Evolution 2016: Food

August 20, 2016 • 10:30 am

by Greg Mayer

After Jerry noted that the world’s most expensive BBQ is dry-aged and in New York City, and that “true Texans wouldn’t have anything to do with” it, I thought it might be a good time to feature Texas BBQ, which I enjoyed at Iron Works BBQ in Austin while at the Evolution 2016 meetings earlier this summer.

Iron Works is in an old iron works at the corner of Red River and Cesar Chavez Streets, conveniently located just down the block from the convention center where the meetings were held. It was recommended by locals, and so I went with a couple of colleagues. You order and pick up your main course at a counter window, grabbing drinks out of an open ice chest and heading to the check out, and then get to sit down.

One of my colleagues had the pulled pork, with which she had a Shiner IPA (Shiner being a brewery to the southeast of Austin).


My other colleague had the sampler plate– brisket, ribs, sausage, and maybe you can spot some other sort of BBQ in there. (New category of WEIT post: Spot the meat!)

I had the sausage, with an added large pickle. For sides I had creamed corn– delicious, and you don’t often see it these days– and beans– also delicious. But they didn’t have my two favorite Southern sides: okra and fried pickles. There may well be regional variations in side preference and availability, which as a northerner, I am not accustomed to.


Like all good BBQ joints, there was a roll of paper towels at the table.


I went back another time with another colleague, this time enjoying the brisket, with potato salad and mac and cheese as my sides. I washed it down with a Big Red, a Texas-made soda of the cream soda/Dr. Pepper class.


For a more upper crust brunch, a colleague and I went to a classier joint, with bloody marys


and beignets with a cream sauce among the comestibles. Beignets are a New Orleans specialty, which I guess have migrated west to Texas.


Austin is famed for its musical nightlife, and there were two areas I got to see.

Dead robot soldiers.

The first was the Rainey Street District, which is an older residential neighborhood, now with condos, with the remaining low frame houses (and their lawns) converted into bars. It attracted mostly the young urban professional crowd. These two signs were in the neighborhood (the pictures obviously taken in daylight). I don’t know what the second one means, but it has a cat, so I liked it.

The other nightlife area was 6th Street, which seemed the more traditional honky-tonks-with-live-bands kind of a place I was expecting. This is Darwin’s Pub, which of course was a must see for visiting evolutionary biologists. My vision was not as blurry as the photo– it’s hard to get a decent picture in a darkened pub.


And one night at the street corner bar at the aptly named Corner, we discovered it was a colleague’s birthday, and the waitress managed to rustle up a filled red velvet cupcake for her, which was on the house. After singing Happy Birthday, we devoured it.


21 thoughts on “Evolution 2016: Food

  1. You’re making me hungry, Greg. I grew up in the Piney Woods of East Texas, and can easily tell the difference to the Austin/San Antonio Central Texas BBQ style. I much prefer the smokier, sweeter, leaner brisket cuts of Longview/Tyler/Dallas.

    If you find yourself in that area, go to Bodacious BBQ. It’s a chain, but only because no-one can do it better. I mail-order their sauce, because I can’t get the right kind here in the Houston area (although Goode Co. BBQ does get close).

  2. Whoa, Dr Mayer, may I please have that “sampler plate ?!” Y E S !

    And the “kitten my bartending on” – deal ? That is, I will wager, a pastiche of ( “getting” – ) stuffs such as thus: https://goo.gl/k0Ij6P.

    Sweet meeting venue that one — Austin !

  3. Red River and Cesar Chavez Streets

    I suspect that corner is high on the stakes for re-naming once Trump’s Thought Police start to exercise their powers. Say, mid-Feb next year?
    Even I know “Red River” – it’s a prolific fossil site (but I thought it was in Alberta, not Texas. Well, on the right continent at least).
    Cesar Chavez – in the World According to Trump, obviously an illegal immigrant. Ad in the real world …
    Oh, definitely the Thought Police will have that road re-named. Or find a more politically desirable Cesar Chavez.
    Cesar Chavez (born César Estrada Chávez, locally: [ˈsesaɾ esˈtɾaða ˈtʃaβes]; March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993) was an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers union, UFW) in 1962.”

  4. I had okra and fried pickles at other places in Austin when I was there for Evolution 2016, so I think the lack of them at Iron Works doesn’t say anything in particular about what sides are part of the Texas BBQ culture. I also had friend green tomatoes for the first time in my life, and wow, were they good. :->

  5. “For a more upper crust brunch, a colleague and I went to a classier joint, with bloody marys”

    Did you eat the olive? Was there a red pimento sticking out of it?

  6. Potato salad noted. And also that it was served with an ice cream scoop, just like at my old elementary school in the ’50s, where they made it partly with mashed potatoes, and also with pickles and celery seed. Some of the best damn potato salad I’ve ever had. (Same cafeteria served THE BEST cinnamon buns ever made.)

    Back to potato salad, only once since then (NB: in over a half-century) have I ever had any from a menu that was worth returning for – at Union Pig & Chicken in Pittsburgh. On a return trip, expecting first and foremost to get the potato salad, they informed me that they didn’t have it that night. (WTF??)

    Most recently, at Gaucho, a highly rated food truck here – a subsidiary of a restaurant by the same name – the potato salad had feta cheese in it. Feta cheese is fine stuff – it just has no place in potato salad.

    All of which leads to one of Hempenstein’s axioms – if you’re paying money for potato salad, expect to be disappointed.

    (So how was it in Austin?)

    1. I’ve never seen mashed potatoes in potato salad, and the idea has never even crossed my mind. Sounds like you recommend it.

      I won’t be changing the way I make it though – which does NOT include feta cheese! I love feta, and there’s a place for it in good food, but imo that doesn’t include potato salad!

  7. Did you get to see the bats fly out from under the bridge? The colony is estimated at about a million, and shows up on weather radar during evening emergence.

    I stayed at the Austin Motel, highly recommended for its style and price.

  8. Dr Jerry, Can your really eat all that BBQ you took photos of? Food to die from not for. BBQ(barbacoa), by the way was invented not by Texans but by the Arawakan speaking Taino, the indigenous people of the Caribbean and parts of Florida who also supplied us via Spanish the words hammock (hamaca),canoe(kanao), and Tabacco(tabaco),potato(batata), and hurricane(juracan).They consumed a lot of fish and veggies but small critters were on the menu as well–hutias, earthworms, lizards,turtles,and birds.

    1. Richard– is that you? Glad to see you stopping by! I did not have the Ruby Redbird. The convention center stocked the Bock, and I got a taste of the IPA. I’ll put the Redbird on the list for next year’s herp meetings in Austin.


  9. “Like all good BBQ joints, there was a roll of paper towels at the table.”

    And in the restroom, a noisy and ineffective blow dryer that leaves you wiping your hands on your pants, unless you remember that there are plenty of free paper towels waiting back at your table.

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