Following our Breaking News Bulletin, its back to Texas and the closing chapter of the 13th Annual National Parks Trip .
The return from Big Bend involved an overnight in Midland, Texas. Nancy asked me to suggest a barbecue restaurant there, so, being bereft of contacts in and around Midland, I checked the internet. The top place in both Yelp and Trip Advisor was True Texas BBQ. I am famously skeptical of Yelp barbecue recommendations, so I checked the local newspaper list of best barbecue places. No True Texas. I so advised Nancy, and pointed to a couple of other options, including KD’s Bar-B-Q and the Hog Pit Pub and Grill (now closed, alas), as oil crew favorites. For reasons known only to themselves, the ladies decided to go with True Texas.
It turned out to be a good choice. The True Taxas approach to barbecue is, well, true to Texas tradition,
although they should automatically include sliced jalapeños, too.
Many restaurants (and many more bars) decorate with license plates from all over, thus celebrating their broad renown. The Texas definition of “all over” is different.
True Texas does have idiosyncratic features, one of which is disturbing. The menu pictured here probably is unreadable for you, which is a blessing. True Texas includes the calorie count with each dish.
That’s hardly true to Texas. I’m not declaring that the terrorists have now won, but if barbecue places must have calorie counts, at minimum they should limit exposure exclusively to those individuals who affirmatively ask for them.
True Texas was out of sausage, which is a shame, sausage being a highlight of many Texas barbecue places, so the theme of dinner was brisket. Nancy Tanner ordered brisket with potato salad and cole slaw,
Jean ordered brisket with slaw and creamed corn,
Ellen ordered pork and brisket with slaw and potato salad,
and Nancy Breul ordered brisket and chicken with slaw and beans.
The brisket got good marks. After ordering lean brisket in half the barbecue places in Texas while I was teaching at Baylor Law School, Nancy finally ordered moist (i.e., fatty) brisket. It was a revelation, moist, tender, and flavorful, so much so she was able to skirt the big blob of fat in it with equanimity. Nancy Breul and Jean also were high on the brisket. The outlier was Ellen, who, true to her South Carolina heritage (she’s one of the Winnsboro Buchanans) politely sneered at the brisket, bless its heart, and spoke highly of the pork. Having eaten pork barbecue in Texas, I have to think there may have been some team loyalty involved.
Nancy Breul though the chicken was delicious, moist, mildly smoky, and meaty.
The sides were mixed bag. The slaw was dry, but improved by the addition of some barbecue sauce, and the potato salad was good, but overdressed, as you can see from the pictures. The creamed corn was good, and the beans were outstanding, flavored with abundant pieces of burnt ends. No one ordered the macaroni and cheese, which is a shame. The other sides — green beans which, from the calorie count, were cooked without pork; a side salad, and grapes (grapes?) — strike me as an odd use of kitchen space.
All in all, though, True Texas is good. Try one of their branches, ask for moist brisket with beans, and maybe some chicken. And go early enough to get some sausage, and report back.
Meanwhile, back in DC, a little more digging while the National Parks team was eating revealed that the newspaper list only included locally owned places. As the ladies by now had learned, True Texas is owned by H-E-B. This branch is actually connected to a local H-E-B. Maybe they all are.
H-E-B is a Texas grocery chain and my favorite grocery chain on earth. Nancy and I shopped at H-E-B while I was teaching at Baylor Law School. You can keep your Wegman’s and Whole Foods. Having been in Gulfport in the wake of Camille and in New Orleans after Katrina, I am a devoted fan of companies that feed people in emergencies. H-E-B has mobile kitchens. They have mobile disaster relief units with medicines and other supplies. They have their own water tankers and, of course truckloads of food. Well before FEMA can get there, an H-E-B vice-president will be in the lead truck of a convoy, driving through two feet of water to help people in need. Also, unlike other chains, H-E-B sells local food at local prices. I may remember incorrectly, but I do recall that they sold Texas grapefruit and oranges for ten cents a pound during the winter season. While the Whole Foods mothership in Austin was selling cilantro for $1.79 a bunch, and a small bunch at that, H-E-B was selling cilantro for 29 cents for a bunch several times the size.
Really, what more could you ask of a grocery chain? Good barbecue on site? Check. You have to love H-E-B.
And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box. Or bookmark us and check in from time to time. If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event). Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome. And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.