Bill Miller BBQ – Austin, Texas

Bill Miller’s BBQ in Austin looks like a nice place. The decor is Texas kitch – wood paneling, cow hides, and Texas shaped brands. Antlers, taxidermied critters, plow shares, and other bits of farm history are tastefully arrayed. Sadly, the main dining area has echoes. Conversation is difficult at best when the place is crowded. It’s difficult not to over hear conversations at other tables when there are fewer patrons.

The bathrooms are clean and tidy. The floors and tables are kept clean. That was a definite high point. I cannot abide nasty bathrooms or sticky tables.

When placing your order, you get to talk to a person over a counter while staring up at an uncomfortable angle to make sure you get it right. Our cashier had a sweet disposition and smile, but apparently no real brains or common sense. I applaud Mr. Miller for giving her a job and a chance.

We ordered, checked in at a table and took a look at what we’d paid for. This is why we try new places, right?

The sweet tea was mildly sweet, unlike the usual Southern Style sweet tea found in so many places. It was fresh and had a pleasant flavor.

I’d asked for lean brisket. I got juicy, tender, fat riddled meat smothered in a disguising sauce. The lovely smoked turkey right next to it was also swimming. The sauce itself wasn’t bad, but it was very strongly tomato flavored, thin, vinegary, sort of a Carolina style that separated solids form vinegar as it cooled on the plate. Frankly, I prefer to be able to taste my meat, and not be given a heart attack from consuming it. One of my table partners thriftily finished it for me.

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To accompany the entree, a bar of sorts was set up offering pickles, onions and hot peppers. This seems typical, but the items were hard to reach as the bar was small and cramped.

The baked potatoes are more of a medium size than a large size. Today’s potato was not quite done all the way through, and we had to ask for the fixings. I don’t think they intended it that way, but our girl at the counter appeared to have been a bit sheltered in her youth. She had to be asked twice, “What comes on your spuds?” She didn’t know what a spud was.

If you like black pepper, this is your place. It’s in almost everything – the coleslaw, the meat rubs, the potato salad. The pepper rub on the turkey almost overpowers the smokey flavor, though the sauce tempers the pepper a bit.

The pinto beans were thankfully very mild. They were tender with a beefy flavor. There was no evidence of black pepper or any other kind of hot spicing. I really enjoyed them – enough to eat my own and another person’s helping.

The hash browns were just heavenly. A little soft, a little crunchy — and the white onion was in large, removable slices. The flavor combinations were quite tasty. There was no pepper apparent in my helping, nor was there a large amount of salt. These hash browns easily pair up with eggs for breakfast tacos, as a side for BBQ, or just on a plate by themselves. Since Bill Miller’s offers breakfast on weekends until noon, there’s always the pleasure of starting your day with these hash browns.

Sadly, not all the customers we encountered that day were enlightened by their dining experience. Our Chaplain, a Caucasian Hindu mind you, and who had the issue with the baked potato earlier, was verbally accosted while waiting for the rest of us to clear our checks. He was sitting on a bench outside when he heard, “Look! It’s a fucking Muslim!” coming from a 10 or 12 year old boy who was pointing directly at him. The boy’s parents didn’t have the grace to be embarrassed, much less apologize.

If this is the sort of people who patronize this location, I won’t be going back. The rude even outweighs the hash browns.

Sorry, Bill.

 

–Ann Cathey

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