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John Mueller returning (again) to cook barbecue in Central Texas

Matthew Odam
John Mueller is cooking barbecue again, this time in Georgetown. AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014

Like a phoenix rising from the post-oak ashes, John Mueller has another rebirth in store. The longtime Texas barbecue boss and grandson of Taylor barbecue scion Louie Mueller will soon be cooking again, this time at the Black Box Barbecue trailer in historic Georgetown. Owners Gary Brown and Justin Bohls will soft open the trailer at 201 E. Ninth St. this weekend during the town’s Red Poppy Festival.

The black trailer will serve Mueller’s famous brisket and beef rib, along with pork ribs, pulled pork, turkey and his various side dishes. The trailer is intended to be just the first step in Mueller’s reintroduction to the Central Texas market. His partners, with whom Mueller has been friends for decades, plan to open a brick-and-mortar version of Black Box Barbecue on the adjacent property, with construction to begin soon.

“It feels frickin awesome,” Mueller said of his return to professional cooking.

Black Box Barbecue will be the third barbecue business the enigmatic pit master has been associated with in the past six years in Central Texas. He opened J Mueller Barbecue on South First Street in 2011, but his involvement came to an end in 2012 following a fiscal dispute with his sister, LeAnn Mueller, who transformed the business into La Barbecue. Mueller then headed to East Austin, where he operated John Mueller Meat Co. at East Sixth and Pedernales streets from 2013 until last August, when the State of Texas closed that business, citing Mueller’s unpaid taxes.

Mueller says that those who may wonder about his business acumen and relationships this time around shouldn’t worry.

“I’m going to cook for people who’ve known me all my life, who’ve read everything there is to read about me and still want to work with me,” Mueller said. “We’re going to have a really sound business and cook really good food.”

Mueller first came to recognition in Austin, almost as much for his surly attitude as his stunning brisket, while running John Mueller BBQ on Manor Road from 2001 to ’06, during which time a young Aaron Franklin cut onions and worked the register. Following that shutter, Mueller took a hiatus from Austin before returning for his tumultuous run of the past six years.

As for any doubters or haters, Mueller laughs at the idea.

“Are there still any out there?” Mueller said. “I don’t think anyone remembers who I am.”

National recognition

GQ correspondent and restaurant critic Brett Martin debuted his 10 Best New Restaurants in America list last week, and Austin izakaya-smokehouse hybrid Kemuri Tatsu-ya made the list. Martin loved the “surreal pastiche of Japanese-Texan kitsch, a saloon out of a Quentin Tarantino fever dream.” Among the food he praised was the chili-cheese takoyaki, which perfectly captures the spirit of the Texas-Japanese mash-up.

For the complete GQ list, as well as my recent review of Kemuri, head to

Now open

Visitors of the Thinkery and residents of the Mueller development have a new spot for ice cream just in time for summer. Lick Honest Ice Creams opened last week at 1905 Aldrich Street, Suite 150, across from the children’s museum and around the block from neighborhood Italian restaurant L’Oca d’Oro. It is the fourth location from the farm-to-table creamery that originally opened in South Austin in 2011. The shop is open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 pm Friday and Saturday.

Looking ahead

South Austin will soon get a taste of the pies, pastries and other baked goods that have made Quack’s such a hit in Hyde Park. The bakery founded by Art Silver will open at 5326 Manchaca Road in the old Strange Brew space, which closed in January following financial difficulties. It first opened in 1983 on the Drag — then called Captain Quackenbush’s — and bills itself as “Austin’s first coffeshop.” It looks like Quack’s will also bring music back to the dormant venue, as Quack’s announced on Facebook that it “will also proudly present The Austin Soundroom at 5330 Manchaca Road.”