White sheets of paper next to the ‘cue line clue you into what’s available on any given day. Note the comparative cheapness of the prices.
The town of Taylor, Texas, was founded in 1876 just as the Great Northern Railroad burned through the area laying track on the way to Austin. The east-west axis of the town still lies along those tracks–broad, dusty streets with Victorian and Art Nouveau buildings lining them. The town was in the center of what was said to be the richest cotton land in the world, and it prospered mightily well into the mid-1900’s, when the declining fortunes of the railroad and subsiding cotton prices gutted the industry. The town is still lively compared to many, and part of the credit must go to Louie Mueller Barbecue, which sits just across the road from the railroad tracks in a building that was a high school gymnasium long ago.
The premises was once a high school gymnasium.
Louie Mueller managed a Safeway store in Taylor when he first arrived in 1936; by 1946 he had his own store. Three years later he started a barbecue that sold many kinds of smoked meat by the pound. Now the interior of the high-ceilinged space is so stained with smoke that the color of the walls and ceiling is charcoal gray. A holding pit stands behind the counter, from which the meat wrangler pulls the sausage, ribs, brisket, and steak out with tongs, and then sets at them with a mean-looking knife. A lady sells salads and pickles, and a couple of guys in aprons dispense beers at another counter.
The line sometimes snakes out the door, with locals and barbecue tourists from Dallas, Houston, and points beyond. But sometimes the parking lot is nearly empty, and the wait brief. Every patron has his own signature order. Ours included a beef rib, several pork ribs, some slices of crusty brisket, and a sausage. We had some white bread and some soda crackers. Mueller’s has an agreeably light tomato-based sauce, but the meat doesn’t need it.
Thickly crusted with coarsely crushed black peppercorns and salt, the brisket is unbelievable.
Louie Mueller died in 1992, and his son Bobby Mueller succeeded him. Bobby died in 2008, and was succeeded by Wayne Mueller, the third generation to run the barbecue. Bobby was presented a James Beard Award in 2006 on behalf of the barbecue joint, which is considered one of the very best in the state.
Oh, and Taylor has some amazing secondhand stores.
The wrangler pulls the meat from the holding pit and attacks it on a wooden chopping block.
The walls are blackened by decades of smoke.
Next: More ‘cue!
The cudgel-size beef rib.
Our barbecue selection that day.
The grim aftermath!
A little glimpse of Taylor, Texas.
Check out the entire series Great Barbecues of Texas