Kelso: For barbecue, this Texan-turned-Canadian goes to great lengths

Now here’s an international situation of meaty proportions.

Michael Hoffman, an Austinite living in Canada, says he’s found “a foolproof method” for getting “awesome” barbecue in Toronto.

Even though he adds that there is no real barbecue in Toronto.

“There’s a little place just on the outskirts of town,” Michael wrote me. “You have to wait in a long line. It’s not as long as Franklin Barbecue, but the staff aren’t quite as friendly.

“After you make your way to your seat, you have to wait a bit more to get the food. But sooner than you know it, you change planes in DFW, rent a car at Bergstrom and drive to Lockhart. Great meat every time. I recommend this place to anyone in Toronto.”

Michael, 34, flies home to Austin about once a year, and the first thing he does is head for the brisket.

“I’d say the last couple of times I’ve come to Austin, probably about two out of three times, I’ve gone into the airport and proceeded directly to Lockhart,” said Hoffman, a graduate of Westlake High. “I’ve put my suitcase in the trunk, gotten in the car and gone off to Lockhart for barbecue at Kreuz’s or Smitty’s.”

There might be no better ambassador of Texas barbecue than Michael Hoffman. About 10 years ago, when Hoffman was a student at the University of Texas, he served as the ambassador to the Court of St. James’s for the UT student Barbecue Club. The group’s mission was to go to lunch at various barbecue joints in the Austin area, then rate them. The eating seemed more critical than the rating. And the Court of St. James’s never had anything to do with the barbecue club, as best I know.

Despite the lofty motive of the club, the university’s trademark and legal departments went after the group because of the seal displayed on the club’s T-shirts and Web page.

The university claimed the seal would confuse people since it was similar to the university seal. “Which was ridiculous on the face of it,” Hoffman recalled.

The barbecue club’s seal mentioned “The University of Barbecue at Austin,” along with the club motto “Brisket Sausage Pork Ribs.” Which would be hard to confuse with UT’s more sanctimonious seal slogan: “Disciplina Praesidium Civitatis.” Which means Education, the Guardian of Society, and not Football and Big Oil Money, as you might have suspected.

To appease the university, the barbecue club considered putting a disclaimer on the club’s Web page. But the webmaster turned vegetarian, and the club members couldn’t find the password. The club should have told the university to get a life, with a side of potato salad.

These days Hoffman is starting a lab to study how genes are regulated for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, an affiliate of the University of Toronto.

Hoffman enjoys living in Canada. “And you can’t beat the free health care,” he said. He says he was eligible for free medical care after living in Canada for six months.

Hey, if there’s anyone who needs free health care, it’s a guy with brisket and banana pudding on his breath.

On the other hand, Hoffman says Toronto has no true Texas barbecue. He’s picky about the subject.

There is a Canadian favorite called Montreal smoked beef, and with the word “smoked” included in the name, you’d think it might be the right stuff. But Montreal smoked beef is similar to salami, Hoffman says.

So Hoffman has to hit the road to find what he wants. And he’ll go out of his way to do it.

When he and his girlfriend moved from Seattle to Toronto, Hoffman drove by way of Llano, so they could visit Cooper’s Barbecue, Hoffman’s favorite.

“It was a little out of the way, of course,” Hoffman said.

After all, one of the barbecue club’s slogans was: “For barbecue, I will.”

“I will what?” I asked him. “Does that mean you’ll do anything for barbecue?” He thought about the question for a couple of seconds.

Then he said, “Yep.”

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