Happenings: JMueller’s BBQ Dropping the J; Sister Confirms John Mueller Out

A major shake up yesterday at one of Austin’s most famed BBQ joints sent shockwaves after it was announced John Mueller of JMueller BBQ was no longer part of the family-owned business. In her original announcement to Eater Austin, John’s sister LeAnn, owner of the popular trailer, did not specify reasons beyond to say John was no longer part of the business and the trailer was renamed to Mueller’s (no J). Eater Austin, along with blogger, friend of John, and BBQ aficionado R.L. Reeves, Jr. of Scrumptious Chef, were early on the coverage as details of this soap opera of a family drama trickled out. Speculation over to the reasons behind this shocking news reached a deafening level after John’s family restaurant Louie Mueller BBQ in Taylor, TX, now operated by brother Wayne, released the following Tweet:

“Brother John is fired, stealing from family again it seems.If you’ve been conned by John Mueller, please contact Wayne @louiemuellerbbq thx”

The divisive Mueller is no stranger to controversy. Stories of his so-called ‘piss and vinegar’ attitude towards customers and as a manager during Mueller’s Manor Road days were legendary. After leaving the Taylor family business, John moved to Austin where he opened John Mueller’s BBQ on Manor Road. John followed this rise to glory with an even bigger fall from grace, reportedly caused by personal demons and substance abuse issues.  After former Mueller employee Aaron Franklin (Franklin’s BBQ) catapulted to national acclaim with his melt-in-your-mouth brisket cooked on a salvaged pit from the old Manor Road restaurant, many began to wonder where in the world John was these days. Not long after, word came Mueller was back and more ready than ever.  These rumors were followed up by the launch of JMueller’s trailer on South First. His road to redemption story grab more than a few headlines, including a Texas Monthly cover story. Many wondered if John was worth all this attention or was he ‘all horse, no cattle’ so to speak. All those doubts were put to rest after John turned out plate after plate of BBQ goodness. With folks like Anthony Bourdain proclaiming his beef ribs the best in the land, John was seemingly at the top of the game and well on his way to achieving his goal of putting the past behind him.

Until yesterday, John Mueller’s had seeming cemented his status as the BBQ comeback kid. In hindsight, cracks in the family partnership were evident as early as this summer. From a purely speculative perspective, here is what can be surmised.

Known for handing out complimentary beers to customers, it was unclear, at least at first, if, or how, much Mueller partook himself. However, as witnessed on a few occasions this summer, the man had a knack for tossing back a few in record times. Not that this is any big deal, but coupled with past issues, it is a slippery slope if ones not careful. This coupled with a mysterious hospital stay could leave one to deduce the long hours demanded on the pitmaster were beginning to take their toll. Though I never witnessed any rancor towards customers, there were more and more complaints that his legendary caustic attitude had returned. Next, word came a few weeks back acclaimed Franklin BBQ pitmaster John Lewis had departed his post for JMueller. At the time, it was reported Lewis was joining JMueller’s for an apprenticeship before departing for California to start his own business. With Lewis now temporarily taking over the reins, it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to wonder if this was a more coordinated by the powers that be.

Only one side is speaking out in this he said/she said battle thus far; John has yet to respond publicly beyond a post to Longhorn fansite ShaggyBevo where he was a regular commenter to a JMueller thread under the moniker ‘Shoeless Joe Jackson’.  The thread has since been taken down. Perhaps commenter #58 on Eater Austin’s post knows a bit more as well; in a sea of laments and praises over the controversial pitmaster’s departure #58 made reference to this decision being a correlated effort by LeAnn Mueller, Lewis, and other longtime investors. In these types of situations there are usually three versions of every story, so we will have to stay tuned to find out the real deal. John, we’d sure love for you to take Russell up on his offer to share your version of the events!


For now, Mueller’s is closed until at least Friday. For more coverage, check out Eater and the Scrumptious Chef.

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