July 28th of 2011 will go down in Austin barbecue folk lore as a dark day in our town's history.

This was the day that "Operation Meat Locker", a covert sting operation ran by Austin Police Department, came to a head with arrests at 3 area restaurants.

La Morenita, Willie's Barbecue and Sam's Barbecue were all implicated in the affair with police alleging that the 3 restaurants were engaging in black market meat purchases from brisket bandits who were smuggling foods out of area HEB Supermarkets.

We had breaking coverage here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/7/28 We found it hard to believe that an iconic, East Side fixture like Sam's would engage in such behavior and now it appears that our disbelief was well founded.

We ran by Sam's earlier tonight for a smoked chicken supper and pit boss/owner Brian Mays related to us that his legal troubles are almost behind him.

He has one final court appearance on February 24th. Should he prove victorious he will be vindicated and his restaurant will be able to move forward and put the affair behind them.

La Morenita was not so fortunate. Their business closed and did not reopen.

We covered the re-opening of Sam's Barbecue: http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/8/19