more than a year of living in Texas.
I called that morning to pre-order our very late lunch. They recommend you do so, as the meat does run out at some point, especially that it was the weekend.
True enough there was a line, but since I pre-ordered, I had a free pass. I skipped the line and went straight to the cashier to pay for our order of beef rib, beef brisket, pork ribs and sausage. The Texas barbecue trinity. A must order in any real Texas barbecue place.
The barbecue platter was as Spartan as it could get, haphazardly wrapped in butcher paper and Sharpie scribbled on to know which one is which. No plates – even the paper, styrofoam or plastic kind – were available for use. There were plastic utensils though. And the best kind of utensils one could have when eating American barbecue: your hands.
Guess that’s another thing that’s never changed through the years, across cultures is how we eat with our hands.
The Flintstone like beef rib, covered in a gritty pepper crust, could feed more than 3 people. The brisket was moist with its tough muscle melted like butter over hours in the lovingly tended smoker. The ribs were fall off the bone. The chipotle sausage’s heat was one that could slap you awake like the jolt of hot coffee in the morning.
Though I must admit, this was not the best Texas barbecue, or any kind of American barbecue, I’ve had.
But I wasn’t here because it was THE best. Maybe it was one of the best. Some other person’s best. I was in Louie Mueller Barbecue in the rural town of Taylor, TX for the little piece of Texas barbecue history.
I thought of the future. Would Louie Mueller Barbecue be here and thriving ten years from now? I certainly hope so. Because it is a comfort to know that with today’s lightning speed movement of change, there’d be somewhere in this world where time stands still.
You can read an indepth story on Louie Mueller Barbecue here, in a piece by Texas Monthly Barbecue edition 2014.
Louie Mueller Barbecue
206 West 2nd Street
Taylor, TX 76574
Open Monday to Friday 11AM – 6PM
Saturday 10AM – 6PM
Closed on Sundays