Stiles Switch is the Jekyll and Hyde of barbecue. Which side you see depends on when you go (and what you order).
My first visit was about a month ago when my wife Nova and I were running errands nearby. Having seen Stiles Switch in an article on Central Texas’ top BBQ, I was curious to see how it stacked up against the legends in Lockhart, Taylor and Elgin.
I was encouraged by the fact that pit master Lance Kirkpatrick cut his teeth at the famous Louis Mueller’s. My high hopes, however, were quickly dashed. I didn’t even need to take a bite to tell my turkey lacked moisture or my sausage was woefully overcooked.
Our $34 dinner’s one standout was Nova’s pork ribs. They were extremely juicy and incredibly smoky, so much so they didn’t need any sauce. Nova said they could be the best she’d ever had, something I had to agree with after stealing a few bites.
I was honestly puzzled by the disparity in our meals. How could Nova’s have been so moist while mine was so dry? Were two different guys working the pit? Did it have to do with the lateness in the day?
Wanting to give Stiles Switch a second chance, Nova and I recently stopped in for lunch ($28). My thinking was an earlier arrival would yield more delicious meats. Sadly, I was only partially right.
Nova’s ribs, which were stellar our first visit, were significantly drier this time. Adding insult to injury, my pork loin had the consistency of shoe leather. Not even generous dunks in the sauce could save it. The brisket, however, was sublime.
Fork tender, it fell apart at the merest touch. While it managed to have a well-seasoned crust, it literally melted in my mouth thanks to its generous fat content. A succulent outlier, I was once again baffled by how this came from the same kitchen everything else did.
That said, should I ever return, I’m going to follow a simple rule: only order the fattiest meats available. Lean meats do not fare well here — and neither does the diner who orders them.
Note: With J.Mueller closed, my wife and I returned to Stiles Switch today. After several months away, we instantly noted some changes. They’ve expanded their menu (chicken breasts and fryers), now offer plates (two meats and two sides for $12) and have built a large patio with a spot to play washers.
The counter man told us business has been good and that the owner has been putting money back into the place. We will be too, as the ribs were as tasty as we remembered. Despite a good bit of fat, the brisket was drier than I’d like, but perfectly good when not compared to John Mueller’s.