In my recent trips to nearby Elgin I've visited Meyer's and Southwest Market and had some good experiences, but in talking with local residents, the consensus seemed to be that I should get off of Highway 290 and try out Crosstown Barbeque in old downtown Elgin (202 S. Avenue C) if I really wanted to taste the best of Elgin barbeque.
Crosstown is located right on the edge of the old business district in an unprepossessing metal building. Once you get inside the atmosphere is classic Texas rustic, with boar and deer heads on the walls, a kind of cowboy decor, a long serving counter, simple basic tables, and a big TV showing classic westerns. Crosstown is newer than its more famous competitors, but it's already established a reputation and a regular clientele.
The menu is about as basic as they come, offering brisket, pork ribs, sausage, chicken and beef ribs. The selection of sides is very limited, with just beans and cole slaw. They don't even have fountain drinks. They've got home made iced tea and bottled soda from a cooler.
I couldn't try everything in one visit, but I got a reasonably priced three-meat plate with brisket, pork ribs, and sausage and had them throw on a beef rib as a bonus. I got double beans instead of cole slaw because I just can't stand cold, slimy cabbage in any form.
Elgin is famous for its sausage and I think Meyer's deserves that reputation, but what surprised me most at Crosstown is that their sausage is even better than Meyer's. It's very much the same sort of sausage, a rough ground and very peppery mix, with lots of character, but it's extra spicy with both black and cayenne pepper, and it has variations in flavor which suggest that the ingredients weren't mixed very well, but which I found really interesting. Every bite is a little bit different, but they're all good. It's not too greasy and comes in long, thin links. In my experience it may be the best sausage I've had, with more character than Kreuz's and more flavor than any of the others I've tried. I could have eaten just the sausage and been perfectly happy.
The brisket is also quite good. It's very tender with a mild outer rub which might be a little too sweet and a bit underapplied. The meat might be a tiny bit dry, but overall it's pretty good. The pork ribs also have a sweet rub, more liberally applied and pretty tasty, but they were a bit tough. Having recently had really excellent ribs at Meyer's they didn't hold up in comparison, though they're certainly above average. The beef ribs were prepared similarly to the pork ribs, but I found them to be drier and a bit too smoky. I did get one of the last of the beef ribs for the day, so it's possible that they had been sitting in the smoker a bit too long.
As for the sides, there's not much to say, though I did think the beans were better than average. They reminded me a bit of what they call 'charro beans' in local Mexican restaurants, with more spice and less of the sweet molassas flavor typical of baked beans.
On the whole I was pleasantly surprised with Crosstown and it was quite clear why it's rated so highly by locals, despite being relatively unknown. It doesn't have a fancy website — or any website at all — and it's not shipping sausage all over the world (though it should), but it does have generally good barbeque and what is arguably the best sausage I've had in my 25 years in Texas. That makes it a must visit for anyone seriously interested in experiencing Texas barbeque.