Louie Mueller Barbecue, the Cathedral of Smoke
Push open the creaky wire door and step inside the grand cathedral of Texas smoke, Louie Mueller Barbecue.
Some barbecue restaurants are iconic. They’ve been in business forever and a day, randomly located in some small, unremarkable town. They look like you want them to look; creaking screen doors, seemingly ancient pits, dining room walls stained with smoke and age. They stay in business because of the legend surrounding them, even if the actual food isn’t all that great anymore.
Some barbecue restaurants are outstanding. They are at the pinnacle of their craft, and the meat they produce is exceptional. They constantly make the hot lists, often have long lines and both for good reason. They may not look the part, serving out of a modern trailer, or from a sterile, new building, but you don’t really mind because the food is great.
Not all restaurants that are iconic are outstanding, and certainly not all outstanding BBQ joints are iconic. The rare gems are the ones that manage both icon status and incredible food. Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Tx is one such place.
Often referred to as the cathedral of smoke, LMB is an unmissable stop on any barbecue pilgrimage, and you’d be well served to worship at the altar. As with so many Texas barbecue joints, Louie Mueller Barbecue began life as a grocery store and meat market, processing sides and forequarters of bovine carcasses on site. The natural progression was to then open a restaurant, which they did in 1949. Louie’s son, Bobby Mueller, was the last butcher at the meat market before it closed, and went on to be the Pitmaster at the restaurant for over thirty years. Bobby was awarded a James Beard award (kinda like the Nobel prize for food) for his outstanding contribution to the culinary scene via his exceptional barbecue. Today, the restaurant is run by Bobby’s son, Wayne Mueller, who has carried on tradition by being one of the most respected figures in modern day barbecue.
Here are the facts:
- you will spend several minutes just staring at interior. You’ll likely snap a ton of pictures, too. It feels like you have stepped back in time.
- You must order brisket. And you must order a beef rib. You should probably order one of everything, actually. The beef barbecue at this restaurant is likely to be the benchmark against which you compare all other beef barbecue from now on. It is superb.
- Their barbecue sauce is served hot, and it’s chunky.
- Wanna try my all time fave build-your-own BBQ sandwich? They have all the perfect elements at LMB: white bread, Texas sweet onion, beef rib, hunk of cheddar, light drizzle of BBQ sauce. BEST!
- If you are lucky enough to get a tour, you’ll stumble across some incredible details you may otherwise not have noticed, including the victorian era butchers block that they still use to cut on today (check out how warped it is from use!) plus a more sobering reminder of days past via the old segregated bathrooms, now used for storage.
Ready for a super helpful pro tip? They have a free app! It’s such a strange juxtaposition ordering via your smart phone to pick up food from a 60+ year old restaurant who are still doing things the old fashioned way… Nonetheless, ordering via the app means picking up your order straight from the counter and not waiting in line. Wayne says he commissioned the app to make sure Taylor locals could still have convenient access to the restaurant (which plays an important role of practical necessity in a small town with few other eating options), no matter how many tourists had decided to visit that day.
If you only have time to visit one traditional, iconic and outstanding barbecue joint in Texas, Louie Mueller Barbecue should be it.
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