A few months ago, our panel of restaurant reviewers went on a BBQ crawl, limited (challengingly) to Austin’s city limits. As many know, it is outside of Austin, in those bucolic towns with 100-year-old storefronts plotted around a majestic courthouse/city hall, where one may find the best BBQ in Texas. Snow’s, Louis Müeller, Kreuz Market, Smitty’s, Luling City Market, City Meat Market in Giddings…there’s copious (ad nauseum) pontification on these icons all over the Internet. But it had been a long time since anyone did a really focused case study within the Austin borders, an area long overlooked (and rightfully so) for having mediocre BBQ.**
What we found was a curious relationship between mouth bling and good BBQ: the more bling on the teef, the less amazing the beef. It’s tempting to believe the inverse is true—we tend to associate extreme subculture aesthetics with extreme magical wizard capabilities, such as those required to perfectly smoke, render, and season a brisket. For instance: would you prefer a guy with dreadlocks making your Jamaican ackee and salted fish, or one with a preppy haircut?
But there it was anyway, a series of repeated coincidences—as the pitmaster’s sparklemouth decreased, we found the quality of the BBQ increased. There was one exception: Uncle Billy’s, a detestable chain whose vibe is a manufactured rudeness (completely anathema to the Southern hospitality one encounters at more authentic places in and out of Austin’s borders). Sulky waitresses, faux-rustic décor, and numerous flatscreen TVs do not real Texas BBQ make. And so comes The Uncle Billy’s Hypothesis, wherein bad vibes negatively influence the success implied by a lack of shiny teeth.
As illustrated in this brief PowerPoint presentation: Grill-to-BBQ Study
* Title taken from iconic House Park BBQ sign in Downtown Austin: “Don’t Need No Teef To Eat Our Beef” (which, by the way, Sam of Sam’s BBQ says they stole from him long ago, but he’s fine with it – in fact, he might just be the nicest man in the country)
** It should be noted that mediocre BBQ in Texas is still the best BBQ many New Yorkers, Californians, Chicagoans, etc. will ever have, which is why places like Salt Lick and Stubb’s are so lauded by visitors.