I first ate at Ruby’s BBQ, located on the northern edge of the University of Texas in the early 90s. 25 years goes by fast whether you’re having fun or not.
Dale Hogeland was a skinny Alabama boy who moved to Texas to get a good job in the construction industry. When he would return home to Birmingham we’d go to The Nick to see a Butthole Surfers or Johnny Shines show and get caught up on his new life in Texas.
He never quit talking about Ruby’s barbecue.
Back then I was writing about music for a local rag and they offered to send me to Austin to cover SXSW for their monthly.
Austin at that point was a dusty little town that had the University, a handful of smoked meat houses and a live music scene that had not yet gone nuclear. I don’t remember the city ever referring to itself as the Live Music Capital of the World.
What I do remember was the food.
I hit Salt Lick, Sam’s, Tamale House #3 and Ruby’s on that trip and I knew my life was about to undergo a drastic change.
I had to move to Austin.
And I did. Landing in that golden era with nothing but a ’69 Dodge Coronet and a few crates of records.
I quickly became a regular at Ruby’s, it was by far and away my favorite barbecue in a region that had (and still has) the finest in the US.
I even applied for a job cooking there-and never heard back-but that didn’t sway my love for this rough old gem.
So when work carried me far afield to Austin over the Labor Day Weekend (I was covering the World Goat Cook Off In Brady) I knew I had to revisit my old haunt.
Nothing had changed.
We ordered the chopped beef sandwich (I believe these used to be .99c or maybe a $1.99 when I was a young punk) and a smoked chicken plate-sub salad with Gorgonzola dressing.
Ruby’s always served lumberjack-sized plates and 2015 finds the same angle in effect. Their smoked chicken is the best in Austin and I fantasize about that Gorgonzola dressing at least once a month even though I live 500 miles away in New Orleans.
A bit of lagniappe comes trotting out of the kitchen: a pulled pork sandwich dressed in vinegar sauce and a bowl of peach cobbler. The pork tastes like hog butter, it melts before you can even think about chewing. I leave the peach cobbler to my dining companions as I need to concentrate on the smoked meat at hand. A slab of coconut pie hits the table and I immediately stash it in my backpack. Coconut pie is not meant to be shared.
It was hard leaving Texas. I watched a city that I loved shape-shift into something I wanted to have no truck with.
Austin is famously the fastest growing city in the US and has been for years. Eventually that got me to feeling like Charlie Daniels in his transformative hit “Long Haired Country Boy”
“Kinda like my old blue tick hound, I like to lay around in the shade”
The shade just got too scarce in Austin.
512 W 29th St
Hours of operation
Sunday 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Monday 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Tuesday 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Wednesday 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Thursday 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Friday 11:00 am – 12:00 am
Saturday 11:00 am – 12:00 am