Day 4 in Texas: San Antonio to Taylor

April 2, 2021 • 8:30 am

Yesterday morning I woke up in San Antonio after a fitful night’s sleep (was it the tacos?), and hightailed it out of town as fast as I could. I had two destinations, each an hour’s drive from the previous one.

My first stop was the renowned Texas Pie Company in Kyle, a small town (ca. 28,000 people) that had at least one notable resident: writer Katherine Anne Porter spent a few years here as a child.

Now it’s the Home of Excellent Pies. Here’s the store; I was waiting out front when it opened so I could get freshly baked pie. Look at that giant slice of cherry pie over the door!

They sell all manner of baked goods, but of course they don’t call it the Texas Donut Company or Texas Lemon Bar company. YOU MUST HAVE PIE. Their pies are rated highly by food mavens Jane and Michael Stern, as well as others. Fortunately, you don’t have to buy a whole pie: they have 4-inch “mini pies” for $5 and the full 8-inch jobs (four times the area) for $18. Here’s the pie case with the mini pies on the top shelf. It was a hard choice:

I was going to buy two mini pies but settled on four. Shown below, they include a strawberry peach pie, a buttermilk pie (an Indiana and Amish favorite), and two pies recommended by the counter woman (who called me “Honey”): pecan and dutch apple. I’ll have one a day for dessert after lunch, as she said they’d last about ten days at room temperature. I’ve already polished off the buttermilk, which was superb, with a thick and flaky crust and the sweet classic (and slightly tangy) filling of this species of pie.

A four-inch diameter pie is just enough to constitute a hefty dessert! (They gave me plastic forks.) Highly recommended if you’re driving between Austin and San Antonio: it’s right off the main highway.

But my prime destination was another hour to the northeast: the Southside Market in Elgin, famed for its sausages (also called “hot guts” in Texas). The population is about 8,000, and it’s in cattle country, so you see a lot of boots and cowboy hats. Check out the many famous movies filmed in this small town.

A cow or horse trailer parked outside. It was from Louisiana, and empty, so maybe they just delivered a load of cattle.

At noon there was a huge line of cars outside picking up orders. Every car that you see is in the BBQ line. The place is famous for its sausage, but the brisket is also well known.

An old smoker outside the door:

Inside, there was already a huge line by 11:30 am (bbq is often eaten early in Texas). Note the social distancing and masks. Despite the absence of a statewide mask mandate in Texas, most stores and restaurants still require you to enter wearing a mask, and everybody I saw was compliant.

This is a fancy menu for a BBQ joint. I got the “Southside Combo Plate,” which had a sliced sausage, three fat pieces of juicy brisket, two pieces of white bread and a picks (a separate counter had jalapenos, sauce, and onions). My sides were beans and potato salad, which turned out to be good choices.

One of the two eating rooms—this is a big place for a barbecue joint!

Two old timers tucking into their lunch.

My plate, described above. I didn’t see the condiment bar with saltines, but wish I had, as I prefer saltines more than white bread with my meat.

This shot of the brisket shows all four essential bits: the charred bit on the outside, the red “smoke ring” of meat below it, the meat, and the fat. Brisket without any fat is dry, good only for those on a diet.

Closeup of the sausage.

My judgment on the Southside Market: the BBQ was very good, but not great, and that includes the sausage. In fact, both the brisket and the sausage were better at Black’s BBQ in Lockhart, and the brisket was better at the City Market than at either Black’s or the Southside Market. The City Market remains my top choice for Texas BBQ, but I have other places to visit, including the famous Louie Mueller tomorrow.

Many hold Mueller’s to be the best barbecued brisket in Texas (ergo the best BBQ in America), but I’ve never been there before. It’s in Taylor, Texas, just 15 minutes from Elgin, and I’m staying there now so I can be at Mueller’s at opening time of 11 a.m.  If you’re a reader in the area (it’s only 30 minutes from Austin), I’ll be glad to meet you at Mueller’s at 11 on the dot today (Friday).

The Southside Market has plenty of sausages to take home, and they were doing a land office business at the meat counter.

Here’s the list of purveyed “hot guts”:

I’ve finished my pie, and it’s time for a little nap. . . .

In a few hours, on to Louie Mueller!

32 thoughts on “Day 4 in Texas: San Antonio to Taylor

    1. How do you get free shipping? It didn’t look like free shipping when I checked–the price of the pie is more than doubled when it’s sent as opposed to getting it in the store.

  1. I am interested in learning more about pecans – I gather that Georgia is a source for Pawnee pecans – a buttery variant compared to the usual pecan. I wonder what pecans were in those pies.

    1. Perhaps someone at the Texas Pecan Growers Association could help you: Our local organizations would sell boxes of pecans each year as a fundraiser before Thanksgiving, but last year the Baptists gave it up as the shipping costs were so high.

      1. There are so many pecans on the trees in the fall in Texas that they accumulate everywhere, especially on roofs of low buildings. I used to harvest vast amounts from the roofs of the buildings where I worked in Austin, They last for months. They were an important part of my diet.

  2. Taylor, Tx. You are less than 1.5 hours north to Waco, Tx. But why you would want to go there, I don’t know. I lived in Waco for a little over 2 years during my working time. It looks like you found all the good places to eat.

  3. My offer still stands for a farewell BBQ brunch at City Market on the 7th or 8th, if either works for you (getting my final Moderna injection on the 6th).

  4. Ooooooooohhhhh! That’s me drooling over your closeups. Of course, I enlarged the picture of the menu. So jealous. Safe travels, PCC(E) – looking forward to the next stop!

  5. It’s getting tough for me to see these posts. I’m happy for you, getting to travel and eat great food and all, but my jealousy level is through the roof!

  6. It all looks good but I’m hoping you’re getting some fiber. Just saying. If it was me, and I wish it was, I would also be doubling up on my gout medicine.

      1. Yes, that’s a good point. I’m going to get some BBQ for lunch today, based on your inspiring posts, though my area is notorious for not having good BBQ. Still, even mediocre BBQ is worth having. I’ll do my best.

        1. “…even mediocre BBQ is worth having.”

          I see you haven’t eaten at Smokin’ George’s in Nanaimo B.C.
          Oh, the humanity!

  7. “In a few hours, on to Louie Mueller!”

    As I look down, notice that I’m wearing my Louie Mueller T-shirt:

    “Gospel according to Louie
    Louie 9:1
    9 Parts Pepper
    1 Part Salt
    in the name of
    The Holy Pepper

    Start sobbing gently….

  8. Yeah, I know what you mean but I was thinking that there’s at least “bad” BBQ below “mediocre”. Unfortunately, almost inedible BBQ is widely available. Just like pizza.

  9. I am insanely jealous, Professor. I have given up finding anything worthy of the name, “Barbecue” in Florida. One plate of dry lifeless brisket and scrawny chicken wings after another. Best barbecue I have had was on a trip through Macon, Georgia some years ago and I can’t remember the name of the joint.
    You have me ready to drive to Texas for dinner.

  10. My wife and I attended UT Austin together for our undergraduate degrees, and are BBQ maniacs. We still spend a month or so each year at her families place west of Austin.
    It was only a couple of months ago that I was there, but your posts are making me a bit homesick.

    Each time we go, we get about 20 pounds each of brisket and sausage, freeze and vacuum seal it, the bring it home. Our choice is either Spykes in Kingsland, or Cooper’s in Llano.
    We find either of those superior to what is available in Elgin or Lockhart.
    Plus, it keeps in the freezer really well. All of the old people in my wife’s family have freezers full of the stuff, as they don’t drive into town very often ( or don’t drive at all). When visiting them, they almost always offer to warm some up for us.
    Once again, I am pretty disappointed that I am not there to meet you and offer a bit of hospitality.

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