We've been on the high lonesome these past few weeks. Sitting around the house listening to Bukka White and Hank Sr and pining for the good old days when we could run down to Sam's at 2 in the morning for a late night brisket fix.
The wait is over.
Sam's has reopened.
Rolling by Sam's on a daily basis since late July, we've been hoping to spot a Mays family member [the owners] so we could get the low down on what happened when Austin Police came down hard and heavy on the first family of Austin barbecue.
We have been routinely met with failure.
Leaving the Paramount we ramble around taking a generally circuitous route....drive by Franklin to see if the new smoker is on premise....head over toward the giant cemetery on MLK to see if we can spot the foxes that live in the tombs....the moon is surreal, heavy, yellow and huge so we decide to chase it for a bit by making our way through the hooker and pimp zone that is 12th and Chicon after a certain hour.
Lights are on at Sams!
And Brian Mays is standing out front.
Far from hungry but beyond curious we pull up to pass the time and hear his version of the affair.
In late July 2011 Brian Mays was arrested at the barbecue restaurant he owns; Sam's, he was handcuffed, taken to Central booking and charged with engaging in organized crime for allegedly purchasing a variety of blackmarket meats, not just brisket as was reported in local media.
He was held for two days til his wife raised the 15,000 dollar bail to free him.
The health department rescinded the restaurant's health permit and gave the Mays family ten days to reapply or the closure would be permanent. Brian Mays followed the procedures outlined and the business was allowed to reopen on Tuesday August 16th 2011.
Mays has a court appearance on September 7th 2011 regarding the charges.
Not hungry in the least but eager to put some money in the coffers we order a half a chicken and a few slices of brisket.
The pit boss pulls a huge, fresh brisket out of the steam table and starts slicing. Unable to resist we immediately snag a black, fatty slab and wolf it down.
Good as ever. Better even. Like most barbecue houses Sam's has had consistency problems over the years but this brisket is fresh and juicy. The chicken has a mahogany hide with a good crackle to the crust. The feast is right at $7.
Business is slow tonight so we ask how things have been since the reopen. "It's been slow going, folks don't know we're back yet"
Any changes in hours?
"Naw, we still open at 11am and close at 2am, later, 3 am or so on the weekends".
I offer that once people figure out he's open they'll be back in droves and he smiles, "I hope you're right, it's been hard these past few weeks".
Who knows what went down in East Austin when "operation meat locker" came calling?
Time, the courts and the community will have the final say in the matter.
As for us, we're just happy to see the old house that's been serving East Austin barbecue since the 1940's back in business with the lights turned on and oak smoke rolling off the big pit.
Here's the account of what happened when Austin Police Department came to East Austin and started throwing folks in jail at 3 restaurants:
The story hit big nation-wide. USA Today came to town to cover the affair
2000 E 12th St
78702 (512) 478-0378
Hours of operation
All barbecue coverage here