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Chomp: McMillan's offers big flavor in a small town

By by todd krainin/
Nov. 9, 2011 at 5:09 a.m.

The ribs and sausage at McMillan's Bar-B-Q are satisfying, but you'll have to drive a long way to match the smoky succulence of the brisket. Carnivores will find the short trip to Fannin well worth the drive.

The best brisket in the Crossroads is found inside a wood-walled dining room, where fluorescent lights flicker onto walls festooned with shotguns, hatchets, dead animals, biblical psalms and a trove of international currency. It's a surreal setting for a familiar food, but the smoky, slow-cooked beef at McMillan's Bar-B-Q is a gem amid the taxidermy.

Busy as the walls are with expired creatures and the many weapons that killed them, one vital ingredient was conspicuously missing from my visit - the aroma of barbecue. From the dining area, I saw no piles of hickory logs, no fire pit, nothing to generate the smoky smell that seduces carnivores like myself from hundreds of yards in all directions. Is it even possible to make great barbecue without it?

All doubts were erased when the brisket arrived at my table. Dining out on a regular basis in Texas has taught me how to recognize superb brisket by sight, well before the meat has had a chance to make proper acquaintances with my taste buds. The edges should be encrusted with blackness, the insides ought to glisten with drippings of hot muscle and fat.

That's a fair description of my order. The brisket plate ($10.95) is an impressive slab, darkly smoked on the outside, with a moist, fatty and very salty interior. The brisket looked longingly at me, and I gazed back at the brisket as if it were Carmen Electra circa 1998. In retrospect, I'm not sure if this was a meal or a relationship.

Typical of the best barbecues I've ever had, the brisket is so flavorful on its own, there's no need for sauce. Instead, I saved it for the ribs ($13.95), which were tasty, but a bit dry. The sausages ($10.95) were satisfyingly smoky, but not on a par with the the other meats. And, sure, the potato salad was fresh and not drowned in mayonnaise, but when there's an enormous portion of top-notch brisket on the table and limited space in your stomach, who can be bothered to care about a scoop of spud?

While I was wondering how the brisket could be so much better than the other barbecued meats at McMillan's, my meal was interrupted by a persistent and fearless swarm of flies that seemed to share my high opinion of the food. After a few feeble attempts to brush them away, I resigned myself to the company of a dozen unwanted lunch companions. This was their home, after all, not mine.

McMillan's Bar-B-Q is located in Fannin, a village you could easily miss if you make the mistake of blinking at the wrong moment on your drive there. Even Google Maps gets it wrong (it's on a service road that parallels U.S. Highway 59, not an unpaved road a few blocks to the south). But it's good to know you don't have to make the 180-mile round-trip pilgrimage to the meat Meccas of Lockhart or Luling to enjoy some of the finest brisket the state has to offer.



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