If I’ve learned anything from a year of living in Texas, it’s the fact that every Texan has a strong opinion about how BBQ should taste. Actually, “opinion” is a weak word in this case. “Indisputable truth” better explains the situation.
In a state where brisket is king, opening a BBQ joint that specializes in creative meats and unusual cuts is an act of courage. On a regular weekday, you won’t find the oh-so-familiar trio of brisket, ribs, and sausage on the menu of the newly opened LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue food truck. Instead, you might come across beef cheeks, quail stuffed with macaroni and cheese, and pork shoulder.
New School BBQ
Opened by the former chef of Freedmen’s, Evan LeRoy, in collaboration with Sawyer Lewis, who has 12 years of experience in the industry, this south Austin food truck takes familiar Texas BBQ to the next level. LeRoy explained to me that every cuisine around the world evolves over time. Italian chefs, for example, don’t make pasta Carbonara or spaghetti Bolognese the same exact way. Similarly, Texas BBQ should develop and, according to LeRoy, “It’s our responsibility to take it to the next level and do something different.”
With so many BBQ joints in Austin, “people know where to go if they want brisket and ribs,” LeRoy explained. “Hopefully, they will come to us for a new experience. And other joints will look at us for inspiration, too.”
Menu at LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue
The menu changes slightly every day. You can find all kinds of meats from familiar beef, pork, and chicken, to less common lamb, goat, and duck. The meats are sourced locally. To pay homage to old world principles, LeRoy performs some of the whole animal butchery himself–a tradition you won’t witness at many BBQ joints nowadays.
One of the most unusual items on the menu are beef cheeks. According to LeRoy, they are half way between Mexican barbacoa and Texan brisket. You’ll taste the “juicy lusciousness” brisket is famous for, but the meat comes from barbacoa. Beef belly burnt ends prepared from cured navel cut are another twist on traditional Texan BBQ that you might find on the menu.
Side dishes here are as unique as the BBQ, including kimchi deviled eggs, smoked ratatouille crostini, and collard greens stems. Sauces include garlicky Cuban mojo for pork, and smoked beetroot sauce that complements beef cheeks perfectly. LeRoy has even used Asian fish sauce in his pork dishes to add an umami punch.
For fans of traditional BBQ, there’s good news. On weekends, the LeRoy and Lewis menu includes brisket. The chefs behind the food truck use this time to introduce customers to the novelties on the menu, so they will come again on a weekday to try more. “We had a couple of people come up and say they want brisket every day, but I think it’s just a testament to how good our brisket is,” shared LeRoy, who has been smoking meats from a young age.
Although the food truck just opened recently, the response from visitors has been overwhelmingly positive. Let’s face it; traditional or experimental doesn’t matter much, as long as the food is delicious.
Chef Evan LeRoy
LeRoy’s first glance into the world of BBQ happened in his own backyard under the guidance of his father. He started working in restaurants from the age of 20, while still in college. Over time, his culinary experience ranged from fine dining to traditional BBQ joints.
Although his first professional BBQ experience took place in New York City, after contemplating the idea of opening his own BBQ restaurant, he decided to come back to his hometown. Upon returning to Austin, he became executive chef at Freedmen’s. He offered innovative takes on traditional meat cuts that earned him recognition among Zagat’s “30 Under 30” rising stars in the Austin culinary scene, and the title of “Austin Grill Master” on the Travel Channel’s “American Grilled Texas” episode.
LeRoy admits that working at Freedmen’s helped him grow professionally and personally. “In every single measurable way, I am a better cook and a chef and a manager thanks to working there.”
Now, at their Austin food truck, Evan LeRoy and Sawyer Lewis aim to bring old world traditions and innovative ideas together. Their slogan, “New school BBQ, old school service” describes the place perfectly. You may not find traditional Texan brisket on a Thursday, but you will always find the spirit of Texas and the joy of sharing delicious food with your family and friends.
121 Pickle Road – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your must-have dish at a BBQ joint?
Disclosure: My meal was comped for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.