The Texan Pantry

Licensed $
100 Main Road, Moonah
03) 6228 4682
Open: Lunch Wednesday to Saturday 11.30–2.00, Dinner Wednesday and Thursday 5.30-8.00, Friday and Saturday 5.30 to late;. Takeaways.

Driving into New Orleans a few years ago, even before I got to the city outskirts, the air had a faint smell like burnt bitumen or creosote, something that got stronger the nearer we approached the centre. As I learned, it was the smokey, porky smell of burnt BBQ marinades and spice rubs, a smell that suffused the city and that, until you got used to it, I found decidedly unpleasant.

I also found the ubiquitous slow-cooked, pulled meats in the city’s famed po’boys equally unpleasant. Dry, stringy meats that turned to mush in the mouth, they were the ultimate no-need-to chew food for gummies. So, despite some much better Creole-food experiences at places like Smokey Joe’s in Launceston and here at the Winston Ale House, it’s fair to say that I went to The Texas Pantry carrying a fair bit of negative baggage.

And I was wrong. For the Pantry’s owner/chef, Micky Vidal, grew up in Dallas, Texas, and has been around BBQ’s since he was a kid. He says “with smoking and BBQing, it’s all a matter of experience and balance. If I had a dollar for every smoked brisket I’d got wrong, I’d be a millionaire”.

As a young man, he attended a culinary college for three years before starting a construction company with, eventually, some 200 employees. But he says he’s always loved food and cooking and had an enormous BBQ which he’d take along to ball games to cook for his clients and their families.

Of Cuban heritage, he also spent a lot of time as a kid helping his Cuban grandmother in the kitchen. Which no doubt helps explain the vibrancy of his spicings and sauces. He met his Tasmanian wife, Sam, in Dallas 12 years ago, fell in love with Tasmania on a visit here, grew tired of the 24/7 pressures of his construction business and so moved here and opened The Texas Pantry two years ago.

The menu consists of the usual Tex-Mex quesadillas, tacos, burritos, warm American-style sandwiches and rolls most with your choice of pulled pork, barbacoa pulled beef, Tex-Mex chicken, Austin veggie feast and smoked BBQ beef brisket with various accompanying fillings, sauces, ‘slaw and potato or green salads.

I tried the pork carnitas which has been marinated in lime and orange juice with fresh garlic, onion and chillies; barbacoa beef braised in beef stock with roasted chillies, chilli powder, paprika, garlic and onions; and the brisket which had been smoked whole with all its fat on for 12 to 14 hours simply with a rubbing of salt, pepper and paprika.

Two things set the dishes apart. The dishes’ vibrant spicings and juices and, although slow-cooked to tenderness, the meats had retained their essential flavour, juiciness and texture. You actually had the satisfaction of having something to chew.

Although each came with its own flavourings, there is a choice of six house-made sauces running from light citrusy creaminess to a mild kick of roasted and smoked chillies. While the heat of the various dishes gives little more than a tingle, the kitchen will add more kick if you want it.

There is only a small choice of wines but a big selection of Mexican and American beers, your choice of 10 tequillas and mescals plus the normal spirits.

And nothing on the menu is over $17.00

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