Texas ribs are underrated. Brisket gets top billing, but if you want the real indicator of the Lone Star State's supremacy, look to dry-rubbed ribs, which at their best shame rivals in the American barbecue belt.
Which is why the pepper-rubbed and extra-smoky racks ($17 per pound) at Botto Barbecue got me so excited. They're the finest I've had in this city, with a thick, smoky black bark that slides off the bone like a banana peel, bones that'll bite in two, and a beautifully limber texture.
Those ribs are just part of the show at Botto, which popped this spring in a barbed-wire lot behind the Sherwin-Williams warehouse in the industrial maze on the fringes of Slabtown. The meats come by the pound on butcher paper, the music tends toward country, and Cokes and Topo Chicos come in heavy Mexican glass. The owner, who goes by Darren and tells us he was "Obamacared out of a job" in health insurance, decided to open a cart modeled on the Texas 'cue he ate while living in Austin in the mid-'90s.
Botto pretty much nailed it. I could do without the chili—which gets very little out of its smoked turkey—and the regular bratwurst, which has very little character. But I was impressed with everything else I had in four visits.
Sausages are an important metric with all 'cue, and the housemade, cheese-stuffed hot links at Botto are wonderful. They're also key to one of the cart's unique offerings: meat-filled kolaches ($4), a nod to the Czech roots of the cuisine made in partnership with Belmont Street's Happy Sparrow Cafe.
But if you're at Botto for a two-meat plate ($10 with two sides—preferably the acidic slaw and creamy, yellow potato salad), get those ribs and the brisket, which also has thick bark, an impressive pink smoke ring and just enough moisture.
Yeah, it's great brisket. Maybe it's not yet equal to Matt's, the city's other great Texas-inspired barbecue cart, but it's closing fast.
EAT: Botto Barbecue, 2204 NW Roosevelt St., 503-354-7748, bottobbq.com.