This past February (2017) I once again found myself in Houston for work on a 9 day trip…this is starting to sound familiar. The company I work for has an office in Houston and our guy there takes his vacation at this time every year, so someone from Calgary goes down to man the shop while he’s away. This was the third time in four years that I was that guy, but I’m not complaining. These trips have given me the opportunity to eat some of the best barbecue anywhere and the experiences on my weekend trip this past February are what inspired me to start writing this blog.
This blog is as much a way for me to preserve the memories for myself as it is a way to share with others. I’ve said it previously, but the culture of barbecue isn’t just about the food. The history and the stories of the people and places are a big part of what intrigues and interests me. Once again, I must throw out a thank you to Daniel Vaughn and www.tmbbq.com for bringing many of the stories of Texas barbecue to my attention.
One of those stories is that of Tootsie Tomanetz and Snow’s BBQ. At the age of 81, Tootsie is the pitmaster at Snow’s, in the small town of Lexington, TX, in the heartland of Texas barbecue called the Hill Country. They are only open one day a week, on Saturdays, and they open up bright and early at 8 am. And so it was, that on this Saturday morning in February I was in my rental car and headed out once again from Houston on Hwy 290 , but this time with a different first stop on my journey than on my two previous trips up this highway. I arrived in Lexington a little after 8:30 and followed the signs to the small, red, cabin looking building that houses the joint that in 2008 was named the Best BBQ in Texas.
I was about to learn that barbecue for breakfast at Snow’s on Saturday mornings is a bit of thing. Walking from my car to get in line, a gentlemen walked by me going the other way that looked familiar to me. I got in line and a few minutes later he returned and joined the group in front of me. At this time I will admit to eavesdropping a little on their conversation! After a couple of minutes I realized that I did recognize him and it was indeed Daniel Vaughn, with whom I had been tweeting with just the day before to find out what time I should be there to make sure I didn’t miss out.
He and his group were busy talking so I didn’t want to interrupt, so I waited for the right moment (very Canadian of me, I know!). As I waited in line I took in the surroundings. The pits are located outside under a tin roof that also provides cover to a large seating area. Two or three large wood fired offset smokers and a number of direct heat metal pits were being manned by the one and only Tootsie. As I looked over at the pits, I saw another familiar face. Tootsie was visiting with none other than Wayne Mueller from Louie Mueller in nearby Taylor.
|Outside seating area at Snow’s|
Before long, he came over and chatted with Daniel for a few minutes. After they were done talking I introduced myself to Wayne and was thrilled and surprised when he said that he’d been reading my tweets! I hadn’t expected that it was him that managed the restaurant’s Twitter account…pretty cool. We chatted for a minute and I told him that I was heading to his place after this. By this time I had just about reached the door to enter inside and I had the opportunity to say hello to Daniel. He also recognized me from our Twitter conversations and we had a brief conversation and I asked him what he recommended off the menu here. He suggested the pork steak, one of their specialties.
I got inside the swinging door. On my right was a display of t-shirts and souvenirs for sale and on the left was the serving counter. I placed my order of some brisket, a rib and the recommended pork steak and paid for my tray along with a banana pudding, a t-shirt and a souvenir cup. It isn’t a large space. Beside the t-shirt display is the counter where get your white bread, pickles, etc. There is a drink machine along with tea and sweet tea dispensers and a cooler full of ice. Six or eight large wooden tables with benches fill up the rest of the indoor dining area. I found a spot at a table with a family already eating and sat down to bbq for breakfast!
|Snow’s brisket, pork steak and a rib with white bread and pickles on the side, with banana pudding for dessert!|
I can’t really say that any one of the meats I ordered was better than the other…it was all outstanding. The brisket was as good as any I had eaten to that point, the rib was perfect and the pork steak was an incredibly pleasant surprise (thanks again Daniel). I finished off my meal with a delectable banana pudding. After eating and refilling my cup with sweet tea on ice, I chatted briefly again with Mr. Vaughn. He mentioned that there was a group of BBQ people doing a tour of some of the area’s many great spots and he provided some recommendations of other spots to visit. It was a true pleasure to meet Daniel and I appreciate the chance to thank him for all the great reads.
I then headed outside to have a look around the outside seating an pit area. The owner of Snow’s is Kerry Bexley. He was out by the pits visiting with customers. I said hello to him and asked if it was ok to come back and meet Tootsie. He said it was and I wandered into the pit area to wait my turn while she was talking to someone else. She kept working while visiting, opening the large steel pit doors, shifting links of sausage around. When she was done I went over to introduce myself. She was incredibly friendly and seemed to genuinely enjoy the steady stream of visitors. We snapped a selfie and I thanked her for her time and for the incredible food.
|Me and the legend, Tootsie Tomanetz|
On my way out, I noticed that there were even more people from area bbq restaurants there, enjoying this Saturday morning tradition in Central Texas. If you want to read more about Tootsie and this great place, go to www.tmbbq.com/snows-queen. It is a beautifully written essay about the life of a remarkable women.