A stripped-down, smoky ambience, apparently best achieved in abandoned gas stations, is one of many attributes that lure us out to Texas barbecue joints. I like it all as much as the next guy, having got hooked more than 20 years ago on my first visit to Rudy’s at Leon Springs. It was mostly the pit-smoked meat, but also the magic of the sunset, the white paper “plates,” the picnic benches, the long ice chest full of drinks, the boyfriend.
I’ve been in the space that now holds Two Bros. BBQ Market, behind El Bosque, many times during past restaurant incarnations. So, I had to smile at the sleek (rustically so) new guise: cement floor, Texana, twinkly lights overhead and a touch or two of neon, the pickle and onion bar and iced down beer. I especially liked the big Igloo coolers, usually seen tossed into the bed of work trucks, set up for iced tea, sweet tea, lemonade and more.
We’d tasted some of chef/owner Jason Dady’s barbecue last summer at Becker Vineyards during Ramblin’ Rosé, a summer event of the New World Wine & Food Festival. The chilled rosé with Dady’s barbecue was great (there’s a food-and-wine pairing tip for you). We liked the pulled pork shoulder, really liked the celery-spiked potato salad.
At Two Bros. (where Dady teams with his brother, Jake – hence the name), I picked up the smoked chicken thighs, pulled pork, brisket and sausage. Skipping the potato salad, I loaded up on carbs with the macaroni and cheese and the creamed corn.
Creamed corn is one of those things that leaves you “meh” when you pour it out of the can. But it is sublime if made from whole corn and cream. I think my serving (at 3 in the afternoon) was a little long in the tooth – the corn was getting that kind of crinkled look and was a little tough. But I loved the creamy the flavor, so I’d recommend this side dish anyway. The macaroni and cheese — really good, without a speck of Velveeta in there.
The chicken thigh was a thing of beauty, that burnished black-brown color, the hefty size. You just knew that meat would be fall-apart tender inside. It was. The skin’s beauty was, though, skin deep. It was much too tough to chew. Disappointed, I set it aside and concentrated on the very edible, smoky interior.
Brisket is probably the quality benchmark at a Texas barbecue restaurant. Is it crackly and black on the outside? That is certainly the case at Two Bros. We watched someone bringing in a big tray of briskets from the smoker out back, and they were solid black.
Is it moist or dry? I don’t ask for “lean” brisket when I order, generally to avoid dry meat, and as we all know brisket can get mighty dry. Some famous barbecue places in town get just about everything right, but you know going in that their brisket will likely be dry.
The brisket at Two Bros. wasn’t from the lean side, the thick strip of smoke-tinged fat under the crust told us that. But the meat was moist, with good chewy bits from the ends. Chewy, not dry. It went great with the house-made, coriander-seasoned pickle slices.
I liked the fact that the sausage at Two Bros. was different. It didn’t taste like Kiolbassa or sausage from Elgin or Bill Miller’s sausage (not that there is anything wrong with any of these). It was flavorful, salty enough but not over-salted, and just slightly on the tender side, rather than dense and springy. The seasonings were what made it different. In fact, the sausage is a Go Texan product, purchased from Kountry Boys Sausage in Brenham, Dady told us.
I would drive back anytime to visit Two Bros. I liked it, indoors and outside on the deck, near a huge kids’ playground.
The only real disappointment came as I was looking at the dessert menu: Dady’s signature Nutella X 3 wasn’t there. But I guess chocolate mousse is something just doesn’t cross over well to Texas barbecue. Some things are as they should be.
Two Bros. BBQ Market
12656 West Ave.
San Antonio, TX 78216