I’ll admit, true to my Texan heritage, I thoroughly enjoy good Texas barbecue. Both the primitive nature of it and the art required in executing memorable meat always fascinated. Sure, I’ve made it out to Lockhart, Texas, to the famous and ever-competitive places like Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market (I still can’t decide which one is better overall). Back in the arms of my hometown though, the barbecue I have now and again tends to be the “foo-foo” kind. Glazed ribs and gourmet sides. And they can be some of the tastiest and well-executed. But in my DNA lurks a craving for smoke and grittiness and sidling up to pitmasters. I wanted to see the artists with the brown fingernails of hands that handle mesquite and charred meats every week.
One burning, late morning recently, I made my way to the East Side to a little place I heard buzz about: Jones Sausage & Bar-B-Que House.
The East Side of San Antonio is home to one of the nation’s largest (and quite possibly the largest) Martin Luther King Jr. Day March, said to be upwards of 100,000. On the marching route, which takes place on the street named in his honor, is where I found Jones Sausage & Bar-B-Que House. The small, red building is perched rather alone on the street and houses some of the best barbecue in town.
The plastic-lettered menu hung over the window showing its faded brown age, and even the prices seemed a little nostalgic. A beef sandwich was $4.50. I was almost too distracted to order as I looked across at the various signs peppered around. Signs like “No Bad Language Please!” and “Sauce Is Extra On The Side” (30 or 50 cents). Yes, there was something rather sacred when you entered and walked up to that order window.
“With saw-ce?” asked Thomas, the pitmaster, behind the order window. I agreed that sounded good to me.
The course, not-too-dry sausage, for which the Jones name is famous, is perfectly well-spiced and peppery, but not heavy on the heat. The brisket is just smoky enough not to be overpowering and its fat ratio is right on target. The pork ribs, depending on where you attack them, are juicy and tender or chewy on the exterior and jerky-like. Teeth optional in some bites. The sauce united with the entire meat line so nicely that I almost forgot it was on there, however, it is on the thick peppery side. It completed the flavors instead of superfluously adding to the barbecue. Nothing was overpowering, but showed a finesse that only an experienced pitmaster (and sausagemaster?) could achieve.
And as I sat in the brown plastic chair at the table in the corner, with the combo plate and plastic-wrapped sliced white sandwich bread at my side, with Thomas sitting behind me watching Saturday afternoon TV, I felt a comfort that made me not want to leave. In fact, it made me long to return again, on another hungry Saturday morning, to get the full lesson in Q and savor more authentic South Texas barbecue moments.
Jones Sausage & Bar-B-Que House
2827 Martin Luther King Dr.