John Mueller BBQ in AustinJohn Mueller BBQ in Austin adds a second location. John Mueller knows barbecue. He learned his art at one of the temples of Texas barbecue, Louie Mueller's in Taylor, which his grandfather founded and his father, Bobby Mueller, runs. A few years back John opened up his own place on Manor Road in East Austin in the same building where barrelhouse piano legend Robert Shaw ran his grocery store, which finally put Austin on the BBQ map. Before then, a true barbecue aficionado had to leave town for Taylor, Lockhart or Luling to sample the best of Central Texas Barbecue Belt, the epicenter of the culinary art of smoked meats.
I've been spoiled by John. John smokes pork ribs almost as well as I do at my home pit and knows the difference between fatty and lean brisket. Road trips to Luling City Market, which still rates as the best on the planet in my book, are less frequent. And I was flattered a couple weeks ago. It was two days after the presidential election and my dining companion suggested we eat in the back house of John's joint because the main room was full of Republicans, who like their red meat as much as I do. The back house was empty, although two men followed my companion and me. One of them was University of Texas football coach Mack Brown who evidently wanted privacy after dodging a bullet against Oklahoma State two days before. John Mueller materialized and went to visit with the Coach for a few minutes before sitting down with us.
He had big news. He was going to open up a second location.
I was not pleased to hear this and I told him so. A real barbecue man has to manning the front line of a joint if it has his name on the sign out front. How could John Mueller be two places at once? Wherever he wasn't, he would surely be missed. John explained his manager Chris has been hankering for a little more responsibility which is why he decided to take over the lease to BBQ World Headquarters on Burnet Road, a joint that had been acclaimed for its beef brisket but which had fallen on hard times. So the 'cue will be slow-smoked over on Manor, then transported to Burnet, where Chris will be slicing and serving.
I do have mixed feelings because the meat man has to show his face for a joint to rate. On the other hand, underprivileged BBQ hounds up in 360/183 land and up in Computerlandia around Round Rock won't have to drive all the way into the city or all the way out of town to understand what I'm talking about when I say John Mueller sets the standard for great Texas barbecue. Ask for a little sample slice in the serving line and you'll see what I mean.