Sports Illustrated launches a food vertical; expect the Longhorns and barbecue to get some play

Food and sports are intertwined in the national consciousness. “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,” it says it right there in the unofficial song of Major League Baseball. When you go to the San Francisco Giants game, you know you are getting parmesan fries, and a trip to a Longhorns game probably involves brisket (if it’s a really good tailgate) or ribs. At least burgers. To that end, Sports Illustrated has jumped into the food coverage game, one topic that remains hot in online journalism from Seattle to Miami. As Brett Martin of GQ put it on Twitter, “Everybody in the pool.”

ounders of the TXmEX tailgaters, from left, Jesse Reyna, Danny Rubio and Roy Alba, cook up lunch for members of their fan club outside the stadium. Texas Tailgaters were out in full force Friday afternoon November 25, 2016 for the Texas Longhorns’ season finale football game against TCU at home in Austin as fans from the Get ‘Em Hooked Tailgaters get ready for the big game. (Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

In its post announcing SI Eats, magazine senior writer Andy Staples said the new vertical from the stalwart brand would focus on where to eat near stadiums, on the way to games and at the games (both inside and out). The site will tell the stories of the people behind the food and focus on the type of cuisine (casual and comforting) we associate with sports, not foie gras.

Considering how big a role food plays at college football tailgates and in the college towns around America, expect the fall to be a big time of year for SI Eats and expect them to come a-knockin’ in Austin. I envision artisanal hot dogs from Frank at Scholz, barbecue at Franklin, Micklethwait and more, and maybe some tailgate burgers or fajitas. You can follow the nascent site at SI.com/eats.

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Washington Post claims D.C’s best brisket is better than Franklin Barbecue’s

Update: The Washington Post’s Tim Carman, who lived in Houston for 14 years, responded to my post below,  calling it “food chauvinism,” which, admittedly, is a sweet use of that word.  He also described his last trip to Franklin Barbecue, in October, and described the brisket as under-seasoned and mediocre. Maybe I need to get a flight and head back to the District and see what’s so great about Hill Country barbecue. Carman also admits showing up to Franklin at 9 a.m. on a Saturday. #rookiemove

First San Antonio wanted a taco war, now the nation’s capital is flaming a barbecue war of words.

Diners at Franklin Barbecue in Austin. (Credit: Reshma Kirpalani)

I never call out other food writers and restaurant critics. There are several reasons, but mostly because I respect the hard work that all my peers put into their jobs (we’re something of a tight-knit community), and everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. Unless that opinion is that brisket in Washington D.C. made at a restaurant that until a year ago was using a gas-assisted smoker is better than the brisket at Franklin Barbecue. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman listed his top 10 barbecue places in the D.C. Metro area and ranked Hill Country barbecue as the area’s top spot.

The most astonishing thing he wrote?

I wrote something in my notes that I never thought I’d utter about Hill Country: The “brisket is as good or better than Franklin’s.”

Yea, and Austin has better crab cakes than Baltimore.

Look, I’ve never been to Hill Country barbecue in D.C., or the flagship in Manhattan opened by a man with Texas roots who modeled his restaurant on Kreuz Market in his family’s hometown of Lockhart. But I don’t need to to know that the brisket there, or anywhere in D.C., can’t touch that at Franklin Barbecue. I reached out to barbecue expert Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor at Texas Monthly, and a man who has eaten plenty of barbecue all over America, to get his take on the proclamation.

“Anytime I read someone who writes that the brisket they had was as good as Franklin’s, then I just know that it’s been too long since they’ve been to Franklin,” he said. “The same thing happens to me.”

While it is good to see Hill Country trying to live up to its name by cooking in the Texas tradition, and Carman is right to call out the “gassers,” as Vaughn calls them, we’re pretty sure the writer just needs to swing back down to Texas for a refresher. I’ll buy the Peacemaker.

For more on gassers, and Franklin’s trip up to Hill Country in Manhattan, read Vaughn’s 2013 Texas Monthly article “In defense of gassers,” and check out his recently released Top 50 barbecue joints in Texas list. 

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Freedmen’s owner purchases Texas 46 Bar and Grill in the Texas Hill Country

Freedmen’s Bar owner Cuatro Kowalski has purchased Texas 46 in the Texas Hill Country town of Spring Branch. The bar and burger joint located near Canyon Lake was owned for about 30 years by Gary Stebbins, who recently passed away. Kowalski eventually plans to turn Stebbins’ old house on the property into a cafe and bakery, likely serving barbecue. Most of the changes currently happening at Texas 46 are cosmetic, including an expansion of the patio space.
(Credit: Facebook.com/TXS46/)
With the growth of his restaurant operations, Kowalski has brought on chefAustin Fry to serve as culinary director for both Freedmen’s and Texas 46, along with future culinary adventures. Fry, whose resume includes serving as executive chef and general manager at La Condesa in 2009, has spent much of the past eight years living in Asia, where he worked as executive chef at Blue Smoke in Hong Kong, among others.

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Austin360 Dining Guide: The best barbecue in Central Texas

From the archives (May 2014): The best barbecue in Austin

La Barbecue closing its trailer and moving into Quickie Pickie on East Cesar Chavez Street

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One of Austin’s best barbecue operators is finally getting some air conditioning to go with its smoked meats. La Barbecue will move into the Quickie Pickie at 2027 E Cesar Chavez St. and open for business there on August 2. The menu will feature the same roster of barbecue currently sold at the trailer, which will close following service on July 30.

(Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Quickie Pickie will continue to serve sodas, water, beer, wine, etc. to customers, but La Barbecue, which will have a sign under QP’s, will handle all of the food operations. The brick-and-mortar version of the barbecue joint founded by LeAnn Mueller in 2012 will keep the same hours, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, with plans to eventually add Tuesday hours, and offer indoor and outdoor seating.

The La Barbecue trailer opened in 2012 in South Austin and moved to its current East Austin lot in 2015. For more on LeAnn Mueller, including her family background and history as a professional photographer, check out Daniel Vaughn’s comprehensive interview with her from 2015 on TexasMonthly.com.

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Austin360 Dining Guide: The best barbecue in Central Texas

From the archives (May 2014): The best barbecue in Austin

Nubian Queen Lola’s Cajun Soul Food Cafe has closed

Lola Stephens-Bell appears to have closed her Nubian Queen Lola’s Cajun Soul Food Cafe at 1815 Rosewood Ave. The space, which looks to be cleared out inside, has sat dormant for weeks. Calls to the restaurant were met with a recording that lists a new phone number in Taylor.

Netspend President Chuck Harris chats with Lola Stephens-Bell, the owner of Nubian Queen Lola’s Cajun Soul Food Cafe, during Netspend’s Community Connect event in December. (Dan Zehr AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Stephens-Bell, who opened the restaurant in 2004, has long served as a vocal advocate for the homeless during her tenure at the East Austin restaurant, giving out free meals several days a week and even taking to the radio airwaves to spread the gospel of charity and kindness. Tyson Foods donated a bus and a year’s worth of chicken to Stephens-Bell in 2016 to aide in her efforts to fight hunger in the Austin area, and Stephens-Bell’s generosity was repaid in 2011, when members of various churches and philanthropists joined to help the Lake Charles, La. native renovate her small building.

We’ll have more details on any potential plans Stephens-Bell has, as they become available.

 

Mediterranean restaurant Mezze Me opens at Triangle Friday

(Credit: Ashlyn Allison)

Fast-casual Mediterranean concept Mezze Me opens at 4700 Guadalupe St. Suite 9 in the Triangle on Friday. The restaurant from Moody Ugur, a native of Turkey, will source from area farmers and producers to create a menu of customizable bowls that use pita, spring mix, brown rice with quinoa or basmati rice. Diners then choose beef and lamb doner, chicken doner, braised lamb, kofta balls or falafel and can top their dishes with a selection of Mediterranean mezze (appetizers) such as red pepper hummus, zucchini yogurt with dill and walnut, and spicy tabouli. Bowls cost less than $10.

“It’s been a longtime goal of mine to open a Mediterranean restaurant, and Austin is the perfect city and community,” said Ugur, who graduated from college in Austin before operating two restaurants in Instanbul. “Though we have an abundant amount of restaurants, an authentic, quick-casual Mediterranean restaurant was lacking. I’m very excited to be back in Austin serving the food I grew up on.”

Mezze Me is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The Halal Guys will open first Austin restaurant on the Drag July 15

Facebook.com/TheHalalGuys

Mediterranean restaurant The Halal Guys will have the grand opening of its Austin location at 2915 Guadalupe St. on July 15. The restaurant intends to have some soft open hours next week in advance of the official opening. The restaurant is the second franchise from an ownership group that owns the 10111 Louetta Road location in Houston. The restaurant that specializes in gyros and falafel first opened as a street cart just south of Central Park in 1990.