Terry Black's sign

The Texas Monthly BBQ Challenge

This month’s issue of Texas Monthly is the BBQ issue in which they identify the top 50 (and rank the top ten) BBQ joints in the state. Being a vegetarian (mostly), this wasn’t of great interest to me, but as a man intent on conquering brisket smoking, it was to Dave. I asked if he wanted me to save the magazine for him, and he said yes. As I was removing all the subscription cards from the pages, I looked closer at the insert in the middle. It was a passport that allows you to get stamps from the restaurants and then take it to the Yeti store for prizes. The biggest prize is a cooler, which takes all 50 stamps, but you can get a t-shirt or hat or tumbler for smaller challenges like visiting the joints with female pit masters or the newcomers to the best-of list or several that are within walking distance in downtown Austin.

There’s really nothing we love more than a passport and stamps, so I gave that one to Dave and bought another for myself. I might not be eating the BBQ, but if I have to tag along, at least I can claim the prizes. And then, to make it more interesting, I’ve decided that there are plenty of things a BBQ joint can be judged on besides the brisket and sausage. What about the sides? The desserts? The iced tea?

On Friday, we visited two of the places on the list, Valentina’s and Terry Black’s. We had breakfast tacos at Valentina’s, so I will forgo the review until I have a chance to return for the important stuff, but here goes my review for Terry Black’s, based on a five-star system.

Terry Black’s

Sides (**)

The sides are served cafeteria style, which I loved because it reminds me of the old Underwood’s. As far as the food itself, it’s a mixed bag. The potato salad was good…chunky potatoes and lots of dill. The green beans were crisp but the garlic was too much (although everyone else in my party liked them). The mac ‘n cheese was passable, but the creamed corn was downright weird (tasted like nutmeg or cinnamon had been added). I did not try the cole slaw because I hate cole slaw, and I didn’t try the pintos because they weren’t vegetarian.

Desserts (*)

The peach cobbler was okay. The peaches were tasty, but it could have used more crust. You could probably find something similar in the frozen section of the grocery store. As for the banana pudding, it was served layered in plastic cups, the vanilla wafers and bananas were hard to find, and the pudding tasted like Laffy Taffy. One of my traveling companions described it best: “It tastes institutional, like the stuff they serve in the state prison.”

Iced Tea (*****)

This was the best part of the meal. Just the right amount of sweet, not overly sweet.

Is it really better than the Salt Lick?

And finally, I have to end with this question because the venerable Salt Lick didn’t even make the list this time.

And the answer is: NO! Not the brisket or sausage (according to Dave), not even the best side (the potato salad), and definitely not the cobbler.

I’m setting up a page for my vegetarian’s reviews of the best BBQ joints in Texas. If you’re interested, check here periodically for updates.

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