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I wrote this piece, about spontaneously spending el Día de los Muertos with a family in Oaxaca, several years ago; it’s based on an experience...
What: You know that seriously slow-smoked brisket you’ve been eating all over Austin and Central Texas? The odd-looking, sometimes burnt bits and ends of that brisket get chopped up, doused in some BBQ sauce, and served on a simple white-bread bun—traditionally with pickles and onions—in what’s essentially an absurdly delicious BBQ version of a sloppy Joe.
Where: Austinites pointed us to Ruby’s BBQ (512 W. 29th St., map) for a great chopped beef sandwich, and man, were we grateful—even well after BBQ fatigue had set in for us, we couldn’t help but devour it with glee. Aside from its excellent chopped beef, the family-owned Ruby’s is unique for using lean, all-natural (hormone- and antibiotic-free) brisket, as well as employing a cook-from-scratch philosophy in the kitchen. Another bonus: There’s a funky tin-roofed, open-air seating area with picnic tables (and ceiling fans or heater lamps, depending on the season).
When: Sun-Thurs, 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat, 11am-midnight
Order: The “spicy chopped BBQ beef” sandwich ($4.50), served here with the requisite pickles and onions on a wax-paper-covered tray (slaw is optional for 50 cents, but we don’t think it’s necessary). The brisket is slow-cooked in brick pits for 18-24 hours; the bits that go into this sandwich are then cooked with the excellent house BBQ sauce, onion, and jalapeño. The end result is a perfectly balanced sandwich of wet, toothsome, smoky meat; crunchy add-ins; spicy, tangy sauce; and soft bread. (You can also order this beef as a platter with two sides for $8.95.)
Alternatively: Most BBQ joints will offer this. We loved the “Tipsy Texan” sandwich (chopped beef + sliced pork sausage) at Franklin Barbecue (900 E 11th St., map), the excellent BBQ joint that grew out of a former highway-side trailer; it also offers regular chopped beef—for both sandwiches, the beef is doused with the kitchen’s espresso-laced BBQ sauce. (Note: Like Ruby’s, Franklin also uses all-natural brisket; see also: BBQ: Brisket.) Or try your chopped beef with a side of live music on the patio of Green Mesquite (two locations including 1400 Barton Springs Rd., map).
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