Austin is now an undeniable Texas barbecue powerhouse. In the past few years, Austin favorites have staked a claim at or near the top of every “Top 10” list, as a direct result of what can only be called “The Great Barbecue Boom of 2009-2010.” New masters and returning veterans of the art ushered in a new era in Austin. The city’s offerings, which had only shown up sporadically in surveys of the Texas barbecue landscape, firmly established their place in the Texas barbecue conversation. And, save for a few relocations and expansions, the new status quo has had connoisseurs and amateurs alike lining up throughout the city and debating the merits of peppery bark and pronounced smoke rings.
A little over a year ago, however, a new endeavor emerged on the scene. Micklethwait Craft Meats arrived in much the same way as others had done during the boom. Serving by-the-pound meats out of a re-purposed trailer home, the story sounds like a familiar one, save for the fact that, rather than born from Texas barbecue lore or lineage, the idea for Micklethwait Craft Meats came from a trained chef who had been seasoned in the Vespaio kitchen. Tom Micklethwait, the namesake behind the business, took his ideas to the hungry masses in late 2012, serving artisanal sausages to complement the standard beef, pork and poultry fare that are expected of a barbecue joint.
In the beginning, the sausages were an undisputed draw, garnering praise for the use of duck, lamb and turkey in their creation. Word had spread about the innovative takes on smoked sausage and it generated steady anticipation for what Micklethwait would think to combine and case next. The other items on the menu were delicious, but the Austin market for great smoked brisket is more than a little crowded, and didn’t bear the name Mueller or Franklin.
By March of 2014, however, the Micklethwait team was featured in the SXBites trailer park on the strength of their sausage. And it is from the corner of Red River and Cesar Chavez, not their more permanent location on Rosewood, that a simple brisket taco raised a few eyebrows. The taco, complete with garnishes and more than a little attention to detail was savory, smoky, delicate and awesome, all at once. Offered solely for the convention, the reviews were superlative and prompted further investigation to determine if it was the balance of ingredients, the familiar delivery vehicle or the meat itself that warranted such high marks.
With all confidence, it can be said that the meat was the magic and continues to be so at Micklethwait Craft Meats. Imagine, if you will, that each bite of brisket contained within it all of the elements that make up great barbecue – spicy bark, subtle smoke and a moist yet firm tenderness. Such is the case for a brisket that has now eclipsed the other menu items, which is no small feat considering that the beef rib, upon first and second tasting, immediately dethroned the rest of Austin’s beef rib purveyors for best in the city.
The cherished smoke ring on both the beef rib and the brisket is so deep that it nearly paints the entire cross-section that revered and much-desired shade of pink. The smoke somehow never overpowers the beef flavor or the bark spices. This, then, is the mystery and the majesty of Micklethwait Craft Meats, since the flavor of any given piece of brisket tends to move along a spectrum, from smoky to beefy to satiny and back. The brisket, all by itself, commands that Micklethwait deserves a seat at the table of Texas barbecue legends, if it doesn’t deserve the throne outright.
But it doesn’t end with the beef. The creative sausages, too, are also still on offer, as are a variety of homemade delights, including jalapeño cheese grits that are a meal unto themselves and a moon pie that greatly improves upon the standard. For all these reasons, we think that the Austin and Texas barbecue communities need to make room forMicklethwait Craft Meats. And you should, too.”