The Texas Monthly Barbecue Festival hosted a sold-out celebration of all things smokey meats for its fourth consecutive year on Sunday. Drawing from the magazine's current list of Texas's Top 50 Barbecue Joints, as well as any highly-rated newcomers, the festival is a feast of meat, meat, and more meat.
The relatively cool weather and 25-strong gathering of Texas's best pitmasters made for a perfect Sunday meat coma. Not able to make it, or just a strangely voyeuristic vegetarian? Read on for all the hangovers, observed.
— For passholders, the festival serves an IRL barbecue bucket list. The best-known restaurants and trailers garnered the longest lines, and several attendees mentioned that this was their chance to try the places "that matter."
— Meeting favorite pitmasters is also a draw. Many attendees asked favorite barbecue cooks for pictures and advice on smoking meat at home. There was also a surprising amount of koozie-signing.
— The most popular koozie-signer? Snow's pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz. Barbecue's most high profile female pitmaster was the toast of the festival, and went down her lengthy line saying hello to fans. Fellow cooks also wanted to shake her hand -- La Barbecue's John Lewis got a picture.
— In completely unsurprising news, Franklin Barbecue's line was the longest. So long, in fact, that it broke into two sections. Considering that weekend waits at Franklin run as long as 4-5 hours, the festival offered a better deal time-wise, at least for a Sunday.
— Other notably long lines included: Snow's, La Barbecue, Black's, Louie Mueller, Cooper's and Pecan Lodge. La Barbecue said attendees waited in their for about 30-45 minutes.
— Other things people waited in line for: getting into the festival (that was a big one), beer, bathrooms, draft cocktails (they were tasty), water, taking a picture in front of the TMBBQ sign, taking a picture in a goofy Shiner cut-out, talking to Texas A&M about their 'Camp Brisket' program, talking to Aaron Franklin (he had a separate receiving line)
— Aaron Franklin on the weirdest thing someone said to him: "A lady leaned in and whispered, 'I'm a virgin.'"
— While Franklin spoke with Eater, an extremely helpful bro attempted to convince the famously anti-expansion pitmaster to open a branch in California. He kept pointing at his smartphone.
— Pecan Lodge sold out of meat first, around an hour after the festival opened to the public. By about 3:30 p.m., many of the other popular outlets, like La Barbecue and Snow's, were sold out as well.
— Franklin Barbecue brought nearly as much meat as they usually do for a regular business day. They were still serving at 4 p.m.
— Newcomers Killen's Barbecue went big - they brought a whole refrigerated truck filled with what owner Ronnie Killen estimated was "3,000 pounds of meat" and two pits. They served an epic amount -- and variety -- of meat, including turkey, beef ribs, and lots of brisket.
— Nearly everyone served the Texas trinity of brisket, sausage, and ribs, with additions like sides, pulled pork, or the lamb chops at Louie Mueller. The most unique offering was a smoked pork belly with jicama slaw from newcomer Granary Cue & Brew from San Antonio.
— Weirdly missing: the traditional accompaniments of pickles, onions, and white bread. After the fifth or sixth version of peppery brisket bark, a tart pickle would have been welcome.
— The hospitality lounge featured several trays of sandwiches. It is unclear who ate them.
— The festival is less booze-heavy than other, similar events. That plus $10 admission for kids meant there were lots of families.
— A random fan gave barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn a "TMBBQ" branding iron.
— Texas Monthly gives attendees a stipend to attend, but most take a loss on the festival. Closing on a Sunday alone could cost thousands. Everyone Eater spoke with said it was worth it for the honor, the exposure, and the camaraderie.
— Ronnie Killen said he was excited to "feed a bunch of people" and got a kick out of smoking meat the night before with the fellow out-of-towners who set up pits outside. Killen's brought three kegs of beer to share.
— La Barbecue's John Lewis says of the festival: "This is our Academy Awards."
· All Hangover Observations [EATX]