Potato salad, pork ribs, brisket, turkey and the bite of brisket gratis on the Barbecue (Photos by Rod Machen)
As the owners of the Barbecue, LeAnn Mueller and Alison Clem are not just partners in life – they are partners in business. The deal is smoked meat, and the deal is a good one.
Growing up working at Louie Mueller, LeAnn Mueller came from that famous family of barbecue suppliers in Taylor, and over the past nine years, she and Clem have brought this artisan tradition to Austin to the BBQ. After years of operating from a trailer parked at various locations around town, their hand-built business has finally found a permanent home.
The trailer was previously housed at Quickie Pickie on East Cesar Chavez. The owners of the Barbecue had 30 days to buy the place or move out, forcing a decision. Coincidentally, a prime location was available a few blocks away.
“We were fortunate that our friend Nathan [Hill], who owns White Horse, put us in touch with his real estate agent, “Mueller said.” I was like, ‘What about the Mongers?’ and the guy said ‘I happen to have this property.’ “
The space is a manifestation of the two women who run it, featuring a restaurant focused on friends and family.
With that, they had secured a location. (The Mongers seafood restaurant moved to the Vino Vino space in Hyde Park last summer.) The winter apocalypse delayed the official opening of the Barbecue, but in May of this year, the Barbecue officially officially opened. opened its doors as a joint of brick and mortar.
The space is a manifestation of the two women who run it. Everywhere you look, your eye is on another piece of art that the two of you have commissioned or made. There are all new graphics as well as carefully ported photos, showcasing a restaurant focused on friends and family.
Step into the washroom and prepare to be amazed – not what you would expect from your typical barbecue spot, but certainly in tune with East Austin today. The walls of one are covered with artwork created by Xavier Schipani and inspired by Studio 54 in all its excess, while the other features a collage of Mueller’s own photos, composed by Zuzu and tinted in pink. Definitely try to visit both.
Studio 54 bathroom by Xavier Schipani
Bathroom collage by Zuzu Perkal
Next to the register there are family photos and memorabilia from the Mueller clan. Mueller’s father, Bobby, who died in 2008, feels like an invisible presence, overseeing the proceedings. With his mother Trish having passed away earlier this year, it is evident that Mueller and Clem carry on an old family tradition.
With all the talk about the building, what about the food? Anyone who’s eaten at Louie Mueller will recognize what’s going on here, from the delicious gratis piece of beef put on your platter when you order, to the rub of salt and pepper that’s more than enough to flavor the flag carrier, the brisket. The meats present the usual selection one would expect, but the sides deviate a bit from a more traditional menu. While there are simple offerings like the potato salad and pinto beans, the chipotle coleslaw and the shells and cheese add some interesting options.
the barbecue dining room
The restaurant isn’t the only business these two have to cook. During the pandemic, Red Rocket Weiner Wagon opened up, inspired by Taylor Meat Company’s red hot dogs. Homemade chili and kimchi unveil Asian flavors inspired by the couple’s travels. The wagon now makes a monthly BBQ appearance during an after-hours summer camp, accompanying other smoker foods like Sloppy Hoe and 420 Nachos.
On the other end of the spectrum is their Supper Club. Designed to be a more upscale experience, this members-only gathering takes place monthly and allows Mueller to show off some of his other cooking skills.
“Supper Club is actually the opposite of Summer Camp,” Mueller said. “This is where I can really play with the food. It’s supposed to be an intimate dining experience.”
They cite the time spent in lockdown as the inspiration for the Supper Club’s menu, with the couple stuck at home trying all kinds of new recipes. Now these creations can make their way into the world.
“In 2020, LeAnn did a lot of home cooking,” Clem said. “She’s created so many recipes. It’s really good that she can let people taste this.”
Like many other restaurants in town, the Barbecue added a store in a store over the past year, opening a small grocery store – aptly named the Deli – that sells fresh, dry produce to the public. Items like homemade salted bacon and even caviar are available for purchase. More changes are on the horizon.
Exterior wall painting by Xavier Schipani
“Right now we’re putting gravel in the back area, and a friend of ours is making a truck with ice cream sandwiches, Margarita [Kallas-Lee] that makes Sushi Bar ATX, ”Muller said.
La Barbecue now also has a liquor license, and has even had a beer made for them by Zilker Brewing called – of course – Beer.
“My dad was drinking Budweisers, and we wanted to do an American pilsner in honor of my dad, and they were kind enough to work with us,” Mueller said.
There was a time when barbecue in Texas could be boiled down to the big three, the classic joints of Lockhart, Llano and Taylor. Mueller is bringing that heritage back to Austin, but with many Austin attributes in 2021. It’s the best of both worlds, and with their new digs, it looks like it’s here to stay.
the Barbecue will be featured at this weekend’s Austin Food + Wine Festival. See below for more information.
Austin Food + Wine Festival
The 2021 Austin Food + Wine Festival 2021 returns to Auditorium Shores from November 5-7. Bites from over 50 participating Austin restaurants will be featured, along with renowned events such as Tim Love’s Grillin ‘& Chillin’ and the Rock Your Taco Showdown. Tickets for the festival are sold out, but at the time of publication there were still tickets for the Dinner Series on sale for the evenings at Lutie’s, Canje and Salt & Time. See more information on austinfoodandwinefestival.com.
LeAnn Mueller and Fermín Núñez team up for Taste America dinner
The James Beard Foundation’s Taste America supports independent restaurants across America. Their National Culinary Series includes an event on November 9, held in Suerte, with a multi-course dinner created by chefs Fermín Núñez de Suerte and LeAnn Mueller of the Barbecue. See the menu below; tickets available at jamesbeard.org/tasteamerica.
AMUSE BOUCHE Rabbit Hole Boxergrail Rye Whiskey with Chef LeAnn’s Homemade Pickle Juice with BBQ Beef Brisket
APERITIF Beef Tri-Tip – Kimchi Taco
ENTRANCE Smoked Beef Short Rib with Recado Negro, Black Beans and Tortillas or (vegan alternative) Smoked Cauliflower with Mole Rojo and Almonds
DESSERT Frozen Chocolate Mousse
COCKTAIL Conejo Barbudo: Rabbit Hole Cavehill Bourbon Whiskey with sweet potato, honey, lime, allspice, falernum and bitter (Created by the manager of the Suerte bar Patrick Wasetis)