Most pitmasters know that great Texas barbecue is built on the holy trinity: great brisket, ribs, and sausage. “But, if you’re going to evolve in a market as dynamic and competitive as Austin, you want to be able to add some fresh elements,” says Interstellar BBQ chef and owner John Bates.
Bates is talking about dishes like Interstellar’s jalapeño popper sausage, scalloped and smoked potatoes, handheld banana cream pies, and mole baby back ribs, which are seasoned with a mole spice blend, brushed with a version of mole sauce, slow roasted, and served with more mole sauce and cotija cheese. “This is definitely one of those dishes where we’re coloring outside the lines of traditional barbecue,” says Bates. “The fact that we’re saucing the meat, and we’re doing a composed dish, automatically lets people know we’re not following the standard pathway.”
The pastrami beef ribs, meanwhile, are their take on the Texas barbecue staple. “We take this great classic cut, still smoke it, but apply a different flavor profile and a different spice blend,” Bates says, “in order to create kind of a newer dining experience with the beef rib.”
Bates takes us through the process of making the pastrami ribs, joined by his colorful right-hand man Warren McDonald, who affectionately goes by the name “War Dog.” “Sometimes it can be a little isolating, so I’ve gotten into some great conversations with whatever we have on the pit,” says War Dog as he rubs the meat with pastrami seasoning. “I usually greet the briskets when I open [the grill] up, I’m like, ‘Hello gentlemen, how’s your evening going?’ and sometimes they actually talk back to me. It depends on how long the shift is going. When the brisket starts talking back, I think it’s time to go home.”