Some things never change: 100-degree days in summer, cascarones at Fiesta, tourists thronging the Alamo, floppy white bread at barbecue joints…
At The Barbecue Station, there’s at least the option of floppy wheat bread. And there are the usual sides of creamed corn, well and truly cooked green beans, cole slaw, potato salad, pinto beans … yes, pinto beans. Here you serve yourself from a crock in the service bays of this converted service station, heavy on old-sign and automobile-artifact nostalgia — and they are worth having. Which makes the fact that refills are free actually a bonus (plates are already reasonable at $5.59-$8.49).
The potato salad is simpler, with little more than shards of celery and bits of pimento to distinguish it, but I tossed in pickle slices and was perfectly happy. Besides, it’s the “Q” we’re after, right? It’s sliced in front of you onto a sheet of butcher paper, as it should be, and it’s up to you to profane it with sauce, or not. Also as it should be.
Without in any way emphasizing its time in the pit, the Barbecue Station’s brisket is just smoky enough for my taste; it’s also moist and proudly, but not excessively, fatty. A paragon. The sausage’s casing is a tad chewy, on the other hand, and though the flavor is peppery and full, maybe the links want less time over heat. They benefitted from the squeeze-bottle sauce that, unlike the clingy, sweet, and often artificially smoky stuff that’s sold commercially, is thin, tart-sweet, and tangy. More gasoline than oil — speaking purely of viscosity, of course.
Where the Station’s front dining room is all about vintage motoring, the back room is unexpectedly tarted up in nostalgic ranching paraphernalia — from hides and horns to chaps and a pot-bellied stove. Also unanticipated is the pecan tartlet served in an individual foil pan that fairly shouts mass-market, which it may be. Thing is, more pecans are packed into the tiny tart than you’re likely to find in a slice twice the size at a fancier establishment. And the binding is more like a straight Karo and/or molasses mixture than something thickened with much egg and a lot of butter. (Would you believe there’s a website devoted to pecan-pie recipes? It’s pecanpierecipe.com. Check it out.) Not saying that this is worth driving out of your way for, but if you’re already there …
In a departure from most barbecue joints, the Barbecue Station also offers baked potatoes, either with the standard accompaniments or loaded with chopped beef or chopped chicken. I’d like to believe that the spuds, too, spend time in the pit but can’t vouch for that. There are also two salads, including one with smoked turkey (again, we hope it’s their own) and cheese. To barbecue purists, this is probably heresy, healthy as it may be and all. But the purists can always opt for extra white bread. •
The Barbecue Station
1610 N.E. Loop 410 @ Harry Wurzbach