The Austin Chronicle


The case of the barbecue bandits

By Virginia B. Wood, January 9, 2015, Food

Austin's barbecue culture has become such big news over the past few years that we're now accustomed to seeing local pitmasters touted in all kinds of national media outlets. However, during the recent holiday season a different kind of barbecue news gained attention. It seems that barbecue has become such a hot local commodity that some folks are willing to steal in order to get a piece of the action. Austin police are currently on the trail of two groups of barbecue bandits; one group that steals briskets by the grocery cart load and others who made off with a custom-designed pit belonging to the Independent Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 520. According to police, over the last six months a man named James Cordell Avery has allegedly loaded up grocery carts with more than $2,000 worth of briskets and walked the carts out of area H-E-B stores to a getaway car waiting in the parking lots. Police speculate that theft of such a large volume of a specific cut of meat would indicate the purloined briskets are being sold to barbecue joints. There is concern the meat is not being refrigerated during transport, which could ultimately cause health issues. On Monday, APD Detective Rickey Jones advised us that Avery had been arrested by the Travis County Sheriff's department. However, the search for accomplices and the barbecue vendors he sold to is ongoing. Although it's difficult to imagine any reputable barbecue vendor willing to risk the bad publicity and health department sanctions that could result from buying and serving stolen meat, as three local barbecue businesses learned in the summer of 2011. While police do have leads in the brisket thefts, IBEW business manager Chris Wagner reports that even though the theft of their prized pit got lots of media coverage and a total $2,500 reward is being offered ($2000 from IBEW, $500 from neighborhood activist Delwin Goss), things are not looking good. "Several people have expressed outrage about it and said how awful it is that someone would steal our pit, but we haven't gotten any tips about it at all," Wagner told us earlier this week. The custom-built pit was a gift to the IBEW from their friends in the pipe-fitters union and was used to prepare barbecue for regular monthly meetings and the union's annual picnic, in addition to private parties hosted by members and community functions such as serving food to victims of the Onion Creek flood in the fall of 2013. If you happen to attend a barbecue function where the pit has a logo depicting a hand holding a lightning bolt, the guys at IBEW Local 520 (512/326-9540) want to hear about it.

In happier barbecue news, folks in the line at Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th) can take comfort in a steaming espresso, cappuccino, or hot chocolate purchased from the new Legend Coffee Co. trailer parked outside the restaurant. The trailer belongs to a group of coffee entrepreneurs from the Waco-area hamlet of China Spring. They serve coffee from Barrett's Micro Roast, milk from Mill-King Creamery, and North Bosque honey, and are open Tuesday-Sunday from 7am-3pm.

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