Texans take great pride in the ability of our pitmasters to smoke a perfect brisket. When cooked right, it takes just a little seasoning and some smoke (and a whole lot of time) to bring out the inherent flavor of a good cut of brisket.
Texas boasts numerous BBQ joints that serve juicy, tender, flavorful brisket. I have a personal goal to visit all of them. So far, my favorite (not surprisingly) is Franklin Barbecue in Austin. I could go on and on about how I loved everything I tasted there, especially the brisket, but I’m sure you’ve heard it from others (or from me personally). The bottom line when it comes Franklin Barbecue is that the brisket is perfect and Aaron Franklin is a genius. I visited on a cold February morning and waited in line for hours. I was prepared, though, with a chair, snacks, and books, but passed the time sharing BBQ stories with other patrons in line. (When you arrive at 7:30 a.m. to wait for brisket at a restaurant that doesn’t open until 11 a.m., and there are already 10 people in line, you immediately recognize that those 10 people are kindred spirits.) My dad and husband went with me, and all three of us agreed that the food was the best BBQ we’ve ever had in our lives.
I have heard that Franklin BBQ has expanded since my visit, so I’m not sure how long the wait is now, although I would assume it’s still pretty lengthy. If you’re in Austin and you have the time, go. There is a reason people form a line down the block for this brisket.
If you don’t have time, there’s a close second not too far away: Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor. Not only is the brisket what brisket should be at Louie Mueller’s, but the restaurant itself is exactly what you would imagine a good Texas BBQ joint to be…creaking wooden floors, large fans over the front doors, and the smell of sweet smoke permeating the air. I loved it. I stopped at Louie Mueller’s one day on my way home from Austin. I had just devoured a large breakfast at Magnolia Café in Austin (I highly recommend the eggscape), so I wasn’t hungry, but I didn’t want to pass up a chance to try Louie Mueller’s. The wait was about 30-40 minutes. I ordered two pounds of brisket to take home with me. Like Franklin Barbecue, the brisket from Louie Mueller Barbecue is just right the way it is—no need to dress it up, or even add a side. There isn’t even a need to use utensils because it’s so tender.
Recently, much to my pleasure, I realized that Corkscrew Barbecue in Spring, which is much closer to my home than Austin or Taylor, serves up a delectable brisket.
I visited Corkscrew a couple of weeks ago. My son Caleb had a doctor’s appointment at Texas Children’s Hospital in Katy (he broke his leg in December). On our way home, I drove through Spring hoping to taste the brisket at Corkscrew. Caleb wasn’t very thrilled about the stop. He doesn’t care for meat. (Still trying to figure out where he came from.)
We arrived at Corkscrew around 11:30. Parking was not ideal, and the fact that it had been raining for two days just made it worse. I had to drive around for several minutes before I found a spot to park. Caleb was getting around in a wheelchair at that time, and I wasn’t quite sure how I would get him from the muddy parking lot to the restaurant, but by the time I had parked, I could smell the food and was determined to get a bite. I pushed Caleb’s wheelchair through the mud, following the smell of smoke wafting out of Corkscrew.
I only ordered the brisket because the true test of a BBQ joint is the quality of the brisket. Everything else is peripheral. Caleb got the mac ‘n’ cheese.
When I ordered the two pounds of meat, the woman taking my order assumed I wasn’t planning to eat all two pounds at one time, so she gave me half a pound on a plate and wrapped the other 1.5 pounds in foil for me to take to go. While she was correct that it was not all for me to eat at once, she got the amount to put on the plate and the amount to take home to my husband reversed.
I ordered the moist brisket, which is the fatty cut. Fat holds so much flavor, and Corkscrew’s moist cut didn’t disappoint. First, it looked lovely. It had a colorful smoke ring, covered by a dark bark. The taste was just as lovely. That dark bark was the right amount of salty. The brisket pulled apart easily and melted in my mouth. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal. I tried the sauce, and it was good, but because the brisket had so much flavor, I only dipped one bite in sauce. If the meat is good, I pass on the sauce and on the bread. If it’s tough and rubbery, but I’m near death with hunger, or just being polite, I completely saturate the meat in sauce, slap two slices of bread around it, and then dip each bite in more sauce. But there was no need for sauce or bread with Corkscrew’s brisket. I didn’t want to disguise any of the flavor in the meat.
Caleb’s mac ‘n’ cheese wasn’t very good, but don’t let this keep you from trying Corkscrew. You should pick a BBQ joint based on its meat, not sides.
If you’re traveling from the Lufkin area, Corkscrew is now easy to get to if you have a TxTag or EZTag. You can take the new toll road (99) just south of New Caney. Spring is just a short drive down 99. Head out there when you get a chance, but go early because they sell out often.