Flickchart Road Trip: Blood Simple

Welcome back to the Flickchart Texas BBQ Road Trip! We’re getting into the back half of our travels, but there are still plenty of stops left. We head out of Austin, where we just covered La Barbecue run by LeAnn Mueller, and drive just east of the city to a spot run by her brother!

Taylor was founded in 1876 and named after Edward Moses Taylor, a railroad official. It was founded after lots were auctioned off by the Texas Land Company in preparation for the coming of the International-Great Northern Railroad. Like many towns in the area, immigrants from Germany, Austria, and Bohemia helped establish the town. Taylor was soon another shipping point in the area for cattle, grain, and cotton.

The town continued to grow through the 19th century as more railroad lines reached the community and the population grew. The town fought back from a fire in 1879 and by 1890, and had several banks, an electric company, and multiple newspapers. While its growth has since slowed down and the railroads faded, it has steadily seen population increase throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. It continues to prosper and the 2010s saw its education system boom along with capital investments. Taylor is notable for having many movies film there and in the surrounding area.

The Mueller family has been making delicious barbecue in the area for many decades. Louie Mueller opened his restaurant in 1949 and quickly began impressing residents. The operation was handed down to his son Bobby in 1974, and now down to Wayne in 2008. One of the older pitmasters, Fred Fountaine, developed many of the smoking tricks and techniques that have become engrained into the Texas BBQ culture, and he shared that knowledge with Bobby. Wayne smokes with post oak using an indirect heat pit.

A humble looking spot off the street in Taylor, the inside is casual and strewn with metal tables and wooden picnic tables. One might expect such an acclaimed BBQ dynasty to perhaps rest on their laurels. Not this one. I got to enjoy a slice of brisket, a jalapeño sausage, and a sample of pulled pork. I also enjoyed a side of potato salad and a lovely banana pudding. The brisket was a nice and hearty slice of moist, tender meat with a developed pink ring lining the wonderful seasoned bark. It wasn’t the best bite of brisket I’ve ever had, but the bark was seasoned well and carried that peppery pop you expect from a central Texas brisket.

As has been the case with many of the best of these spots, the sausage is a solid and standout staple. It was smoked well with an ample addition of jalapeño, adding spice to the flavor palate. The pulled pork was tender and had a unique spice blend, making it distinct from many pulled porks I’ve tried. The potato salad was also a welcome surprise for a mustard-based one, with a pickle juice addition that balanced out the mustardy taste. The banana pudding was also well-made, sweet and with plenty of vanilla wafers.

I award the brisket 4.5 slices out of 5, the sausage 4 links out of 5, and the pulled pork 4.5 pigs out of 5. I award Louie Mueller Barbecue 4.5 smokers out of 5!

Blood Simple is notable as the directorial debut of the great Coen Brothers. Though not Texas natives, the Coens have covered the area in several films, including one previously featured, and as always they show great commitment to place. No specific location for the film’s events is ever stated, but it is clearly central Texas due to references to Corpus Christi being just south of the film’s events, and one shot of the Austin skyline from nearby Mt. Bonnell. Taylor was one of the filming locations as well, making it a natural fit for Blood Simple. 

Blood Simple is a neo-noir set among cheating lovers in a Texas small-town. It is an early display of the directorial prowess of the Coen Brothers and their wicked sharp sense of humor. From distinctive scenes such as a long tracking shot scored to The Four Tops “It’s the Same Old Song” in a bar, to a body crawling across a dark highway, the film is full of powerful images. The Coens’ tense thrills keep you captivated from moment to moment among the dark, brooding landscapes of Texas.

A great cast of distinctive character actors such as Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh carry the dramatic weight of their brutal characters. Hedaya cast in shadow proves he would be at home in any noir from the 1940’s. Throw in an early appearance from Frances McDormand in a smaller part, though still a strong one, and you have a wonderful assembly of actors to bring this noir to life.

The film is an excellent debut from the Coens and showcases the stark brutality that Texas can have. Some of this territory is covered again later in No Country for Old Men, but the themes still resonate here. It’s an excellent film in its own right, and a promise of many great things to come from one of modern cinema’s greatest directing duos.

Does anyone eat barbecue in the film?

No BBQ eaten!

Texas Film Chart

  1. The Last Picture Show
  2. No Country for Old Men
  3. Rushmore
  4. A Ghost Story
  5. Blood Simple
  6. Boyhood
  7. Paris, Texas
  8. The Right Stuff
  9. Lone Star
  10. Chef
  11. Bernie
  12. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
  13. Leadbelly
  14. Tender Mercies
  15. Dazed and Confused
  16. Dallas Buyer’s Club
  17. JFK
  18. The Sugarland Express
  19. Planet Terror
  20. Frank
  21. Whip It
  22. Natural Selection
  23. This is Where We Live
  24. The Alamo
  25. Song to Song
  26. Outlaw Blues
  27. Selena
  28. Nadine

Texas BBQ Chart

  1. Franklin Barbecue
  2. Pinkerton’s Barbecue
  3. Terry Black’s Barbecue
  4. Pecan Lodge
  5. Stiles Switch BBQ
  6. Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
  7. Hutchins Barbeque
  8. Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Que
  9. 2M Smokehouse
  10. Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que
  11. La Barbecue
  12. Hays Co. Bar-B-Que
  13. Smolik’s Smokehouse
  14. Louie Mueller Barbecue
  15. Lockhart Smokehouse
  16. Heim Barbecue
  17. Gatlin’s BBQ
  18. City Market
  19. Baker Boys BBQ
  20. Kreuz Meat Market
  21. Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ
  22. Micklethwait Craft Meats
  23. Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak
  24. The Pit Room
  25. Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
  26. The Smoking Oak
  27. Heavy’s BBQ
  28. Harris Bar-B-Que

Join us again next time for more delicious smoked meats and fantastic Lone Star cinema!

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