The Redemption Of John Mueller

Surveying the landscape of Austin Texas’ exploding food scene is something I do each and everyday. But it is nice, once every few months, to take the measure of our town, one of the great cities of the world, in longform.

Looking back over this past year the biggest story that I covered was easily the return of John Mueller of the famous Taylor, Texas barbecue clan. Word began circulating in the Spring of this year that Mueller was poised for a comeback and the comeback would take place in Austin. John Mueller’s previous run in Austin had not been without controversy. The mercurial pit boss had made a name for himself by putting out top flight smoked meat and being openly combative with his patrons.

I penned an article titled “Forgotten Barbecue Joints Of Central Texas” of which, John Mueller was the subject. Little did I know Mueller had formed a team and had a comeback planned as I was publishing the piece. It’s here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/5/1/Forgotten-Barbecue-Joints-of-Central-Texas-Part-2-John-Mueller-Barbecue

Then Foodways Texas threw a party at Boggy Creek Farms here in East Austin and Mueller was at the event cooking and telling people that he was about to enter the intensely competitive world of Texas barbecue once again. The piece is here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/5/10/Got-65-Burning-A-Hole-In-Your-Pocket-Want-Some-John-Mueller-Brisket

As word circulated that Mueller was on the verge of opening it was said that he would make sausage “rain from the sky” in East Austin. I covered his forecast here  http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/6/6/East-Austin-Where-Beef-Sausage-Rains-From-The-Sky-John-Muellers-New-Barbecue-Joint-June-6-2011

After a series of attempts to penetrate the levels of his entourage that travels with the Taylor native at all times I finally managed to secure an interview with the man. We covered a lot of territory here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/6/7/The-Definitive-Article-On-The-New-John-Mueller-Barbecue-Joint-Scrumptiouschef-Interviews-The-Legend

Then the New York Times came calling and Joe Nick Patoski authored a piece on Mueller http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/6/19/Joe-Nick-Patoski-Hits-The-Big-Time-Article-In-New-York-Times-On-Franklin-Mueller-Sams-Live-Oak

Plans shifted and the operation was moved from a prospective lower east side location before it even established a footing. I scored a spy photo of the brand new location here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/7/12/Spy-Photo-Is-This-The-New-John-Mueller-Barbecue-Location-On-South-First-Street

The reclusive Mueller then made an appearance at a barbecue sauce competition in Southeast Austin. Not to compete but to vend Texas Hot Guts sausage http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/8/22/John-Mueller-Barbecue-To-Be-Available-Sat-Aug-27-2011-At-Gettin-Sauced-Party-At-Independence

Austin’s Chowhound board became a local laughing stock as an unpaid volunteer moderator told John Mueller to “stop it”,  as in “stop posting” on the local food board. Cause they didn’t want people who’ve worked in the local food industry for 4 decades to contribute….to a food board. http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/9/10/Unpaid-Volunteer-Moderator-Tell-Iconic-Texas-Barbecue-Legend-To-Stop-It

Mueller’s custom build food trailer rolled in from Mississippi in the dead of night. I scooped all  local media with a pic http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/9/22/Austin-Daily-PhotoSpy-EditionFirst-Look-JMueller-BBQ-aka-John-Mueller-Barbecue-Thu-Sept-22nd-2011

The City of Austin brought a temporary halt to the planned smokehouse. I was there http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/9/22/Bad-News-Out-Of-South-Austin-JMueller-Barbecue-Fails-Inspection

The crucial step of “burning out” the pit took place next http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/10/5/Theres-Fire-In-The-Sky-On-South-First-Street-John-Mueller-Barbecue-Is-Burning-Out-Their-Pit

I wondered if Mueller’s opening would presage a “new era” of barbecue in Austin http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/10/7/Is-A-New-Era-Set-To-Begin-In-Texas-Barbecue-Brisket–Hot-Guts-John-Mueller-Opens-Sat-Oct-8th-2011

The barbecue joint finally opened. I went, ate and delivered a verdict. http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/10/29/Austin-Daily-Photo-John-Mueller-Barbecue-Saturday-October-29th-2011

A friend who’s been on a global cooking journey for the last few years rolled into Austin after his restaurant earned its 3rd Michelin star out in California. We went to Mueller’s to see how a humble plate of Texas barbecue compares to the world of haute cuisine
http://chowpapi.com/?p=1635

I closed out 2011 with one final photo. A row of briskets slowly smoking over Texas Oak wood. http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2011/12/24/Austin-Daily-Photo-Texas-Barbecue-Legend-John-Mueller-Briskets-On-The-Smoker-In-Bouldin-Creek

2012 should be an interesting year for the old pit boss. Will he end up shifting his operation into a brick and mortar? Or will he maintain the low overhead of having a food trailer with courtyard dining? Who will emerge as the top barbecue outfit in Austin; Mueller or his former protege Aaron Franklin?

There are lots of questions to be answered in the coming year. I’ll provide all the coverage you’ve come to expect.

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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