Sunday, June 19, 2016

Corkscrew BBQ - Spring

[I visit Corkscrew Barbecue more than any other barbecue joint on my list and enjoy introducing people to my local favorite. I’ve visited Corkscrew’s new location with first-timers a few times over the last month. I was shocked when I realized that in all of my visits, my wife had never actually visited Corkscrew herself.  I thought it would be fun to turn this long past due review over to her and let her describe her first visit to Corkscrew Barbecue. And along the way, I'll butt in with some notes in blue.]

Behind every true BBQ Adventurer is a cast of characters and accomplices. And on this trip, that included me, his wife! You didn’t think he could sample all of the meats on his own did you?

This week I am coming out of the background to share my view of a recent BBQ Adventure. I usually don’t know what venue he will ask me to try with him or what grade level we are about to taste. My only hesitation to accompany him on an adventure is when we visit a place with no set reputation and I worry about wasting a meal on less than “B” level BBQ and am left unsatisfied with my meal and wanting our 40 plus dollars back. This weekend, however, I knew exactly what we were going to get and was quite excited to finally try a local favorite in their new home.

Corkscrew BBQ started out as a trailer behind a shopping center on Sawdust Road in the South Woodlands/Northwest Spring area. We discovered this local gem before Texas Monthly named them one of the tops in Texas.  Even before earning that title, the line for lunch required a significant time investment.  As such, I never had the luxury to leave my office to accompany my husband there for lunch. He would graciously bring me brisket, ribs, and brisket tacos to try, but you know the meats never taste as good as when it is freshly sliced before your eyes. Even so, I have been a huge fan of Corkscrew only eating it as a take away meal or at various BBQ festivals.

When Corkscrew moved even further away to its new brick and mortar location in Old Town Spring last October, I thought I would continue to have to rely on festivals and leftovers to get my fix. However, we finally had a weekend at home and set out early one Saturday to visit the new locale.

On this day we drove into Old Town Spring to find a Crawfish Festival in full swing. We were worried that Corkscrew would be inaccessible due to the hordes of vehicles parked on every street, but we managed to maneuver the historical community and festival pedestrians to find parking on the road bordering Corkscrew. As we stepped inside, we were met with the beautiful aroma of smoked meat. No hint of stinky crawfish in this place! We found out place at the back of the line, which had nearly reached the entrance.

We discussed how much brisket, ribs and pulled pork we should order, and eventually settled on our amounts. I also insisted on sides because I feel I need a palate cleanser between my meat courses. When we got to the counter however, we had to recalculate as they still had a few beef ribs available [beef ribs are only available on Saturdays]. Pulled pork was pitched to make room for a honking, glistening, Flintstone sized beef rib. In addition to the beef rib, we ordered pork ribs and a mixture of moist and lean brisket. We completed our order with some mac-n-cheese, cole slaw, sweet tea and some Oak Cliff craft soda.

The crowd was turning over quickly so we easily found a seat despite it being peak lunch hour. We were shortly beckoned to the pickup window where our meats were waiting.

THE MEATS

As much as I enjoy side dishes, they were quickly forgotten as we dove into the brisket and ribs.  The brisket was smoky with perfectly rendered fat per usual. The lean slices had a dark crust with a uniform quarter inch layer of fat along the slices.  The moist slices were a bit more flavorful thanks to the delicious layers of fat.  The pork ribs were simply seasoned and had a firm, but proper chew. There was a lot of smoke on the maroon colored ribs.  The main event, though, was the beef rib. It was delicious. It glistened with tender, moist fat and the meat easily pulled from the bone. The beef had a deep smoky flavor.  It was well worth the purchase. The meat today certainly met the high expectations we hold Corkscrew to.

Corkscrew BBQ's spread of brisket, pork ribs and a big ol' beef rib.

[A few editor's notes on the meats that we didn't order today: Pulled Pork has been a staple of my Corkscrew order from the beginning. It is, in fact, my favorite example of the meat that I have found. The pork is smoky with a pleasant amount of bark mixed in. The mop is less vinegary than most southern takes on this meat and it gets a nice boost from some subtle spiciness. The flavors complement each other and the meat is perfectly moist. The sausage is a very flavorful choice as well. It has a nice garlicy taste with a touch of appropriate heat from the jalapeño and black pepper.  I’ll also add that the turkey is a great option.  We aren’t talking deli meat here – this turkey is the real deal. As for the barbecued chicken, which like the beef rib, is only available on Saturday – I’ve heard great things, but actually have yet to try it.

Corkscrew also carries a menu of interesting combination sandwiches and tacos.  The tacos are a hit and come dressed with their popular green chile ranch. To round out the menu, Corkscrew offers baked potatoes and, believe it or not, a salad option.]
Four meats at Corkscrew BBQ: Brisket, ribs, sausage, pulled pork.
Another recent Corkscrew visit including orders of sausage and pulled pork.

THE REST

Corkscrew's new location has a large, fenced in outdoor area leading to a wraparound covered porch. Many of the outdoor fixtures are re-purposed items from their previous location on Sawdust. There is plenty of space to sit outside to eat or wait for your posse. The interior is quite large as well.  The line inside was separated from the dining area by a waist high partition so we could spy on the diners’ plates without crowding their space. To the right of us was a wall sized chalk board with the day’s menu and room where patrons could draw and write messages to distract from their hunger pangs.

The exterior of Corkscrew's brick & mortar location

Though the ordering is done at the counter and you retrieve your own tray, Corkscrew employees roam the space to clean tables and offer drink refills as necessary. We found the employees all to be very friendly and helpful.

Corkscrew's inviting interior

The parking area is not paved, so be careful when you venture there not to park in mud if it’s been raining recently. You may have to drive around the block to find parking or use one of the nearby lots (some are pay lots).

We were very pleased with our trip to Corkscrew’s new locale. The new space allows them to bless more people a day with their delicious BBQ. The only down sides I see is that they aren’t closer to my home and their parking lot cannot contain the crowds they draw. Corkscrew is definitely the main event in Old Town Spring these days.

THE VERDICT

As I mentioned in my intro, Corkscrew is one of my favorite spots in the area and there's a reason I use it as a springboard to introduce newbies to really good Texas barbecue.  Corkscrew really does everything well.  And they are so consistent with their barbecue that regulars can see a picture of their meats and immediately identify it as a Corkscrew product.

The brisket tends to be the big draw at Corkscrew (deservedly) and Saturday patrons are spoiled by top quality beef ribs. However, I will reiterate my love for their Pulled Pork - don't forget about this oft overlooked meat on your visit to Corkscrew.


Address: 26608 Keith St, Spring, TX 7737
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 11AM - Sold Out

Saturday, May 14, 2016

On The Side: The Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail

If you discuss great barbecue destinations in Texas, the conversation will typically begin in Central Texas around the barbecue hubs of Austin and Lockhart. Some might mention Dallas or Fort Worth as barbecue destinations and I have written with admiration about the burgeoning reputation of Houston as a top-tier barbecue city. But even with Houston, which has an assortment of exquisite barbecue, it has taken a while to garner that respect and claiming Houston as a barbecue destination is still a contested opinion.
Victoria is a city that would have seldom come up in these barbecue conversations. That’s why I was surprised when I first saw talk of “The Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail” pop-up on social media a year ago. Still @coastaltxbbq received an instant follow from me on Twitter and I was obligated to do a little more research on this barbecue trail. Since then, I have stayed engaged with the happenings of the Trail through social media.  


Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Explore Victoria Visitor Information Center to chat with Joel Novosad and Bridgette Postel. Joel serves as Marketing Manager at Explore Victoria and is the man behind the social media and online presence of the Barbecue Trail. It was a joy to discuss the convergence of two of my interests; Marketing and Barbecue, while Joel and Bridgette were able to provide some anecdotes about the Trail.

The Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail rolled out in May 2015 with seven stops; some I had visited (Mumphord’s Place, McMillan’s Bar-B-Q), some I had heard of (Aunt Jo’s BBQ, Uncle Mutt’s Bar-B-Que) and some I had not heard of at the time (KB’s BBQ, Quality Packers Smokehouse, The Fire Pit). The Trail was the brainchild of former Explore Victoria director Anthony Cordo who stressed the history and families these barbecue joints represented as well as the meats. Since the rollout, they have also added Buffalo Creek Barbecue to the Trail with plans to add more in the very near future. The payoff for visitors (other than a few plates of smoked meats) is an enticement as old as time: Offer people a t shirt and they lose their minds.  Submit three receipts from any of the listed joints to the Visitor’s Center and you will receive your own Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail shirt. 

The Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail shirt
Three Stops Scores This Free Shirt
The creation of the Trail was very well calculated. Barbecue is something that Texans will travel for (as is the premise of my website) and this trail gives them an agenda and a reason to visit Victoria.  Victoria’s proximity to Houston, San Antonio and Corpus Christi offers an easy trip for protein seeking Texans. If barbecue isn’t your only objective, the Trail offers three itineraries which mix in local sights and activities. Meanwhile what if a non-Texan walks into a Texas tourism information center with thoughts of that iconic Texas barbecue on their mind? There is only one pamphlet distributed in the state on the topic, so they will be handed information on The Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail. If anyone Googles “Texas barbecue itinerary” to plan a trip, the top result will send them to coastaltexasbarbecuetrail.com.  The Trail has also landed in publications like "Food Traveler" which named it one of the best barbecue scenes in the nation. Through this branding, Victoria has quickly (and brilliantly) positioned themselves as a barbecue destination to anyone seeking. On my visit to the Explore Victoria Visitor Center, I was shown pictures of people modeling their shirts in far-flung places like Switzerland. They also had pictures of a couple that visited the Barbecue Trail as part of their anniversary.

The concept of the Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail has succeeded in not only bringing attention to local barbecue joints and to Victoria in general, but it has also served barbecue seekers like myself by presenting us options that we may have missed otherwise. For example, Quality Packers Smokehouse originally appeared on my radar thanks to the Trail and last week, before swinging by the Explore Victoria office, I had the opportunity to check out the family run business. QP Smokehouse turned out to be a tremendous option and scored with all three meats that I sampled – brisket, pork ribs, and the housemade sausage. The Limon family is putting out some very good barbecue that deserves the press and I was pleased to have been directed there. QP Smokehouse would be notable barbecue in any of the “barbecue cities” I previously listed – but it is located in Victoria as a testament to why the Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail is such a good idea.

A plate of the good stuff at Quality Packers Smokehouse
Quality Packers Smokehouse is well worth the trip
This commitment toward an identity in barbecue goes beyond pamphlets and social media.  This September at Bootfest, Victoria’s preeminent annual festival, the city will be launching a new attraction: the “Bootfest Barbecue Street.” This will be an entire street dedicated to barbecue and will feature local Trail joints and include competitions in multiple categories. This move shows that they are incorporating barbecue into the very identity of the city. Whether it is by their own merit or just good marketing, Victoria, Texas is now known as a barbecue destination. They have a nice collection of barbecue stops for a town of 65,000. I’m not claiming that Victoria has the most impressive barbecue scene, but they are the best marketed. 

With this marketing, Victoria is also improving the perception of South Texas barbecue and perhaps enticing more pitmasters to open up shop in this market. Expansion plans are already underway as QP Smokehouse looks to move to the iconic Corral Steakhouse location that went out of business last May.  Lupe Limon of Quality Packers is also looking to branch out from the family shop and set up his own barbecue trailer. As the second year of the Trail progresses, we could soon be looking at 10 stops on the barbecue itinerary. While this growth may not be a direct result of the city’s marketing efforts, you can bet that the Trail will cover it and give us a tangible way to chart the city’s progress as a barbecue destination.

Victoria is carrying the torch for South Texas barbecue. As a born and bred South Texan, I am very aware that we do not have a strong pedigree when it comes to Texas Barbecue and I am proud of what Victoria is doing. There is no doubt that you will see this idea replicated elsewhere (a similar Craft Beer Trail has already popped up in New Braunfels) as Victoria has established themselves as a best practice.  But marketing can only sustain for so long. The bar has been set and scrutiny has been invited. As a self-proclaimed barbecue trail, it is now up to the public to determine if this trail is indeed worth traveling. In my opinion, it is a trip worth taking. I can attest that there are some jewels on this agenda. I would suggest beginning your trip with McMillan’s and Quality Packers which are can't miss stops in the area. As for myself; although I already have the t-shirt, I still have some work to do if I want to complete The Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail – which I fully intend to do.

As always, Twitter is the best place to follow my travels (@BBQAdventurer).  You can also monitor the ever-popular Barbecue Roadmap as I chart my stops. I hope to see y’all on the trail, whether it’s in the Gulf Coast or elsewhere in the great State of Texas.

Friday, April 29, 2016

la Barbecue – Austin


John Lewis is still the name many associate with La Barbecue (along with LeAnne Mueller of course, who owns the place and is the “LA” in “La” Barbecue).  Lewis was named the first pitmaster for the rebranded business in 2012 after LeAnne parted ways with brother John Mueller and the name “JMueller BBQ”.  Lewis became synonymous with La Barbecue for not only perfecting the meats they served, but also for crafting his own custom pits.

As Lewis helped build the brand of La Barbecue, he was also building his own brand.  In 2015, Lewis decided to spin that brand off and become a Texas Barbecue missionary in Charleston, South Carolina. Esaul Ramos was named Lewis’ successor at LA Barbecue after personally being trained by Lewis.  Ramos held the position for a little under a year (Esaul Ramos now has his own venture in Lytle). 
Enter the new guy: Dylan Taylor.  Taylor took over head pitmaster duties early this year at the age of 21.  Like his predecessor, Taylor was also personally tutored by John Lewis on the craft of smoking meats.  La Barbecue may have a fresh face behind the pits, but their expectations unquestionably remain sky high.  A few months into Taylor’s reign, I decided to visit one of my favorite joints and see if he has been able to meet the daunting challenge of maintaining the tradition of one of the most popular names in barbecue.

La Barbecue has been a bit nomadic in recent years, but they now sit in a nice, new trailer in a lot on East Cesar Chavez after nixing the idea of opening a brick & mortar.  The lines can be among the most lengthy in The City of Barbecue, but they tend to move more quickly than the other guys.  On this visit, I was in luck as I was met with an unseasonably short line for such a beautiful spring Thursday.

THE MEATS

After less than a 10 minute wait, my order was placed and the meat was quickly sliced and plated on a butcher paper adorned tray at the pickup window.  My order was a few pounds of pork ribs and brisket along with a hunk of a beef rib.

The gorgeous meats glistened in the spring sun showcasing their black, brown and pink hues. They certainly looked the part of the celebrated La Barbecue meats.  This type of spread is exactly what you want to see when you’re enjoying a plate of barbecue beneath the Austin sun. 

A three meat spread at Austin's La Barbecue. You can't go wrong here.

The slices of brisket came both moist and lean. Both cuts featured a thick crust flecked with coarse black pepper.  The moist slices had to be handled with care as they tried to melt between my fingers.  The lean cuts also held a strip of fat that melted away as the meat held together just firmly enough to make it to my teeth before yielding completely.  Healthy doses of salt, pepper and smoke elevated this choice brisket to the next level.  This was the phenomenal brisket that we expect from La Barbecue.

The pork ribs at La Barbecue are a little more wet than the average rib coming off the pits in Central Texas.  The soppy glaze gave the ribs a bit of a sweet flavor along with the present pepper and pleasant smoke. I am personally not a huge fan of the sweet notes the ribs hit and it is a different note than you’ll find with any of the other meats.  The texture, however, was spot on for pork ribs – holding together well enough but revealing pleasantly moist meat with each bite. The pork ribs are good, but in my experience they fail to match the brilliant bites of beef that La Barbecue routinely provides.

A lot of fuss has been made over La Barbecue’s beef ribs.  These ribs are the gargantuans that first timers can’t help but take a selfie with.  But they are more than just a novelty as La Barbecue has, since their inception, routinely put out ribs that can nearly approach the perfection that Louie Mueller produces.  Today’s rib was no slouch.  A firm black crust sat upon a moist hunk of meat featuring veins of perfectly rendered fat.  Each impossibly tender bite of the rib proved that this piece of meat had been prepared with love and patience as the ideal texture persisted throughout.  The only weakness of this hunk of meat is that the salt was distributed too heavily in my opinion.  The overwhelming saltiness distracted from the natural flavor of the beef and made me thirstier with each bite. Still, this rib was excellent and La Barbecue’s beef rib remains one of my favorites.

Though this visit consisted simply of this three meat set, I have found on previous visits that the turkey is outstanding and the housemade sausage (John Lewis’ recipe) is one of my all-time favorites.  Pulled pork and a variety of barbecue sandwiches also appear on the menu along with La Barbecue’s take on a Chicago style hot dog.

THE REST

Sauce is available on the communal picnic tables, however it typically remains untouched by the patrons as the meat begs to be eaten as is.  It’s a tangy, vinegar-based sauce that I simply tasked as a bread accompaniment. There were no sides on my tray today, but rest assured that La Barbecue has suitable sides on the menu including their signature spicy Chipotle Slaw and Potato Salad.

I mentioned that La Barbecue has moved around quite a bit before settling in what seems to be a permanent location at Aztec Food Park.  La Barbecue also set up a brand new, shiny trailer in the new location.  It’s a bright yellow trailer featuring the Austin and BBQ-centric artwork that comprises La Barbecue’s brand.


Dining is done on the communal tables in the gravel lot of the park.  If you wait in line during the weekend, you’re bound to make new friends to dine with anyway. From Fridays through Sundays you’ll also be able to partake in the tradition of free beer while you wait.  La Barbecue’s legion of covered pits sit adjacent to the picnic tables and beg to be viewed.  I wandered across the parking lot to check out the pits and learned that the newest addition, a mammoth pit, came courtesy of John Mueller.

It’s worth noting that the one mainstay of La Barbecue has been general manager, Ali Klem.  With all of the changes that have occurred within the last year, she has maintained an important role in keeping La Barbecue running.

THE VERDICT

La Barbecue has been the picture of consistency throughout its history. If there was any concern that La Barbecue would be anything less than spectacular, rest assured that Dylan Taylor knows what he is doing behind the pit.  All meats are the quality you expect from one of the heavyweights of Texas Barbecue.  The beef continues to be the star of the trailer – in both brisket and rib form.


Address: 1906 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702
Phone: 512-605-9696
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday: 11AM – 6PM

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jackson Street BBQ - Houston


Jackson Street BBQ might be a new pin on the map of Houston BBQ, but with Greg Gatlin and Bryan Caswell at the helm, they are certainly not newcomers to the scene.  Caswell’s Houston flagship REEF has earned him multiple culinary accolades, including a James Beard nomination.  Meanwhile, Greg Gatlin’s name has become synonymous with Houston barbecue since he opened his original barbecue joint in 2010.  Together, these guys are looking to give Houston a new barbecue experience.

Jackson Street furthers its Houston identity by sitting in the shadow of a Houston landmark: Minute Maid Park. This plays into the Jackson Street identity as the restaurant fuses a sports bar concept with their smoked meats.

THE MEATS

The usual suspects appear on the menu at Jackson Street with options of Brisket, Ribs, Sausage and Chicken.  The specials rotate and have featured a venison sausage as well as a burnt end biscuit on my visits.


The St. Louis style ribs are small, but meaty.  During my first visit, I found the ribs to be a little too firm, requiring quite a bit of tug to free from the bone and more chew than I like.  It seemed to me that they could have used a little more time on the smokers that were visible from the dining room.  Upon first taste, the meat did however feature a heft of smoke. The rub applied is quite sweet and these ribs surprised me by diverging from what I’d expect at Gatlin's other place.  Still, the ribs seem to be a  fan favorite as they were sold out before noon during my last visit.

I have been blessed with fatty and lean cuts of brisket on each of my visits to Jackson Street.  Jackson Street slices their brisket rather thinly, resulting in rather fragile cuts.  The fatty slices feature well rendered fat and nice moist bites of beef.  The smoke lends plenty of flavor to the well prepared meat.  The bark is not substantial, but does feature a rather heavy hand of salt.  The meat from the lean end pleases as well, but does not quite hit the flavor heights of the fatty cuts and has been a bit too dry in my experiences.

Jackson Street BBQ sources its sausage through Ruffino Meats (of Bryan, Texas).  Their standard German link holds a garlicy profile and a touch of spiciness and meets expectations for a Texas BBQ joint.  The venison sausage, also good, was more mellow than I would expect from a venison link.  Both sausages were smoky and snappy and prepared as well as they could be.

The jewel of my visits was actually a menu item described by the Specials board as “Burnt Ends on a Cheddar and Jalapeño Biscuit.”  What’s not to like there?  This biscuit is typically offered after 5PM, but was a welcome daily special on this visit.  Admittedly, this item isn’t all about the meat as it ventures into “The Sides” territory of this review.  Leave no doubt: the burnt ends are fantasticly smoky and meaty treats.  But the biscuit itself really takes this item to the next level.  It’s a brilliant pairing, placing the meaty bites inside a fluffy home. The oversized biscuits are truly some of the best I’ve had and are also good on their own.

THE REST

The menu features a variety of sides that includes Fried Mac and Dirty Rice along with the usual spread of Beans, Cole Slaw and Potato Salad.  However, my recommendation is the Collard Greens.  These greens are executed perfectly.  They’re fresh, flavorful and feature flecks of meat for your further enjoyment.  Along with the biscuits, the greens prove that, even with all of the meaty options Jackson Street delivers, sides are certainly not an afterthought – this is Bryan Caswell’s territory after all.

The sauce, while wholly unnecessary, can be dished out at the condiment bar.  It’s a thick concoction that features a depth of flavor around an apple cider vinegar base.  It’s a pleasing sauce and is a unique option, but during my trips, the meat and even the bread (biscuit!) remained untouched by the stuff.

Jackson Street occupies the unmistakable red building adjacent to Minute Maid Park.  The red carries through the doors to trim in the dining room and the menus over the serving line.  The service line moves quickly as the friendly staff makes it easy for even a BBQ novice to assemble a memorable sampling of meat.  Jackson Street also boasts a respectable draft list featuring Houston brews from 8th Wonder, Karbach and Saint Arnold, making this a good spot to stop before a ballgame.  Jackson Street offers free 90 minute parking for barbecue patrons, but also has a nice deal on parking for Astros games.  They’ll give you parking in their lot for $50 while granting you a $50 credit toward your meal - very cost effective if you’re looking to spend $50 for dinner anyway.  The dining area inside is large and accommodates patrons with bar seating, four tops as well as long communal tables.  The dining area further flaunts Houston pride with a neon Texas flag and a brightly lit “HOUSTON” sign.


THE VERDICT

Jackson Street is off to a great start in establishing itself as a Houston destination.  Jackson Street embraces the Houston barbecue culture that continues to evolve and pushes it even further.  The brisket sets the high mark for the standard meat options and is some of the best around.  The supporting cast of meats and sides is notable and rounds out a terrific meal while the rotating specials keep the menu interesting.  However, it’s the burnt end biscuit that, when available, might be Jackson Street’s crowning achievement at this point.  It fittingly fuses flavors from the two partners together and offers one of the best bites that can be found anywhere in the Houston area.



Address: 209 Jackson Street, Houston, Texas 77002
Phone: 713-224-2400
Hours: Monday - Saturday: 11AM - 7PM; Sunday 11AM - 3PM
http://jacksonstbbqhouston.com/

Monday, November 16, 2015

On The Side: Houston BBQ Throwdown

The first annual Houston BBQ Throwdown went down last Sunday at St. Arnold’s brewery.  The challenge to local pitmasters was to fuse the flavors of Houston with the tradition of Texas Barbecue, all in one bite.  Fourteen area pitmasters took the challenge and showed up to a sold out crowd on Sunday.

This was a different take on the traditional Barbecue Festival and was a departure that I wholeheartedly welcomed.  It is quite possible to get brisket fatigue at most barbecue events.  But at the Throwdown, there were spreads of dishes that deviated from the norm in every direction.  Each dish was exciting and different.  And most impressively, there were absolutely no duds at the event.

The BBQ Throwdown was framed as a competition with awards going to the People’s Choice and to the Judge’s Choice as selected by a lineup of all-star judges (Alison Cook, Patricia Sharpe, Wayne Mueller, Greg Gatlin, and Robert J. Lerma).  Winners were named, but in all honesty, there were no losers.

Houston-area pimasters in general seem open to experimenting with their proteins.  This kind of event was perfect in capturing the cultures of Houston along with the playful nature of our barbecue proprietors.  Fusing Texas barbecue with flavors of other cultures is exactly what garnered acclaim for Blood Bros. BBQ pop-up events.  We have seen that Pappa Charlies’ Wesley Jurena isn’t afraid of melding flavors in unique ways as evidenced by a masala rubbed brisket he debuted on my recent visit.  This event also introduced me to Chopped N Smoked and their team that brought Lebanese flavors to Texas Barbecue, something I had never encountered.

There were also the more obvious, but entirely appropriate booths that drew from a Mexican influence with tamales and tacos and those that brought some Texas soul food.  The Brisket House made the Texas State Dish even more Texas-ier with a Beef Rib and Brisket chili.

The pitmasters needed little prompting to take the concept of the Throwdown and run with it, but an award, prestige and cooler full of briskets provided a little extra motivation.

A stipulation of the contest was that entries be something that they could feasibly put on the menu of their business.  So there is some hope that these dishes wind up as a daily special at a few of these joints.  And some of the entries, like BBQ Godfather’s godfather sandwich and Feges’ pig wings, already appear on the menu from time to time.


As for the flavors, here is the list of attendees and their dishes (alphabetically):

Blood Bros. BBQ – Pork Belly and Pig Ears on a Roti
The abundance of flavors worked well together on this bite. The flavors were unique as was the variety of textures from the crispy pig ear and soft pork belly
   
BBQ Godfather – The Godfather Sandwich
This sandwich featured Smoked Beef Rib with Candied Pork Belly and Sauteed Mushrooms.  It was the most “gourmet” item on the menu as the preparation went well beyond the smoking. Smoke, earthiness, sweetness and a garlic herb-iness provided a symphony of flavor on a picturesque bite.

Brooks' Place – Smoked Oxtails and Cabbage - Judge's Winner
The cabbage was well prepared, but the oxtails were clearly the focus of this Southern dish.  I’d never encountered oxtail like that. The perfectly tender meat sat on a bone that dripped with perfectly rendered fat.

Chopped N Smoked BBQ – Brisket Kibbeh
These guys were an unknown to me and served a dish unfamiliar to me.  I love trying new dishes and meeting new people, so this was the best of both worlds.  This Lebanese meatball came with a sauce that was completely different than you would expect at a barbecue competition and it absolutely worked.

Corkscrew BBQ – Prime Brisket Taco with Texas Caviar and Green Chili Ranch – People’s Choice Winner
If Corkscrew is serving brisket tacos, count me in.  Their exemplary brisket was topped with Texas Caviar, a mixture of corn, peas, tomato, onions and cilantro, then dressed with a jalapeño ranch sauce.  What’s not to like?

Feges BBQ – Smoked “Pig Wings” – My (Other) Favorite
This pork shank was meaty and well smoked. A healthy dose of black pepper combined with a delicious jalapeño mustard glaze to provide huge flavor with a nice bite.  It was near perfection for Feges.

Jackson Street BBQ – Cheddar Kolache (Klobasniky) with Smoked Brisket
As a nod to my Czech roots, I refuse to refer to a meat pastry as a “kolach,” but I will by all means partake in eating them.  This buttery and cheesy bread held a great bite of brisket.

Pappa Charlies Barbecue – Masala Rubbed Short Rib Burnt End with Cider Sriracha Slaw served on a Ritz
A very good burnt end benefited even more from the intriguing flavor of masala. He crowned the bite with some sriracha slaw, giving us two good bites in one.

Pit Room – Smoked Brisket Tamalito – My Favorite
Along with being my favorite item of the day, John Avila served up one of the best presented dishes at the event.  The smokiness of the meat permeated through the masa in this slice of tamal.  It sat in a house roasted chile colorado sauce that beats most I’ve had in authentic Mexican restaurants.  It was topped with fresh crema and burnt end bits and specs of habanero and salsa verde. This was a wealth of flavors all in one bite.

Pizzitola’s Barbecue – Brisket “Burnt Ends" Tamale in a Hickory Smoked Masa with Pork Sparerib Spiked Queso
Pizzitola’s was handing out whole tamales which I appreciated. I also loved the concept of smoked masa though it didn’t hold together as well as you would hope.  The sparerib spiked queso was an absolute winner as well.

Ray’s BBQ Shack – Smoked Oxtails
Ray’s was the 2nd booth offering up oxtails.  These were a little less smoky and a bit more sweet than Brooks’ offering but provided another nice take on the classic dish.

Roegel’s Barbecue – Smoked Lamb and Collard Greens
The smoked lamb was a generous portion and was lightly seasoned, allowing the natural flavors to shine through.  Lamb is a protein that not a lot of pitmasters try their hand at, but I wish they would.  Results like this are delectable.

The Brisket House – Beef Rib and Brisket Chili
Chili was one of the dishes I was looking for.  It begged to be featured at this event and The Brisket House did the Texas classic justice by injecting beef rib and brisket into a chunky chili base.

Tin Roof BBQ – Brisket Stuffed Shrimp Brochette and Dirty Rice with Beef Rib
This was a perfect concept for the Throwdown. This dish naturally combined jalapeño, cheese, brisket and shrimp into a perfect portion and had people raving.


Overall, I was very pleased with the event and the selected winners.  I wavered between about six places before performing my civic duty and casting a vote for the people’s choice award.  I was very pleased to see Brooks’ Place and Corkscrew take home the hardware.  They are two of the best places in the Houston area and served two of the best bites today.  I am glad their hard work continues to pay off.

As I mentioned before, there was not a bad bite at the event and I was satisfied by the end of the day.  This was a nicer feeling than the gluttonous misery that follows most BBQ Festivals.  The plates were well portioned and the manageable attendance allowed for quick queues.  This was not the kind of event where you spend most of your time waiting in line.  Instead, I had plenty of time to focus on the meat and leisurely talk to other attendees.  The people to food ratio was spot on.

St. Arnold provided a great backdrop for the day as a Houston institution in its own rite.  St. Arnold also provided free drinks for all of the attendees.  By all accounts, this will be an event that happens again (and again).  It will be interesting to see if St. Arnold is the permanent home or if it will make stops at other Houston institutions/breweries.

The Houston BBQ Throwdown reinforced the fact that Houston’s barbecue scene is here and demands to be respected.  There is no stopping the growth of Houston-area barbecue as it weaves into the culture that makes the Bayou City a diverse and unique city.


Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
Lines moved quickly and efficiently through the event.
Pizzitola's tamales at Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
Pizzitola's was handing out whole tamales to attendees
A spread of selections from Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
Clockwise from top left: Brooks Place, Jackson Street, Pizzitola's, Feges, Brisket House, Roegel's
Pit Room at Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
Pit Room offered up delicious flavors as well as a picturesque presentation
Beautiful food from Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
The food at the Throwdown was a delight to all senses
BBQ Godfather's booth at Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
BBQ Godfather served up their Godfather sandwich
Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
Houston BBQ Throwdown was all you can eat and drink thanks to St. Arnold
Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
Clockwise from top left: Chopped N Smoked; Pit Room; Pappa Charlies; BBQ Godfather
Ray's BBQ Shack at Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
Ray's BBQ Shack serving up smoked oxtails
Corkscrew BBQ at Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
The Corkscrew Crew preparing their popular brisket tacos.
Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
Clockwise from top left: Blood Bros; Ray's BBQ Shack; Corkscrew
Saint Arnold was the backdrop for Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
Saint Arnold provided the backdrop for the Houston BBQ Throwdown
Corkscrew BBQ won the People's Choice award for Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
The Buckmans of Corkscrew BBQ celebrate their People's Choice award
Brooks Place was the judge's winner of Houston BBQ Throwdown 2015
Trent Brooks was awarded the Judge's Choice for the best bite of the day

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Snow's BBQ - Lexington

For many, College Football season brings with it “Tailgating Season.”  Snow’s Barbecue has become another popular Saturday tradition for folks in this region of Texas.  And with its 8:00AM opening and proximity to Austin, College Station, Houston and Waco, a visit to Snow’s is doable even before an early 11AM kickoff.  Year round, you will see lines of barbecue enthusiasts at Snow’s, but this time of the year, these fans are adorned in school colors.     

Snow’s has only been in business since 2003, but has become so ingrained in the Texas barbecue culture that it seems like it has been around forever.  Miss Tootsie Tomanetz has become a celebrity pitmaster and is as recognizable in this male-driven industry as Aaron Franklin and Roy Perez.  She turned 80 in April and brings nearly 50 years of experience to the pits of Snow’s Barbecue. Miss Tootsie is as experienced in breaking down a beef carcass as she is in smoking a perfect brisket.  She and owner/fellow pitmaster Kerry Bexley are responsible for the tremendous meats at Snow’s but the surge in popularity is easily traced to the 2008 Texas Monthly nod to Snow’s as the best barbecue in the state.

Snow’s is cooking more meat than they were prior to that article, but even at the height of their popularity, they have never strayed from their signature once-a-week business hours - they open at 8AM on Saturdays and sell until they run out of meat – and that is part of their charm.

Charm is something that Snow’s is not short on.  If you have been to Snow’s before, each return trip feels like a homecoming.  You see the friendly, familiar faces cutting meat inside and manning the pits outside.  Local churches might be selling raffle tickets at a table outside.  Snow’s is the pride of Lexington and everything about Snow’s is local.  Well, except for the crowds they draw.

I typically time my arrival for about 7:45AM which might not put me at the front of the line, but ensures I will be in the door fairly soon. People usually do not camp out at Snow’s because, come on, 8AM is early enough.  While you observe the busyness of the staff preparing to open, you will also hear the Saturday morning cattle auction down the street.  The lowing of cattle provides an interesting soundtrack for your barbecue pilgrimage.  You can, of course, come later in the morning, but be aware that the ribs are usually the first to go and sometimes disappear before 10:00AM.
THE MEATS

Once you are inside Snow’s, you will order by the pound.  There aren't "meal deals" here, folks.  If you aren’t adept at ordering by weight, just tell them how many slices you want and the staff will work with you.  All meats are cut with an electric knife, which is rare in a joint this revered, but it’s done well and ensures the brisket holds together when plated.  This weekend, as usual, our order included several pounds of select brisket, pork ribs, sausage and pork steak.


My choice of meats sat on the tray picturesquely.  This was a beautiful rainbow of brown and pink hues.

A spread of Snow's finest meats

The brisket is Snow’s most famous meat and in my opinion, they do the sacred cut as well as anyone in the state.  Today was no exception.  The slices each display a thin, uniform crust.  The fattier slices are well-rendered and juicy and the lean cuts carry a sliver of moist fat themselves.  The slices are soft and fragile and the bites almost dissolve in your mouth, bringing smoke and meat together in perfect harmony.  It is just after 8AM in Lexington, Texas and I have some of the best bites of anything that can be found anywhere.  Much has been made about the price of the brisket as well.  The meat is $14.95/pound which is an absolute value when compared to prices around the state, especially the joints in this echelon.

The pork ribs are the one item at Snow’s that seem to waiver in quality.  Even on their worse days, the ribs aren’t bad. But when they hit on a good day, the ribs are truly elite.  It’s interesting that even on a single visit, you can find ribs at these two extremes.  Today was a good example of this phenomenon.  The first rack of ribs I tasted were a bit dry and the crust, though gorgeous, was tough.  They still had a good flavor with notes of black pepper on the crust and a noticeable saltiness, but the texture hindered the meat.  Pulling from another rack, we were treated with meaty and juicy ribs that epitomize the Central Texas pork rib.

A pile of Snow's pork ribs.

There are two types of sausage available at Snow’s: regular and jalapeño.  Both are a beef/pork mix and are produced locally for Snow’s.  The jalapeño version gets the slight edge in my opinion.  The jalapeño is evident without providing too much heat.  Both sausage styles feature a course grind housed in a thin, but snappy skin. Today’s well prepared link had some nice, smokey evidence of its time on the pit.

The pork steaks are another of Snow’s specialties.  These steaks are simple but delicious. They feature the same type of thin, brown crust as the brisket and are cut into similarly thick slices.  This pork is obviously more firm than the other cuts of meat.  With well rendered fat throughout the slices, the pork still has some nice juiciness along with the simple flavors of smoke, salt and pepper.  These are satisfying cuts of meat that can make up a meal on their own.

Chicken is on the menu at Snow’s and is a solid rendition of the meat.  However, it gets overshadowed by the heights of the other meats and did not find its way onto my tray this week.

THE REST

Snow’s now has two varieties of sauce but both are wholly unnecessary. The standard sauce is a bit sweet with a citrusy tang.  It’s a good sauce and not overwhelming in flavor, but save it for the bread.  The spicy version adds quite a bit of heat to their traditional sauce palate.

Snow’s has sides available for purchase, including potato salad and cole slaw, but I don’t believe I have ever even thought about ordering them.  However, I do regularly sample the beans for one big reason: they’re free.  Snow’s beans sit in a crockpot waiting for patrons to serve themselves.  They are good beans and are an option if you’re looking for even more protein.

The outdoor dining area with a view of the pits.

I described Snow’s setting as charming and homey and it certainly is.  There’s no pretense at all with Snow’s and all of the ambiance is genuine.  Picnic tables are available inside and outside, typically filled with the large groups that are enjoying their meat breakfast.  Sitting outside, you will sacrifice the A/C but have a comfortable spot to enjoy the dance of the pitmasters as meat is pulled or moved from the pits.  The staff is happy to show you the pits and take photos. Kerry makes a point of visiting tables inside and out and always provides good conversation.

Miss Tootsie monitors the sausage on the direct heat pit.

It is also of note that while Snow’s is only open on Saturday’s, they are at work earlier in the week shipping orders placed through their online store.  So even if a trip to Lexington isn’t in the cards for you, you can still have Snow’s meats delivered directly to your door.

The brisket at Snow's is smoked in an offset smoker.


THE VERDICT

With each visit, Snow’s manages to meet the hype and high expectations that they have been earned.  This meat is absolutely worth the trip to Lexington.  It is even worth the waking up early on Saturday.  There is no place better than this iconic setting for meeting some buddies for a Saturday meat-lover’s breakfast.  Enjoy the full spread of meats but be aware that you can never order too much of their brisket.  And believe me, after you make that first trip, you will look forward to returning again soon.


Address: 516 Main Street, Lexington , TX 78947
Phone: 979-773-4640
Hours: Saturdays Only - 8:00AM - Sold Out
http://www.snowsbbq.com/index.html

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hoegemeyer's Barbeque Barn - Corpus Christi

Hoegemeyer’s BBQ Barn (pronounced “Hay-guh-my-er”) opened in 2013 and landed on my radar immediately.  Since they are only open to the public on weekdays, it takes a bit of planning to schedule my visits to Hoegemeyer’s.  The hours are not ideal for out-of-towners and the location can also be a bit of an inconvenience (if you aren’t familiar with the area, have Google Maps handy).  But if you can manage a trip, you will be rewarded with what some say is the best barbecue in the Coastal Bend.

THE MEATS

Hoegemeyer’s serves a variety of meats with a menu featuring brisket, pork spare ribs, baby backs, pulled pork, sausage and chicken.  Beef ribs are the latest addition to the menu and along with chicken, are the only items I have not had the opportunity to sample.

A spread of Hoegemeyer's meats

Hoegemeyer's has a "Brisket 101" sign near the service counter to tutor newcomers on how to identify the specific cut of brisket they want. No matter the choice, the brisket is served in hefty slices.  The heavy pepper rub makes a nice crust on the cuts of beef.  The meat itself is typically rather soft and the fatty slices tend to fall to pieces.  The brisket is tasty with moist, well-rendered fat, but the mesquite smoke is somewhat subdued on the meat.

The two styles of pork ribs are very close in quality and my favorite of the two seems to change with each visit.  The spare ribs are meaty and feature a simple rub contrasting the tangy glaze of the baby backs.  My complaint from earlier visits was that the sauce overwhelmed the flavor of the baby backs, but the amount of sauce was reigned in on my latest visit, offering a better balance of flavor.  Like the brisket, neither of the rib styles feature a tremendous amount of smoke.  The texture of both options is pretty spot on, a bit firm to hold to the bone and provide a nice chew, but not tough or the least bit dry.  On any given day, either style could be called the best pork ribs in Corpus Christi.

The sausage is a typical, but good link from V&V.  The all-beef sausage is a dense, peppery standard in the area.  It’s consistent and well prepared at Hoegemeyer’s.

The pulled pork is a simple menu option.  The pork looks almost orange from the sauce it’s sopped in, but it still features a very straight-forward flavor.  The tanginess of the sauce does not stand out, but is there to provide plenty of moisture in the pork.  There is nothing to dislike about this offering.

THE REST

The house sauce is thin in consistency and mild in flavor with just a bit of sweetness, tang and spice.  The sauce does not make much of an impact on the meat, but thankfully, the meat doesn’t need it.

When you order one of Hoegemeyer’s plates, you are offered accompaniments from a selection of all-you-can-eat sides.  The sides are typical with choices like pinto beans, green beans, corn and cole slaw.  All of the selections I’ve sampled are pretty traditional but my favorite is the baked potato salad which is a bit chunkier than your typical potato salad with a bold sour cream flavor.

The only item that stands out as much as the meat is the delicious peach cobbler.  If you have read my previous entries, you may have gathered that I am perfectly happy taking another helping of meat in lieu of dessert.  However, this cobbler begs to be ordered.  It is bready and buttery and the flavors melt together in the warm dish of happiness.  It’s like cake and cobbler produced a delicious love child.

Hoegemeyer's Barbeque Barn is actually an old train station barn.

Hoegemeyer’s Barbecue Barn is actually an old train station barn.  The interior feels like a Texas dance hall.  The large space features a mixture of booths, tables and high tops.  There is also a bar area in the back of the building, opposite the ordering line.  The decoration is knickknacks of “Texas Americana” and the ambiance is completed with a lively selection of music and lights strung across the ceiling.  Hoegemeyer’s is a big enough venue to host large parties and they do exactly that during the hours in which they are closed to the public.  On nights and weekends, they offer the venue free of charge if you have them cater your party.  It is one of the best deals you can ever find.

The interior of Hoegemeyer's reminds me of a Texas dance hall

THE VERDICT

Hoegemeyer’s has brought some life to Corpus Christi’s rather dismal barbecue scene.  They have set the area standard with their meats, especially with their standout pork ribs.  With lovingly prepared sides and superlative cobbler for dessert, Hoegemeyer’s has put together a well-rounded meal for visitors. If you are in the area and can make it over for lunch, Hoegemeyer’s is a must visit. For everyone else, well, we can always wish for them to extend hours through Saturday.



Address: 711 Concrete St., Corpus Christi, Texas 78401
Phone: 361-884-4227
Hours: Monday - Friday: 11AM - 3PM
http://hoegemeyers.com

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Heim Barbecue - Fort Worth


This Review Is For Their Previous Location. Heim has now moved into their Brick & Mortar Location on Magnolia.

There was a time in their infancy that eating at places like Pecan Lodge and even Franklin BBQ, did not require a significant time investment.  They drew buzz from the locals in those early days but the crowds did not explode until the mainstream media picked up on it and drew hordes of outsiders in.  For a while, these places were delightful neighborhood secrets.  But secrets this juicy will always get out.

Heim Barbecue opened at the end of February and they already have the community buzzing.  Their lines have steadily grown each week since setting their trailer up outside of Republic Street Bar.  I think Heim could very well be reaching their tipping point and when that publicity bubble pops, you can expect that line to grow exponentially.

Travis and Emma Heim own and operate the Heim Barbecue trailer.  Currently they offer service just twice a week, opening for lunch on Saturday at 11:00AM and serving dinner Wednesday nights starting at 5:00PM.  I managed to make a visit for both sessions this week.  (Note: Their hours have now changed to a more traditional schedule of Friday-Sunday; 11:00AM - 3:00PM)

I arrived last Saturday morning at 10:15, which I thought would be unnecessarily early for the 11:00AM opening, but I was admittedly excited about this visit.  Our early arrival had us sixth in line and we were soon surrounded by locals who have made visits to Heim their Saturday tradition.  I was told by multiple people that the line, which stretched to 30 people at opening, was the longest they’d seen yet.  They were more proud than annoyed by the growing lines and I was encouraged to write a Yelp review for the local business because “it’s shameful that they’re listed as the seventh best BBQ place in Fort Worth”.  After taking a second visit to confirm, I can agree wholeheartedly.  So let me let you in on their secret.

THE MEATS

I made my selections from the menu, which was hand-written on butcher paper and taped to the side of the trailer.  I loaded up with brisket, baby back ribs, pulled pork, sausage and Heim’s signature item: bacon burnt ends.  The Heims use the central Texas standard of post oak on all of their meats.  You are not going to find that type of wood in the area so they have to source their wood from a few hours away.
 
A collection of meats from Heim Barbecue in Fort Worth

My order of brisket included lean and moist cuts and both were picturesque.  The deep hued smoke ring was thick underneath the hefty black bark. A thin layer of perfectly rendered fat flanked the bottom of the lean slices.  The slices were just a bit thicker than a width of a pencil and held together well in hand.  The meat then yielded entirely to my teeth upon first bite.  And what a bite that was.  Flavor from the hefty oak smoke melted into the heavy black pepper seasoning resulting in meaty bliss.  The fat was buttery and rich and just further elevated the meat.  The brisket in its flavor and texture drew as near to perfection as almost any I have found in this quest for the perfect meat.

The bacon burnt ends are more than just a novelty on the menu. These cubed bites of pork belly are cured before they are smoked, resulting in some great, easy-to-eat hors d’oeuvres. The cubes are firm on the outside but provide a nice, meaty chew. The flavor is a combination of black pepper with a tangy sweetness from the syrupy glaze. It's an interesting but beautiful combination of taste. These are priced by the quarter pound (rather than by the half pound like the other meats) and that is how the Heims suggest you order them. You could probably go through more than a quarter pound on accident, so this suggestion is probably more of a medical disclaimer.

Beautiful "Bacon Burnt Ends" at Heim Barbecue

The ribs drop off a bit from the previous meats - which is to say they fall somewhere below perfect. The baby backs are small, but meaty, showcasing a deep maroon and slightly sticky crust. The meat holds well to the bone but releases with a slight tug, appropriately leaving the shape of your bite in the meat. On my first visit, the ribs were a bit sweeter and less smoky than I typically prefer, but I found a better balance on my second visit. Either way, the ribs were good but just had less character than the two previous meats.

The pulled pork missed the mark for me. Its flavor was rather subdued with minimal smoke. It looked good with pieces of pink meat and dark crust evident in the pile of shredded pork.  But overall, it was rather dry and unremarkable.

Meats from my second trip to Heim Barbecue

The sausage is a jalapeno and cheddar link sourced locally.  Heim Barbecue does not make their own sausage, but said they went through many different links before selecting this one as their sole sausage option.  It is a good sausage and is spicier than most.  It was well prepared, providing a nice crisp snap to the casing.

THE REST

The two sides on the menu were coleslaw and a potato salad. Neither were the traditional picnic fair. The slaw was a simple serving of slightly creamy red cabbage. It was a crispy, straightforward slaw that was refreshing on this hot day.  The “twice baked potato salad” had all the notes of a baked potato. The two large scoops held plenty of sour cream, bacon and cheese. And if that sounds good, it was.

Potato Salad and Slaw from Heim Barbecue in Fort Worth

The sauce was interesting but remained untouched on most plates. It's entirely evident that the base is apple cider vinegar as every taste strikes apple. It has an apple-y sweetness and actually plays well with the pork (the only meat that could benefit from the stuff).

The setting is humble as the trailer sits on the gravelly patio of Republic Street Bar. Meats can be eaten on the multiple picnic tables orderly assembled outside or taken inside to enjoy alongside air conditioning. The bar provides all necessary beverages, including a good selection of local craft beer and cocktails.

Heim Barbecue sits outside of Republic Street Bar

The ordering process is simple: you order at the window that Travis mans so that he can cut the meat to your specifications and while he cuts, you pay Emma who also dishes out sides.  It’s only a two person operation, which makes this process slower than most. Expanding their hours will require another employee, which is something that they are looking into.  Additional help will certainly make the line move faster, however if Heim’s popularity explodes as I expect, they will also be seeing more patrons, making more pit space another priority.  The Heims are very hospitable and friendly, recognizing their customers and welcoming them to their establishment.  They conversed with patrons as the meat was cut and ensured that each customer has been satisfied.  It turns out that the meat is not the only thing that is keeping their customers loyal.


THE VERDICT

Heim Barbecue is just too good to stay a secret.  The brisket is absolutely the best I have found in the Metroplex; it is phenomenal.  The bacon burnt ends are also very good and worth a trip in themselves.  The pork ribs round out a good supporting cast of meats that are overshadowed by the magic of the brisket and bacon.  Put Heim at the top of your to do list because you will want to visit before the popularity swells even more.  And also because it’s really, REALLY good barbecue.


Address: 1109 W. Magnolia Ave, Fort Worth, Texas
Phone: 817-876-2741
Hours: Wednesday - Monday: 11AM - Sell Out
http://heimbbq.com/

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gerard's Barbecue Diner - Beaumont

Beaumont is home to some unique and long- enduring barbecue traditions, making it an interesting destination for barbecue seekers.  Gerard’s Barbecue Diner is one of the big names in the city with a history spanning back to 1970.
THE MEATS

I swung through the drive thru at Gerard’s thinking about the juicy beef links the region is known for.  I added a second unique item to my order: pork neck bones.  This is a meat that you do not frequently see in Texas barbecue but also has a presence here in Jefferson County.  Unfortunately the ribs were not ready for my 11AM visit, so my plate was boxed up with two meats along with Gerard’s standard fixings.

Pork Bones and the Beef Link at Gerard's Barbecue Diner
 
Pork Bones have long been a staple on Gerard’s menu.  It is not just Gerard’s strong tradition that keeps this uncommon item on the menu, it is also due to their commitment to the customers that consistently order this piece of meat.  Pork Bones, which are more prevalent in the Deep South, are made from trimmed pork necks and hold less meat than the more popular rib bones.  A further contrast from ribs is that the neck bones are not as readymade for eating by hand and require effort to find all of the meat on the bone. This soft, flaky meat pulled cleanly from the bone.  It had a spicy flavor and did not reveal much smoke.  There was not any bark on the delicate exterior of the meat. It reminded me somewhat of pork roast in texture and flavor.  The Pork Bones did not quite satisfy my desire for good smoked barbecue and served more as a novelty on my tray.

The filling of the all beef link at Gerard's Barbecue Diner

The housemade link is typical of this region.  It is an all-beef link with a tough skin that is generally eaten by squeezing the meat from the casing.  Forcing the meat out of the skin dripped more grease into a growing puddle in the bottom of my Styrofoam tray.  The recipe is a longstanding family tradition.  It is a simple link that showcases the beef itself.  There is clearly garlic in the recipe but not an overwhelming amount.  Gerard’s link also comes with a bit of spice and is a terrific option in this genre.  The dedication to tradition is as commendable as the execution of this specific beef link.

THE REST

Like everything else Gerard’s serves, the sides are homemade.  The rice dressing was my favorite side item with its peppery flavor and flecks of meat.  The potato salad was strong with its mustard base and the beans carried a slight spice.

The barbecue sauce is a watery mixture that does little more than simply deliver chili powder to the meat.  

There's nothing pretentious about Gerard's Barbecue Diner

In everything, Gerard’s is simple and unpretentious.  This idea is further evident in their humble building.  It’s a small space mimics the appearance of the modest homes that surround it in the mixed zoned neighborhood.  I opted for the covered drive thru as I was not certain if they were open for my early visit, though the brightly lit “OPEN” sign at the window clearly signaled they were.

THE VERDICT

It’s refreshing that in an industry as hip as Texas barbecue has become, Gerard’s is rooted firmly in years of tradition.  It is simple barbecue without a hint of pretense that has made Gerard’s a staple in the Beaumont community.

Gerard’s Barbecue Diner is worth checking out when in the area specifically to enjoy the notable beef link and to appreciate the tradition Gerard’s adheres to.



Address: 3730 Fannett Rd, Beaumont, TX 77705
Phone: 409-842-5069
Hours: Monday - Saturday: 10AM - 11PM



*All Grades Are Based Solely on the Quality of Texas BBQ Offered at the Joint. We Aren't Looking for Burgers or Catfish!

My Grading Scale:


A = This is some of the finest BBQ you'll find anywhere. It is worth a roadtrip in itself along with any required wait.
B = This is very good BBQ, even if it is over an hour away, consider making the drive.
C = This is just average BBQ but it's worth a stop in a pinch.
D = This is a poor example of Texas BBQ. Even if it's the only place around, skip it. Apologize to any non-Texans that have eaten here.
F = This is not only a bad Texas BBQ, it is probably not suitable for human consumption.

 
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