Food

Great Barbecues of Texas: Southside Market in Elgin

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Southside Market in Elgin, Texas has long been known for its “hot guts.”

Elgin is a town of nearly 14,000, situated 20 miles due east of Austin. It’s known as the Brick Capital of Texas, due to the three brickyards located there since the early 20th century, two of which remain open and operational. Indeed, the town still turns out 267 million bricks per year.

Famed throughout Texas and featured at several other barbecues around the state, Southside Market’s hot sausage is no longer hot, but it sure is delicious.

In the early days of Elgin, the town had several colorful names. In the mid-19th century it was known as Lickskillet, since only one house was visible there, and in order to eat, a traveler often had to lick the skillet. Another early name was Glasscock. Cotton farming has always been an important activity in the flat, rich, black-dirt farmlands that surround the town.

But Elgin’s principal fame rests on its sausage, which has been manufactured at Southside Market since its founding as a grocery in 1882. Last year, it produced 3 million pounds of sausage. Indeed, many of the great barbecues in the country east of Austin were founded by German immigrants as grocery stores, with smoked meat sold as a sideline. Southside Market still functions as a meat market, even though it’s moved onto a highway south of town.

The founder of Southside Market was William J. Moon, who sold beef and pork out of the back of a wagon in 1882 on the original property, which lay south of downtown next to the railroad tracks. The current ownership began in 1968, when Ernest and Rene Bracewell bought the business, and it’s been in their family ever since.

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Folks line up for the barbecue late on Saturday afternoons after the college football games.

Historically, only one sausage has been offered, a beef sausage known officially as “hot sausage,” for its high level of black pepper, but colloquially known as “hot guts.” Unfortunately, the Bracewells decreased the level of pepper drastically in the 1970s. Though the sausage is still delicious, it’s really not very hot.

In addition to sausage, Southside’s menu offers beef brisket, beef ribs, beef steaks, pork spareribs, baby back pork ribs, pork steaks, chicken, turkey, and mutton, with extras running to beans, potato salad, cole slaw, pickles, jalapenos, raw onions, bread and crackers.

The tackboard menu reveals the historic sparseness of the cuisine. Bread and soda crackers are the starch choices that come automatically with your ‘cue.

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When I went in 2008, the brisket was superb…

But a year later, the brisket was a bit dry, but with a beautiful smoke ring.

And here’s another shot of that lovely sausage.

After the post-football feeders depart, the dining room calms down.

Check out the entire series Great Barbecues of Texas

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