InterStellar BBQ Shoots for the Stars
The team behind Noble Sandwich brings traditional barbecue to Northwest Austin
In the parking lot of a nondescript shopping center just down from Lakeline Mall sits a large smoker that notifies all within wafting distance that barbecue has moved into the neighborhood. InterStellar BBQ is the newest creation from the folks that brought us Noble Sandwich, and chef John Bates began dabbling in Texas-sized smoked meats with several pop-ups last year.
"The roots of it started last summer when we were doing the InterStellar BBQ pop-ups out at Jester King. We did some pop-ups here at the restaurant and ended up in Jackson, Mississippi, doing a pop-up out there as well. It was so well-received that we thought that we might give it an option somewhere," Bates said.
That somewhere turned out to be the 620 location of Noble Sandwich. Bates said he loves barbecue, both for its tradition and the magic that can happen when a little smoke mixes with a long time. "I love barbecue as a native Texan; my family's been here for just about forever. From a cook's perspective, I enjoy the process of slow-cooking and taking your time and doing something that, through a little bit of attention and a lot of love, becomes a transcendental product. You take a throwaway cut like brisket and, if you put the right love and attention to it, you can end up with an amazing bite of food."
It is small-town Texas barbecue that inspires Bates, with Louie Mueller being the supreme example of the art form. That admiration prompted Bates to keep some of his menu very close to these roots. "Specifically, we keep our brisket super traditional. We try and emulate what we consider classic Texas barbecue with brisket, because it's a cornerstone of Texas barbecue. We take liberties with chicken and some of our other preparations, but we really feel like brisket is one of those things where you do it right and honor tradition."
The meat itself is of incredible importance to Bates as the menu features Certified Angus Beef and Duroc pork. "Our pork is heritage pork from Duroc. The idea is, we want something that could be equal to a prime-grade brisket, so you want to look for those heritage grades of pork that still taste like pork but have the marbling and flavor that you'd associate with the old-school pork that you had before the [meat] industries tried to turn it into chicken. That's what commercial pork is now built on: It's lean, it's white, and has lost the marbling and flavor that made pork what it was."
Much like other barbecue restaurants and trailers in town, InterStellar is lunch only with customers served until the meat has run out. "I thoroughly believe that the best barbecue is cooked once; it's not reheated," Bates said.
"You don't cheat and take meat from the day before, pop it in the oven, and warm it back up. The basis of good Texas barbecue is on serving fresh products that day and then starting over ... serving fresh products the next day. So we're not deliberately trying to limit the amount of food available to people. I don't want to invest in prime-grade brisket and heritage pork, and then serve something that tastes like it's been served twice."
Specials will be a part of the daily offering, giving Bates a chance to try out new and innovative creations. "It gives me an opportunity to work on new items that hopefully could become long-term menu additions. We do some fun plays on sausage, a rad Frito pie sausage that literally tastes like Frito pie in a sausage. Another one was inspired by my love of carne guisada as a kid, so that sausage is loaded up with Mexican oregano and Oaxaca cheese."
The goal of InterStellar BBQ is to make the best food they can and join the myriad of amazing barbecue places around Austin, to be "among the stars," if you will. "With a barbecue restaurant, it's just finding our spot amongst the great Texas barbecue community, getting to know other folks and learn from them, be inspired by them, and try to put our own personal little touch on it."
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