I can only speak from experience.

Years ago, a very hung over, wallet-forgotten, and anonymous me-was well fed by John Mueller at his barbecue shop on Manor Road-no questions asked. Until his departure, his particular hospitality at his food trailer on South First Street seemed to center primarily on the business at hand, and included an occasional free beer.

Despite Mr. Mueller’s brusque reputation for directness, the only shiner I received on a visit to his new Saturday-only residency in Shiner, Texas was a Bock, in a bottle, and crafted at the Spoetzl Brewery right down the road. After ongoing family challenges ended his association with the Austin food trailer that bore
his name, and enhanced his fame, Mr. Mueller recently began serving up his internationally
recognized meat in Shiner at the Shiner Restaurant & Bar,an hour or so southeast of
Austin.

While he declined to characterize the weekly residency as a comeback, it’s clear Mr.
Mueller’s back in the game and still in the business of barbecue. And, from a consumer’s perspective, that’s a business he knows very well.

Shiner Restaurant and Bar, owned by chef/craft beer evangelist Randy Rouse, is in a carefully maintained, historic building in downtown Shiner.

The restaurant is comprised of a big-windowed, high-ceilinged dining room with a progressive menu and an extraordinary oaken bar.

Once planted at the bar, any qualms were dispelled with the approach of Mr. Mueller and one
of his seasoned burnt ends, more wet than dry, it crunched and dissolved in remarkable
succession.

The brisket remains a destination in itself and removed from the confines of immediate comparison in the Austin city limits, greatly strengthens the overall Central Texas market with the robust authority Mr. Mueller carries with him. Mr. Mueller expressed mild dissatisfaction with this visit’s brisket offering.

Modest.

The pork ribs appeared to meet Mr. Mueller’s standard with an intimidating rendered sheen, crust, spice, and texture. The knuckle separated with a steady tug and, with the slightest resistance, got on board to become one of the best bites of its kind.

That being said, the lowly pork shoulder carried the load on this visit. Like Jesus, that pig died for my sins and gave his shoulder to purify my spirit. Paired with Mr. Rouse’s sauce {I’m from Austin, I like it wet}, the well-barked and masterfully-seasoned butt was the highlight of the trip.
Mr. Rouse’s sauce is a slighter sibling to the addictive substance Mr. Mueller had been ladling for the past several months, but the DNA is there.

A serviceable, if weak-snapped, local sausage was also on the menu, serving as a place holder
for Mr. Mueller’s hand-ground, peppery, all beef links, expected on the menu starting next
Saturday.

Sides, including mashers, pintos, and a blue cheese potato salad were well above average in flavor and texture but primarily ordered in memory of a sadly-missing baked squash.

Starting next Saturday, Mr. Mueller will begin phasing in his own best-in-show beef ribs, sausage, sauce, and squash onto the menu.

Ending a complicated year on a high note, and despite working at a remove, Mr. Mueller
appears to be preparing to keep his customer base satisfied and growing. To accommodate
ongoing demand from afar, he’ll be using Square and, in the near future, plans to post a
Google Voice number on his @ShoelessJoeJaxn Twitter header.

Depending on uptake {and Mr. Mueller’s bandwidth}, that number can be used to arrange specially prepared holiday and event viands {including custom smoking} or to check remaining inventory for a Saturday drive to Shiner.

Shiner and Shiner R&B are, in themselves, worth the trip {especially during the holidays}. The
addition of Mr. Mueller’s BBQ, however, potentially makes Shiner a vital stop on the evolving
Texas barbecue and culinary circuit.

Paired with Mr. Rouse’s expertise and focus on hand-crafted beers, it could prove a unique opportunity for Shiner to lead the next generation of Texas craft consumables.

Report penned by Scrumptious Chef contributor Grover Bynum.

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