How would you like to start your work week grinding three hundred pounds of sausage and stuffing it into hog gut casings? That’s how Robert Reid, pit boss at Miller’s Smokehouse in Belton, Texas gets his week going.

We’re standing around the tiny kitchen in an old brick building off Penelope Street in downtown, just running through the normal procedure of quizzing everybody we can get stopped when we’re at a new barbecue joint.

Robert and owner Dirk Miller are good natured. They’re putting out Austin, Texas caliber barbecue in a town that up til 3 or so years ago had to make do with what they had. While local joints Schoepf’s and Mikeska are alright, it’s the smoked meat at Miller’s that we predict will make Belton a destination for barbecue hounds across the state.

The brisket arrives at the table and it’s a beauty. We asked for black and fatty and thought we’d hit the motherlode til a minute or so passed when the old pit boss brings out an auxiliary portion of “burnt ends”.

Good lord.

If the first pound or so is good, the lagniappe is even better. The odd scraps are black as the behemoth iron smoker out back with a tinge of ruby red from the interior smoke ring. They’re lean which is not our preference but the deep beefy flavor of a well cared for steer is most evident.

The pork ribs [ Friday only ] are even better. The pig meat has been lacquered with some mysterious glaze that’s reminiscent of the elixir they use at City Market in Luling. These bones have been perfectly smoked with the meat needing just a little tug before it wrenches free from the bone.

We sample two sausages; the regular and the spicy. Oddly enough it’s the regular that gets the most enthusiastic chewing. We’re chile heads but the appeal of the plain sausage is stronger. Grind on each link is very fine. This is not the old timey John Mueller-style, coarse meat link you find further south in Austin.

Bona fides? Check out the plaque on the wall from Texas Association of Meat Processors. It says Grand Champion for a reason.

House produced sausage is a dying art in Texas and we love to see the men at Miller’s keeping an old, important foodway alive and kicking. We wish more places in Austin took barbecue this seriously.

Ultimately our question is always this; could wherever we’re eating open up in Austin and make good money?

In the case of Miller’s Smokehouse the answer is a resounding yes. Not only could they make good money but we can think of a few top barbecue outfits that would be ratcheted down a notch or two on our informal rankings that we carry around with us in our heads.

And we dearly love the sign on the front of the building that says “starting March 6th we will be open for supper” supper being the meal you eat in the evening-dinner being the meal you eat in the middle of the day-lunch being something that ladies in fancy hats take part in in big cities that aren’t Belton, Texas.

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