In spite of New Orleans renaissance as a barbecue town, the fact remains that we will never be a food tourist destination for our smoked brisket. Yes, there are plenty places in town serving steer breast but if you want the pluperfect version you’re going to need to gas up the Fiero and drive about eight hours to the buckle of the barbecue belt: Austin, Texas. There, mortal men like Tom Micklethwait, John Lewis and John Mueller have been deified by Texas eaters who no longer regard the cooks as men but as land-bound gods.

And with good reason. The meat in those parts can have even reserved folks singing hosannas to the highest.

We haven’t eaten our way across the barbecue landscape of New Orleans just yet but a trip to McClure’s barbecue on Magazine Street found a reasonable approximation of what you might find in Travis County, Texas.

Reasonable.

The lean brisket veered uncomfortably toward the dry side but was quickly remedied by a dousing with a sauce called New Orleans East that surely had an Asian provenance.

The requested fatty was just that, and showed a good hand on the smoker as the molten rivulets of good fat had just barely congealed after 12 or so hours on the smoker.

Pit boss Neil McClure honed his restaurant chops in a decade-long stint as gm at Dante’s Kitchen, the finest brunch house in all of New Orleans; perhaps after a similar tenure over hardwood fires at his smokehouse he’ll pull stumps and head for Texas.

There’s always room in the Lone Star state for a pit boss honoring the traditions of smoke, heat and fire.

pic: a hot brisket off the smoker of barbecue roughneck RL Reeves Jr

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