On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Louie Mueller Barbecue owner-pitmaster Wayne Mueller joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss the restaurant that Sandler calls "his favorite Texas barbecue joint."
The conversation begins with Mueller recounting what it was like to grow up in the business working alongside his father, legendary pitmaster Bobby Mueller. Wayne explains that he didn't appreciate the restaurant's significance as a child, but recognition from the James Beard Foundation — and a plea from his father to help manage the business — prompted him to return to Taylor and become the third generation of the family to operate the establishment.
The conversation hits a number of topics, including Mueller's thoughts on the way that homogenization in barbecue cooking methods spurred innovation in sides and desserts. While that process has removed the charm of small-town barbecue joints that each cooked things a little differently, standardization has made it possible for Texas-style barbecue to be exported across the country and around the world. Mueller has a strong opinion on which market has the most potential.
California is one of those virgin sort of territories. You've got Trudy's in L.A;, Moo's Craft, they're making a niche. You've got Horn up in the Bay Area, but those are probably the most popular and well known and doing the best, I think. But you're talking about, what, 14, 15-million their pop-ups are trying to serve? That to me is mind boggling.
Environmental pressures and regulations really make it difficult in the West Coast, but that doesn't mean there aren't inroads that can't be made and that these things can't be done. It's just a matter of someone having the fortitude to make it happen. Because the first one that breaks through and gets the whole wood-fired, offset smoker in Los Angeles approved, they're going to explode. That's what Los Angeles is like. Anything that's popular, there's all the money you need out there to invest and make it grow quickly. They're holding out. They're going to fight for tri-tip, but I think it's going to succumb.
Prior to Mueller joining the show, Sandler and co-host Matt Harris discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: an in-depth discussion about the legacy of The Pass & Provisions now that it's closed; the news that Ben Berg will open a second location of B.B. Lemon in the former Pax Americana space; and Food & Wine naming Restaurant Indigo one of the country's best new restaurants.
In the restaurants of the week segment, they discuss their experiences at Squable, the new Heights restaurant from Better Luck Tomorrow partners Bobby Heugel and Justin Yu, and Rudyard's, where chef Anthony Calleo has rolled out a new menu.