Once upon a Sausage...
Part of the reason the Original Elgin Beef Sausage tastes so good is that Southside has had more than 133 years to perfect it.
It all started back in 1882 with a butcher named William J. Moon who owned some property on a small farm-to-market road in Elgin, Texas. This was a time before refrigeration, so when it was time to process his livestock, he’d bring the meat into town on wagons and deliver door-to-door.
“Butcher today, deliver today” was the system. And the people of Elgin were glad to have it.
The first link.
After a few years of hauling beef and pork into town to sell, Moon decided he could serve the people of Elgin better if he opened up a storefront. So in 1886, the doors of Southside Market opened right downtown on Central Street.
Back in those days, before refrigeration, he had to sell it fresh or smoke it before it spoiled. Therefore, the barbeque he sold was simply a result of having extra meat. Also, in the true German tradition, he would grind his beef trimmings, add salt and spices and the Original Elgin Sausage was born.
Betting on sausage.
Round about 1908, Southside Market changed ownership. Lee Wilson was ready to move the business forward into the new century. Back then, Elgin was a quiet farming community. Most people wouldn’t come to town until the weekend. So that’s when the meat market really had to be ready for business, as the farmers and migrant workers came in and stocked up on fresh meat, dry good, and often enjoyed Elgin “Hot Guts.”
Recovering from the previous weekend, and preparing for the next one, the men usually got together on Wednesday nights at an old house next to the Slaughter House to play poker. According to Bud Frasier who worked at Southside for 65+ years, there were more than a few times when he would show up to work and find that he had a new boss. At least until the next poker game. Then it would usually go back to Wilson.
Still through all these changes, the sausage remained the same.
“Lucky” Lee’s luck runs out.
The next few decades saw a few colorful changes in location, in technology and in ownership. “Lucky” Lee’s run finally ended. Ownership changed from Wilson to Jerry Stach, Monroe Stabeno, and the brothers Charlie and Van Zimmerhanzel. Then Jerry Stach and his brother Edwin bought out their partners to become sole owners for the next 20 years. During this time, the business went from cooked meat and dirt floors to modern refrigeration, concrete slabs, a sales counter and an honest-to-goodness dining room.
Then, after 80 or so years of business in Elgin, this quiet little sausage town was about to become the legendary Sausage Capital of Texas.
A new era for Elgin Sausage.
On September 1, 1968, Ernest and Rene Bracewell bought Southside Market & Barbeque and moved their family from Austin to Elgin. It was on this day, that the first of three generations of Bracewells would wake up early in the morning to start making that delicious Elgin sausage.
Though you wouldn’t notice it while you’re enjoying a freshly cooked link of sausage, there have been plenty of changes under the Bracewell’s management. First, Ernest added another dining room to serve more customers. And at some point, “hot guts” as they were originally called, began to change to simply “hot sausage.” Then in the 70’s, they cut back on the cayenne pepper so the “hot sausage” wasn’t quite so hot anymore (don’t worry, that original recipe is still available in our meat market today).
Ernest then took the cayenne red pepper from the sausage and placed it in the Hot Sauce that sat on the tables in whiskey bottles that he traded sausage for, from the local bar down the street. That way, the “tender foots” would be happy but the “Hot Mouths” could still have their way. Soon, many other menu items were on their way, but the biggest change for Southside was about to come … from above.
The great sausage fire of ’83.
At one o’clock in the morning on September 1, 1983, Ernest was awakened by an unfortunate phone call. His restaurant in downtown Elgin was ablaze. And his dreams were quickly going up in smoke.
They say when you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned. But this time, the barbeque wasn’t to blame. A security camera in the alley caught the culprit red handed. Or rather, red rocket-ed. A firecracker had landed in a pile of pecan leaves on the roof of the restaurant and ignited one of the best-smelling fires in the history of the great state of Texas.
When the smoke cleared, it was obvious to Ernest and the rest of the Bracewell family that it was time to move on, move forward, and about 10 years later, to move the business from Central Street out to its current location on the south side of Highway 290.
The Legend continues.
When Ernest and Rene bought the restaurant, their son, Billy was only 12. When Billy took over the restaurant, his son, Bryan, was about 12 as well. Today, Bryan, is following in his father’s (and grandfather’s) bootsteps, and is bringing this famous Elgin sausage to more people than ever.
Sure, the town has changed, the owners have changed, the times have changed and the location has changed a few times. But that tasty, juicy, spicy, savory authentic Elgin sausage has remained deliciously unchanged. There’s just a few more items on the menu now for the greenhorns.
And as Ernest once said, “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. Everybody can sit down and enjoy it. ‘Cause good sausage is just good sausage.”