Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Central Texas Barbecue Series: Ruby's BBQ

I allowed extra time on this book tour for Austin and the surrounding areas specificaly so I could sample some of the best barbecue in the country. The next series of posts, interrupted by book tour news, will be about the barbecue joints I tried in Austin and nearby Lockhart.

The first place on my hit list? Ruby's BBQ. I started with Ruby's for three reasons; the first because a dear friend used to live here and loved Ruby's. When we were recipe testing for our restaurant Smokin' Pete's BBQ, she always gave us her opinion on the brisket, using Ruby's as her ruler. It was like I was in a secret competition with them and only I knew. I wanted to meet this secret foe.

The second reason I started with Ruby's is because it's run by a woman, Pat Mares. Female pitmasters are an uncommon bunch, so what better way to begin the She-Smoke tour than with Ruby's?

The third reason is because Ruby's uses all natural meats like we do at Smokin' Pete's BBQ. They also have the brick pits modeled after those you find at Kreuz Market and Smitty's in Lockhart, TX. I'll post later about those locales, but I tasted some of the best barbecue, ever, in Lockhart (my husband was offended when I told him that. I reminded him that those joints have been in business 70-100+ years, so he should get over himself).

I ordered the two meat combo plate with brisket and sausage. Sides were potato salad and mac-n-cheese. It came with sauce on the side, homemade pickle slices, and the ever-present white bread. My vegetarian cousin ordered the black bean tacos and sides. Ruby's, of all the barbecue joints I visited in Texas, was the most gracious toward the vegetarian crowd.

For starters, the sausage blew me away. I normally don't get too excited about sausage because it's easy to smoke. But this sausage was deeply smoky, with the right amount of spice, flavors, and texture. Baby El loved the sausage too, so mostly I got to eat the casing, while she ate the meat.
Now for the brisket, to me the truly important meat of any barbecue restaurant. Yes, I love pulled pork and ribs, but it is the brisket that is the greatest challenge to cook to tender without drying out.

The slices had a ruby red smoke ring, pun intended. It was good. Not amazing, but good. I had mostly center cut deckle, though, so I didn't get much of the bark.

The sides: The mac-and-cheese was also good, but I didn't care for the potato salad. Too heavy on the dressing and too much mustard for my taste. The pickle slices were delicious and definitely homemade. Lightly sweet and sour, they were lovely with the meats and sauce.

The sauce: I love the thinner, tangy, peppery Texas barbecue sauce. Ruby's has the right blend of molasses and red pepper heat. One of my favorite sauces on the trip.

They invite you to see their pit. It is the only old fashioned brick pit in the Austin City limits. Here is a smoke-filled picture.

The last thing I want to say about Ruby's? It is welcoming. It exemplifies Austin: comfortable, quirky, and contemporary, but wrapped within a rich history.


  1. I am drooling, just drooling on everything in site right now looking at the photo and reading this, JEALOUS!

  2. Always happy when my blog posts induce drool lol! Thank you for reading. And yes! E-mail me about the book so I can get your address. A giveaway would be fun. J

  3. Barbecue cooked in an old fashioned brick pit? Well, it has to be good barbecue then! I agree that only pit masters can pull out a perfectly tender yet juicy brisket! We could try, though, lol! I got to go see this place. I love barbecue hunting, trying different barbecue flavors and styles and learning the cultures and traditions that goes along with it.

  4. Hey Jules! It was the sauce I wanted you to check out, I love it!! (I love yours, too, though). The patio's great, too. I forgot about the sausage, now you're making me wish I was there!

    I know your long gone, I'll go read about the rest of your trip, It sounds like you're having a great time. Did you get to Barton Springs?

  5. A lot of fancy, plausibly glorified bbq joints out there these days [Ima lookin' at you Franklin!], but my fave is and likely always will be, Ruby's [why, oh, why, did some lousy chain have to come along and sully the Ruby's name; Ima lookin' at you Rudy's]!!! Darn, I miss the old Ruby's home fries...

    When these new fancy, dancy places have been sellin' bbq for over 25 years, then maybe, just maybe they could have somthin' to talk about...but, for now, they just seem to be the flavor of the day. Give me Ruby's any day!!!