Flickchart Road Trip: Whip It
Welcome back to the state of Texas where Flickchart is traveling to document the best BBQ and the best Texas movies. We travel up from south Texas back to the Mecca of BBQ, the central Texas region.
Stop #11: Burnet, Robert & Penny Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak
Burnet is a little town west of Austin off of Texas Highway 29 and nicknamed the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas. It sits nestled in the Hill Country, surrounded by the beautiful blue flowers that are the pride of Texas. The city started out of a military fort established in 1847 for protection of settlers from Indian raids. The town around Fort Croghan was originally named Hamilton. The name changed to Burnet in 1857 after the townsfolk petitioned, due to another town already having the name Hamilton. It quickly became a railhead and a burgeoning economic power in Texas. However, after railroads were extended to Llano, Burnet declined as a supply point and turned to farming as its main source of wealth.
This BBQ spot in Burnet is owned by a husband and wife, Robert and Penny Payne, who both worked food service prior to opening up the spot in 2011 (he as a butcher, she at a school cafeteria). Taking over a building that was host to several other BBQ spots, including a former member of the Texas Monthly list, they helped revive the BBQ glory of Burnet. With wood-paneled walls, picnic tables, and window coverings, it has a quaint charm and feels like walking into someone’s home kitchen. Indeed, Robert and Penny treat you like family with their hospitality and kindness clear from the moment you step in. They greeted me warmly and thanked me for stopping by.
Complementing the home decor are the self-serve sides and BBQ meat chopped right before you, lifted out of steam tables. I sampled a three-meat plate piled up with brisket, pork ribs, and spicy sausage. I also tried some green beans and nice, creamy corn, cooked southern style with bacon. While nice and juicy, the brisket’s bark was thin and lacked that wonderful peppery taste; it was decent brisket but nothing that blew you away. The pork ribs were hearty and substantial, though, and had a wonderful unique seasoning on the meat closer to the bone.
The highlight of the plate, however, was the spicy sausage. In what can only be described as the best sausage in this project thus far, the casing was subtle and kept the meat together without ever overpowering the flavor. The seasoning and smokiness were fantastic and full of subtle notes. It was never too tough or tender. In short, it was the perfect sausage.
I award the brisket 4 slices out of 5, the pork ribs 4 hogs out of 5, and the sausage 5 links out of 5. I give Robert & Penny Paynes Bar-B-Q Shak 4.5 smokers out of 5.
Though the film Whip It takes place in a fictional Texas town of Bodeen, the film is a perfect pairing for the alliterative Burnet. Bodeen is a small town just outside of Austin, much like Burnet, and the film itself has plenty to link it culturally to Texas. Longhorns shirts are casually worn, Austin’s liberal character is idolized by young progressive teens, and other aspects of small-town Texas culture become sticking points in the plot. In fact, the central plot of Ellen Page learning about roller derby and it becoming her passion and a form of empowerment for her as a young woman is something somewhat unique to Texas. Roller derby has become a niche craze in the state, and is also referenced in the famous Texas animated show King of the Hill.
The main character’s struggle against her mother’s outdated view of womanhood based on the Texas tradition of beauty pageants leads to a comedic scene at the start of the film in which Page’s character dive-bombs her chances of winning a pageant by coming out with bright blue hair. These cultural details are what help Whip It stand out. Though the film follows a typical plot structure for someone finding empowerment through sport, including the underdog rising up to reach the top of her sport, such familiarities are mostly forgotten thanks to director Drew Barrymore‘s sharp sense of character.
Whip It‘s great characters engross you into the story. Page plays her part well, and you emphasize with her desire to rise beyond her circumstances. Her clash with her mother’s view of society is an interesting intergenerational conflict, and it is not written shallowly. The mother has her own past and circumstances that drive and motivate her, and this helps elevate the more cliched elements of the script. The father character portrayed by Daniel Stern is particularly interesting; it is written in a unique way and Stern does a heck of a job playing him. Barrymore plays a fun side character in the film as well.
While Whip It plays too readily into the cliches of sports films, Texans will likely find plenty familiar to them (even though it was filmed in Ann Arbor.) The strong cast and interesting characters help it stand out. It’s a fun, feel-good film and certainly embodies the spirit of this Texas road trip in cinematic form. Plus, there are a lot of fun celebrity cameos that I won’t spoil here.
Does anyone eat barbecue in the film?
Ellen Page works in a restaurant with a giant pig on the front in the film, and presumably sells pulled pork sandwiches in several scenes, but we can’t tell for sure. Pulled pork isn’t a big central Texas style of BBQ, but we can count it!
Texas Film Chart
- No Country for Old Men
- The Right Stuff
- Lone Star
- Dazed and Confused
- The Sugarland Express
- Whip It
- Outlaw Blues
Texas BBQ Chart
- Franklin Barbecue
- Pinkerton’s Barbecue
- Stiles Switch BBQ
- Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
- Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que
- Smolik’s Smokehouse
- Gatlin’s BBQ
- Micklethwait Craft Meats
- Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak
- The Pit Room
- The Smoking Oak