Bert’s Barbecue, est. 1970, is primed for a University of Texas comeback. The old school Texas barbecue house’s original location burned down back in January of 2007 due to the gross incompetence of a 911 operator who responded to a concerned citizen’s emergency call thusly: “Dispatch: Yeah, yeah it’s probably from their smoker, like where they cook the brisket.”
Then a second caller rang 911. “Dispatch: Okay…does it smell like the wood? Or does it smell like something else is on fire?
Caller: No it smells like wood, there’s a lot of it. I was just going across the street and I could smell it. There’s like all this, you know, bit of a hazing smoke around here.
Dispatch: Well could they be smoking their briskets?
Caller: No, that’s not brisket.”
By now forty five minutes have passed and the dispatcher finally sends out a fire truck. The fire station is a stone’s throw from the now fully involved building.
Bert’s Barbecue is a total loss.
Thankfully the family had a second location on Far West Blvd so they could keep their bills paid and keep food on the table.
Anybody who’s lived in Austin for more than 20 minutes knows the code words to throw around when you step up to the cashier at Bert’s: T-man, Turbo, Turbo T-man, Turbo con queso, it all depends on how hungry you are and what combination of brisket, beans, cheese and sausage you want that day.
I like to build a small combo plate with a quarter pound of outside slice brisket, a chicken thigh and a pork rib. Sides are forgettable but when was the last time you had killer sides at a Texas barbecue joint?
It’s good to know that a new generation of UT students will get to experience the glory of a campus-based Bert’s. Is it the best barbecue in Central Texas? No. But it is a look back at an old Austin that’s largely dead and gone.
And a Turbo T-man goes down mighty fine after a Fall afternoon spent drinking and hollering over some sort of Longhorn athletic endeavor.
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