This is the first book review I’ve ever penned for the scrumptious chef site. I’ve written a lot about writers and bloggers and their words, but I’ve never actually reviewed a book. If you are a writer and want your book reviewed you’d probably do well to send it elsewhere. Unless it’s truly great, in which case go ahead and sent it in so I can leaf through it, take a year to review it and eventually sell it to Half Price Books. When that hell-hole goes out of business I’m going to let my devil dogs run free and throw a party unlike anything Austin has ever seen. Now onto the work of Gloria Corral.

Barbecue Lovers Guide To Austin is really complete. Corral left no stones unturned as she ventured deep into the crannies of Austin to find every single barbecue vendor no matter how grand or humble. Her research was impressive.

A few things strike me as I begin reading.

In Texas, barbecue is not a verb, it’s a noun. When you talk about barbecuing you’re immediately going to throw the strict, smoked meat constructionists off their game. I realize that in a lot of states {that aren’t Texas} this is permissible.

It is not here.

“Barbecue is meat cooked in smoke, not over coals on a grill.” While it’s true that off-set smoking is common in Texas it is not the be all and end all of producing barbecue. A visit to Cooper’s in Llano where you buy the meat straight off the grill is one of the great Texas barbecue experiences and definitely should be on the itinerary of any budding barbecue author in our region.

I admire Ms Corral’s enthusiasm, she clearly has a love for meat but it’s unsettling to read her cheerleading style of writing when the subject at hand is notorious for putting out c-grade barbecue. Her review of Iron Works barbecue reads more like a press release than an honest evaluation. “No need to make a road trip” should never be written when describing Iron Works. After eating there the last time, I couldn’t wait to make a road trip-to get the bad taste of Iron Works out of my mouth.

This writing style is carried on at length through the book. Apparently all barbecue is created equal as there is little critique involved in the “reviews” of the restaurants. Whole Foods Barbecue is right up there with Black’s Barbecue which is right up there with Rudy’s Country Store.

I have no idea what this sentence means: “Stubb’s serves honest-to-goodness BBQ to exuberant fans of music and BBQ.” Honest-to-goodness? I’m at a loss here. Corral follows up with “this is a destination not to be missed.”

Stubb’s is where I would take my out of town friends-if I wanted them to rue the day they ever came to Austin. The noxious fumes rolling off their smokers at night make me question if I’ll ever eat barbecue again. Meat being cooked by fire is not supposed to smell like cross ties being dipped in boiling creosote.

I was disappointed in Barbecue Lovers Guide To Austin. While I loved that Corral spent an incredible amount of time, energy and money on the project, I wish that the book would have had more critical analysis of the restaurants that she featured.

This book would make a fine beginners guide to Austin area barbecue. It’s perfectly suitable as a glove box reference book but if you want an unflinching look at our town’s barbecue restaurants you’d do well to keep on looking.

link to Amazon

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