Snow’s BBQ Best BBQ in Texas
Most BBQ-lovers think of Austin or Lexington as the ultimate BBQ-destinations. And yes, they are must visit cities for those with an affection for munching on traditional smoke infused meat. It’s the small-town Lexington however, that truly steals the most BBQ thunder in Texas. In this little community that inhabits no more than 1.100 residents you will find a tiny BBQ outlet, opened only on Saturdays that in all its smallness has the biggest name in BBQ today: Snow’s BBQ. How has this small business venture that started in 2003 grown to become one of the biggest names in BBQ? Sit back, relax, munch on something good and read on to find out.
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He approached his good friend Tootsie Tomanetz – who at that time owned City Meat Market, a BBQ joint in the nearby town of Giddings – but was initially turned down. This due to the fact that Tootsie’s husband suffered a stroke in 1996 and required full time care. And eventually resulted in the sale of City Meat Market. In November 2002, a few years after her husband regained some independence and Tootsie had taken up a job as a janitor at Giddings High School, Kerry retried his luck and this time the then 68 year old Tootsie agreed. At City Meat Market Tootsie had been running the pits and therefor knew what it took to produce consistently good BBQ. Despite her age she was ready to once again start her fires at 1 am every Saturday to provide good BBQ for those visiting.
Kerry and Tootsie found a location nearby a weekly livestock auction and decided they would open from 08:00 till sold out (which mostly happens around noon) making sure auction visitors would swing by for a hearty breakfast or early lunch before the auction starts at 12:30. The BBQ restaurant has a modest set up. There’s a small shop you enter after having waited in line, here you find several ladies cramped behind a small workstation cutting and scooping to order and fill your tray with heaps of meaty goodness that you then take out to the semi covered patio. Here you dine al fresco whilst staring at the Pitmasters shoveling coals and mopping the meat all morning long.
Snow’s on fire
From 2003 till 2008 Kerry and Tootsie were mostly serving their smoked meats to locals and auction visitors. This all changed when Texas Monthly (a very reputable American magazine focusing on all things Texas) named Snow’s BBQ “Best BBQ in Texas”. This placed the small outlet with blinking lights on the radar of all who loved traditional BBQ.
The locals were all of a sudden joined in line by people from out of state and even from other countries that had read the article, seen the number one position and were very eager to try the best of the best. The line lengthened but the quality remained. Snow’s BBQ managed to keep pole position from 2008 till 2013. From 2013 till 2017 they were passed by Aaron Franklin from Austin but regained their number one status in 2017 and have kept this honor till today. Just when Kerry and Tootsie thought the lines couldn’t get any longer, Netflix decided to dedicate a season of the immensely popular Chef’s Table to BBQ in 2020 featuring the then 84-year-old Pitmaster Tootsie as one of four main subjects.
The must watch episode showcases the life of Tootsie with all its hardship she’s endured and her career as a Pitmaster. Every minute of watching the episode the respect for this hard working good-spirited woman just grows and grows. To see an 84-year-old lady doing the job of manning the pits, feeding the masses with nothing but high-end BBQ all while smiling and thankful makes you rethink the last time you bitched and moaned about your work schedule or workload. Despite all the recent attention and fame, Tootsie still works her double job. During the week as a janitor at Giddings High School and as Head Pitmaster shoveling glowing embers and tending to her meats on Saturdays.
AT SNOW’S BBQ IT’S THE COOK, NOT THE COOKER
In the Snow’s BBQ cooking area, you will find two types of BBQ pits. There are the well known offset smokers with their heavy doors and characteristic counterweights used for cooking brisket and pork spareribs. They are found in the back of the cooking area and can be seen in action whilst eating alongside them on the covered patio. The other pits are custom built direct-heat pits that I’ve only seen in Texas. Meat slowly cooks on the grates 30 inches above the bed of hot coals allowing the fat to render out, dripping on the hot coals releasing small bursts of flavor explosions each time a drop of fat hits an ember, sending aromatic arrows right back up to the meat. Because of the distance between meat, fire and the controlled environment due to the lids on the pits, flare ups or grease fires are something Tootsie has no worries about. Temperature control is based purely on Toostie’s experience since the pits don’t have a thermometer.
The combination of knowing how many glowing embers are at the bottom and a subtle touch to the pit’s lid with her bare hand let her know exactly if things are smoldering according to plan. Watching her maintain a fire in the burn barrels, shoveling coals, mopping and inspecting the meat, all realizing she has started her shift many hours ago, just builds up an enormous amount of respect and appreciation for her. You won’t find any competition trophy’s lining the shelves in this BBQ joint, but you just sense that this Pitmaster is in a league of her own.
WHY YOU SHOULD JOIN THE WAIT
What makes Snow’s BBQ so special? After a visit in 2018 I can only conclude that they have perfected the art of keeping it simple but perfect. Texas BBQ on its own is known for its no fuss BBQ. Salt, pepper, meat and fire, that’s it. No sauces or frills to distract or cover up mistakes made in the pit. Ok, Snow’s BBQ adds a fifth element to their BBQ repertoire: a mopping sauce used on some of their meats keeps things moist in their pits. What you will find on their menu covers the BBQ staples found throughout most of Texas these days: brisket, pork spareribs, chicken, turkey breast, two types of sausages and a pork shoulder steak. The pork steak is a signature item rarely seen in other BBQ-restaurants. This two to three inch thick cut from the pork shoulder is seasoned with nothing but salt and coarse ground black pepper and slow smoked over a hot bed of coals.
Every now-and-then it gets mopped with a liquid that only Tootsie knows the exact ingredients of. It is rumored to be made with water, onions, butter, Worcestershire, and mustard. Come to think of it, it is quite remarkable that in beef loving Texas a BBQ joint whose signature item is made of pork reigns the rankings. Regardless of your menu choices, you are guaranteed to sink your teeth in BBQ goodness. The sausages have that perfect snap and smoke infusion, the brisket is moist, tender and bold in flavor, even the challenging turkey breast drips of moisture and subtlety. It’s the fact that each and every item on their menu consistently embodies perfect BBQ that they rightfully carry their claim to provide Texas best all-round BBQ and you should join the line to experience it yourself.