Amidst the current frenzied obsession with barbecue in Austin, Hays Co. BBQ proves you don’t have to be in the city proper to be doing it right.
Generally when recommending the premiere barbecue locations in Austin, you have to also include the warning that there will likely be some kind of line, or wait, or that they sell out early. But what if I told you that a mere 30 min drive can get you to some of the most delicious barbecue in the state, if there is a line it moves extremely quickly, and they won’t run out of food because they’re open all the way through til 9pm? Yeah, I’d probably get straight in the car, too!
Run by Michael Hernandez (who is in hot contention for the title of most hospitable man in barbecue), Hays Co has been doing it’s thing since 2007. Michael’s son Aaron is the pit boss around here, and has been manning barbecues since the tender age of 15 which means he’s been playing with fire before most of us were even legally allowed to drive.
Lemme tell ya, for a young bloke, this guy sure knows what he’s doing. The menu is generous in terms of variety, the standouts being the sausage, pork chop and even the chicken. Michael insisted I try the chicken (which I often overlook as being a choice for lightweights!) and I’m certainly thankful he did – the mahogany skin gave way to gorgeous white and softly-smoked meat, a welcome complement to the intense in-your-face flavours beef usually brings. Ahaley particularly lost his mind over the pork chop, not an item that is easily found these days, he claims the ratio of tender to moist was masterful.
Finally, Michael told us to grab an avocado and tomato from the self serve fridge, that this was the real way BBQ should be served. They were chopped, seasoned with pepper and added to our tray, and brought a welcome freshness to the meal, completely cutting through the heavy, fatty smokiness, and the buttery texture of the avocado enhanced the tenderness of the meat. Point is, if more places offered these additions, I would undoubtedly order them every time. It’s hard enough finding a place that still carries chunks of sharp cheddar as a side (which incidentally, combined with beef rib and onions makes the best sandwich in the world).
Hays Co have built a huge outdoor patio and stage area, making themselves a real destination for a night out with a regular lineup of live music. They’re also planning on opening for breakfast as soon as January, showcasing their meaty delights on locally handmade tortillas. Count me in!