The north shore of Lake Travis, not far from Austin, Texas, is a great place to spend a summer holiday. And getting there from Houston is half the fun. The trip along Highway 290 West takes you through the ruggedly scenic, rural hill country of central Texas. Best of all, this part of the state is legendary for its smoked meats and sausage.
Starting in the mid 1800s, Germans and Czechs made their way to Texas, bringing with them their traditions for sausage-making and smoking meats. With no refrigeration to preserve fresh meats, general stores and meat markets smoked their leftovers or made them into sausage to sell to customers. Farm and ranch hands would buy sundry items along with their lunch, which was served on butcher paper–no sauce, no utensils. You might need to use your pocket knife to cut your meat and sausage into smaller portions. You might eat it on a piece of sliced bread or with a few crackers that accompanied your purchase.
Our group made a Fourth of July lunch stop in Elgin, the official sausage capital of Texas, where we ate at Meyer’s. Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse is the offspring of Meyer’s Sausage Company, whose inception dates back to the 1930’s when Rudolph Meyer began selling homemade sausage out of his grocery store in Elgin.
The most popular varieties of Meyer’s sausage are sold at grocery stores across Texas. You can also walk right up and buy bulk links from the retail case as you wait in line for lunch.
The sausage at Meyer’s is award-winning and I hear the beef ribs are outstanding, but I was in the mood for a chopped beef sandwich. Though you will find this ubiquitous item on every barbecue menu board across Texas, the chopped brisket or chopped beef sandwich is much underrated and sometimes considered to be inferior in quality to the other meats on the menu. But once you sample a good chopped sandwich, you are going to order it every time you eat Texas barbecue. It is the perfect barbecue delivery device–smoky chopped brisket, a splash of vinegary sauce, crunchy raw onion, dill pickles and maybe a few pickled jalapeños, the flavors and textures mingling together in a great heap of taste, yet (ideally) still held captive by the bread.
The Meyer’s chopped sandwich is served on a tall, fluffy bun that provides just enough soaking capacity to keep the sandwich juices from running down your arms but doesn’t assert itself so much that you are tasting more bread than meat. The sandwich here is offered in two sizes. I strategically ordered the large so that I could cut it in half and barter for other items at our table.
In return for half a sandwich I received a few precious slices of brisket which sported a thick pink smoke ring, the mark of a brisket cooked “low and slow.” The ring is the telltale sign of the long process of cooking, the result of a chemical reaction that takes place as wood smoke meets the moisture in the brisket.
You can get Blue Bell Ice Cream by the scoop at Meyer’s, so we finished off our meal with a couple of cones, then took to the road to finish the last leg of our Hill Country journey.
A great way to spend the Fourth–family, Texas barbecue and fireworks sparkling over Lake Travis.
Happy Independence Day!
Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse
188 Highway 290
Elgin, Texas 78621