Sunday, August 14, 2011

Everything IS bigger in Texas

I'm not sure if this BBQ spot is the on the county line as its name suggests, but it is serving up over the top smoked meats. The County Line is another of my husband's faves in the Austin area. It is set on the lake with a deck that allows for boat docking and a plethora of turtles and ducks to feed should you wish. It was pretty warm (105 degrees) when we were there but we could not resist having a tall Blue Moon on the deck while waiting for a table. The view is peaceful; I could see where this would be a popular spot for those Texas Longhorn football game crowds.

The menu offers a smorgasbord of delectable smoked meats. These are arranged as platters, but my husband had discovered on a previous trip that you could order ala carte and not get so many of the filler sides. This was the way to go! We started with an order of the brisket tacos, some pulled chicken, and pulled pork. Each ala cart meat must be ordered in 1/4 pound increments. We also ordered a side of their pinto beans to give them a try. For drinks, we switched to a Lonestar brew and a Texas margarita to pay some homage to the home state. The margarita was served in a shaker with the glass on the side and the Lonestar was refreshing in the hot weather.

The interior of the restaurant has a very rustic, homey feeling. There is nothing pretentious right down to the rolls of brown paper towels on the tables. We had requested a table by the window, and it was a good choice. We were able to get the same view we had on the deck, but in the air conditioned comfort of the restaurant.

The tacos arrived and they were scrumptious. The brisket was tender and nicely smoked. They were served on fresh corn tortillas with a zesty pico de gallo. The pinto beans, on the other hand, were not stellar. They had very little seasoning or flavor. They were just a filler and not really necessary. The meats are the stars at this place. The chicken was melt-in-your mouth juicy and had layers of flavor. The pork was not as tender as the chicken or brisket, but still pretty yummy. The house barbeque sauce has a generous heat level and thick viscosity. It was the perfect accompaniment to the smoked meats. We decided to go whole hog :) and order a round of ribs. You can't come to a Texas BBQ joint and not get ribs, right? We ordered the smallest portion of beef and pork ribs available. Small is a relative word as I soon found out.

We neatly stacked our plates while waiting for the ribs. We are obsessive stackers; I think it comes from my time in restaurants. I know a server always appreciates an accessible stack to a jumbled mess when clearing a table. As we layed the last salsa cup atop our tower of dishes, our server approached with what looked like something from the Flintstones. The two beef ribs were brontosaurus size! I knew we were in trouble at that point, but I was ready to persevere. Let me add at this point that I also had worn a white tank top to dinner...at a BBQ restaurant...what was I thinking?

We each took one of those hulkish beef ribs and dug in. The dry rub they put on the meat was delicious. It had some heat but it was very rounded with lots of depth. There was a sweetness to it that reminded me of caramelized brown sugar. The rib was then slathered in the house barbeque sauce...nirvana on a plate and on my white shirt as it dripped down my chin. The meat was extremely tender and practically fell off the bone. In fact it was so good that I did not even notice the blemish on my shirt until my husband so graciously pointed it out. Oh well, what was a tank top in the face of these righteous ribs? The pork ribs were much less intimidating. They were a small 4 rib rack that resembled spare ribs. I took just one, not sure if I could do more than just taste it after the meaty beef rib. The rub on the meat was the same, but the pork was just not as wonderful as the beef. I took a couple of bites and found the meat to be somewhat tough and hard to separate from the bone. I was not sad that I was too full to finish the pork ribs.

The County Line does make their desserts on premise, including what looked like a juicy blackberry cobbler, but there was just no way to consume anything else of substance. I have not mentioned it but The County Line is sort of famous for their homemade loaves of bread. It is a fluffy, light, slightly sweet dough that marries well with all of the smoked meats and sides. Don't fill up on it though, you will miss out on some great 'que.

There are other barbeque restaurants in Austin, including the now famous Franklin's BBQ, but the setting on the lake combined with the tasty and generous portions of smoked meats makes The County Line a must-do for me when I come to Austin next. The relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff, kichy decor (including old road signs and a dispenser for fish and turtle food), and the made-with-love 'que add up to a memorable Texas dining experience. A couple of hints: Don't wear white, the Beef Ribs are delicious but ambitious, prepare to forget all lessons on decorum and eating properly...Be messy and enjoy!
County Line on the Lake on Urbanspoon

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