After more than a decade hauling smoked brisket and pastrami to Austin farmers’ markets, Jeffrey “Geo” Ellis finally got the Mum Foods restaurant he dreamed of. He had a sixteen-month run with a limited gourmet menu in a building he knew would be a temporary home. It closed in early 2020 but it’s back with a new location which is a full smoker and deli shop.
A pair of thousand-gallon Bison smokers chug in front of the new Mum Foods, which opened in December. They are cared for by pet master Travis Crawford, who has cooked Leroy and Lewis’ barbecues, Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, and the now-closed Smokin’ Beauty. He makes really impressive sausages for Mum Foods. The ring-shaped sausages glistened with juice, their appearance an homage to the Kreuz Market and other shops in Lockhart. Crawford acknowledges that his official versions of these references. Instead of the coarse grind and pockets of accumulated fat you might find in a Lockhart link, Crawford is more cohesive with a finer grind. The original meaty link is great, but try the jalapeño cheese sausage for big chunks of barely melted cheddar in every bite.
After numerous visits over several years and at various venues, I have yet to try Mum Foods sliced brisket. Instead, my treat was charred brisket ends, which they only serve on Wednesdays (the only day they don’t offer sliced brisket). Ellis cuts some of the height off the fatty part of the raw brisket, which he calls mohawk, before they are smoked or salted. He hoards them for a week and then smokes them all out on Wednesday mornings for zesty burnt ends that are impressive. I’ll have to wait until my next visit to Pork Ribs and Brisket Slices.
They will eventually offer a full barbecue menu every day of the week, but according to Ellis, “we don’t have people lining up to eat brisket and sausage yet,” Ellis said. Mum Foods continues to operate three weekend farmers’ markets and plans to open a fourth soon at Bee Cave. The business smokes forty brisket a week to serve these markets, but the restaurant needs only twenty brisket four days a week. He has had more success thanks to the pastrami and serves 150 people a week, evenly distributed between the markets and the restaurant.
Smoked brisket requires patience, and pastrami even more so. Ellis marinates pastrami brisket for ten days, but first separates them into lean and fatty parts to “increase surface area” for seasoning, he explained. He’s only been trying to pickle for seven days, and while the pink stays consistent, it doesn’t develop that deep “corned beef flavor” he’s looking for. After salting, pastrami is seasoned with black pepper and coriander and smoked until tender. It’s not steamed like a traditional New York pastrami, but you never know that from the crumbling tenderness of the fatty side.
The OG sandwich contains half a pound of pastrami between two slices of home-baked rye sourdough. It has a firm crust and good chewiness, which helps it stay intact under the weight of chopped pastrami. Ask for half lean and half fat so you don’t overdose on marbled pastrami. A thick layer of mustard, made from home-ground beans, gives the sandwich a bit of welcome spiciness amidst all that rich beef. “I think good food needs to be balanced, but there can also be some level of tension between flavors,” Ellis said, explaining why he prefers the simplicity of the OG sandwich, though ruben pastrami with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut and Rachel (pastrami with salad , Swiss and Russian dressing).
Take a side dish of pickled vegetables. Kohlrabi, onions and carrots made up the marinade trio during my visit and I couldn’t get enough of the crunchy carrots. Pickled cucumbers will return to the menu when cucumber season arrives. Ellis said the high-moisture cucumbers currently available locally “get flabby in brine.” He also carefully selects meat suppliers. All breasts are sourced from Goodstock, while turkey breasts are sourced from Green Pasture Farm in Missouri. Ellis prefers Green Pastures turkey because no salt or phosphate is added during processing. Smoked turkey breast tastes more like turkey and smoke than salt water.
“Our menu will definitely change with the season, and not many barbecue places can say that,” Ellis said. Make sure that some smoked meats and side dishes change along with the pickles. The refreshing cucumber and tomato salad is likely to be gone soon. Who knows if the kale greens will last for stamina, but order while you can. They have a bit of tangyness from apple cider vinegar, a smoky base from the ends of the ribs used to make the broth, sweetness from brown sugar, and spice from homemade hot sauce. You will want to drink the broth at the bottom of the bowl.
The same can be said about matzo soup. Ellis gives the broth a deep chicken flavor and adds schmaltz to the matzah balls for richness. He adds carrot and celery slices at the end of cooking to keep their crunch, a nice contrast to the soft balls of matzah. The dish is flavored with a fresh sprig of dill. This dill is also present in the classic mustard potato salad and smoked chicken salad. Get the latest on a sandwich made with homemade beef tallow bun.
Ellis grew up in Austin. “One of my favorite memories was floating down the San Marcos River with a big bag of greasy sausage in my cell,” he said. But New York also had a big influence on his upbringing. He spent his summers with his grandparents in Queens. “That’s how my love for deli came about,” Ellis said. He brings together two sides of his childhood that seem to be on opposite ends of the cultural spectrum in this new restaurant. The deli guy communicates the menu in the same way as the one who floated down the river, but they are both guided by the smoke.
Mum Foods smokehouse and delicacies
5811 Manor Road, Austin
Clock: Wednesday–Sunday 11–3
Pitmasters: Geoffrey Ellis and Travis Crawford
Method: Oak in an offset smokehouse
Opening year: 2022