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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Granary 'Cue & Brew - San Antonio

San Antonio’s Pearl Brewery District has been revitalized and re-imagined since the brewery ceased production in 2001.  In addition to being a cultural and shopping destination, the district boasts a rather proud culinary pedigree.

The Granary ‘Cue & Brew brings two traditions together by offering the high quality meals the area is now known for alongside hand-crafted house beers.

The Granary offers two different experiences depending on the time of your visit.  At lunchtime, The Granary offers standard Texas barbecue through counter service.  For dinner, the restaurant transforms to table service and the menu gets kicked up a notch with eclectic options and interesting takes on traditional meats.  This dinner list is a great example of what we sometimes label “fancy barbecue.”

After a short wait for dinner, we were seated on the patio.  I had studied the menu before this trip to San Antonio, but I still mulled over the interesting options.  The plates range from small to moderately sized portions and the menu appropriately encourages the diner to order 2-3 per person.

THE MEATS

Our main courses included the barbecue board which contained a fatty cut of brisket and some pulled pork along with beans and potato salad.  We also chose the beef clod which had some interesting descriptors attached to it on the menu.  A couple of small plates featuring smoked cauliflower and grit fritters were ordered as appetizers.

Each dish came out on a carefully chosen plate and the presentation was outstanding.  The barbecue board was served on an actual board as if I’d ordered cheese or charcuterie.

The Granary's Barbecue Board comes on a literal board

The brisket was a hefty slice with plenty of fat.  Some fat was not rendered as well as I liked which resulted in a couple of somewhat spongy bites.  The meat was still easy to chew through and this did not inhibit the flavor.  The meat had plenty of smoke and tasted good, though the salt was a bit excessive in my opinion.

The pork sat in a polite pile next to the brisket on the board.  Like the brisket, the pork featured some good smoke and was also heavy on the salt.  Smoky crust was distributed well in the meat, which was overly moist, to the extent that it nearly dissolved in my mouth.  There was no vinegary tang on this pork, leaving salt as the prevailing flavor.

The Clod is beautifully presented at The Granary

The large chunk of clod sat in a shallow puddle of caramel influenced sauce and was sprinkled with “coffee quinoa crunch.”  It was an interesting presentation for the cut of beef.  The meat was clearly well prepared with a great texture.  However, I could not get past the overwhelming sweetness from the sauce.  I did not care for the caramel flavor on the beef.  Instead of working in harmony, the caramelly sweetness wrestled the beef for attention.  It was evident that this was good meat and it would have done well with a more subtle sauce.  The crunchy quinoa was more subdued in its coffee flavor.  My complaint about this topping is that it was so crunchy it distracted from the tender cut of clod.

Additional menu options like Brisket Ramen and Smoked Pork Belly with Sweet Tea Glaze are intriguing enough to warrant return trips.

THE REST

The housemade sauce was very good and paired well with the meat.  It’s a very thick sauce which retains the shape of any meat dipped into it.  It is a very tangy and vinegar forward mixture.

The barbecue board came with sweet pickles, beans, German-style potato salad and dense homemade bread.  The sides were quite good but the baked beans were the standout for me.  The standard pinto beans were supplemented with black beans and chunks of beef.  The tomato and onion present in the mixture greatly influenced the flavor.  Our small plate appetizers of grit fritters and cauliflower were interesting on the menu but did not blow us away.  I take partial blame for this in combining two plates which typically aren’t very flavorful on their own.

The dessert list includes a “Beer & Pretzel ice cream swirl” which was certainly intriguing, but we settled for a buttermilk chess pie which hit all of the marks a chess pie can.

The Granary sits in the former Pearl Brewmaster's home

The Granary is housed in the former Pearl brewmaster’s home, making their dedication to beer even more appropriate.  They currently offer three in-house fixtures on draft in the form of an IPA, a Rye Saison and a Brown Ale along with a rotating beer, currently a Barleywine.  These brews can be ordered by the pint or in the form of a flight sampler, which will complement the sampling of meat you’re sure to order.  The Granary carries additional local craft beer on tap and has a bottle list.  And if you aren’t into beer, you can enjoy a root beer straight from The Granary’s brewery or dive into their wine list.

Brewing equipment sets a great backdrop for The Granary's bar.

The venue still retains its identity as a house.  The Granary has embraced the atmosphere a home provides with comfortable seating inside as well as on the porch.  We sat on the patio, which was dressed with five tables with bench seating and covered by a roof holding a few ceiling fans.  The bar area is a tiny but cool space that uses the brew kettles and tanks as a backdrop.  It sits adjacent to the kitchen, which also gives patrons a glimpse at dish preparation.  Inside or out, this is a great venue at which to enjoy a dinner.

The Granary in San Antonio

THE VERDICT

Dinner at The Granary comes with higher prices than traditional Texas barbecue joints.  However, it comes with an experience and menu which diverges from the norm.   Though it is not a textbook example of Texas Barbecue, there is some good food to be had.  I love The Granary’s dinner menu and the ambiance of the place.  Lunch offers the typical Texas barbecue without the offbeat flavor additions.    Dinner at The Granary is not a place to introduce someone to Texas barbecue, but a person familiar with the craft will definitely appreciate what they are doing at The Granary.




Address: 602 Avenue A, San Antonio, TX 78215
Phone: 210-228-0124
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday: 11AM – 10PM; Friday - Saturday: 11AM - 11PM
thegranarysa.com

Sunday, May 3, 2015

On The Side: 3rd Annual Houston BBQ Festival

The 3rd Annual Houston BBQ Festival went down this past weekend with 23 (mostly) local BBQ joints represented.  It was a great lineup; both in the list of vendors and in the variety of meats offered at each booth.  There were a number of spots on my “To Do” List present on Sunday.  In fact, there were 10 places that I had not yet tried in attendance compared to just 2 at the most recent TMBBQ Fest. It was a nice cross section of the Houston BBQ scene and I was excited to get started on Sunday.  I do not think events like this offer a fair representation of a given joint for a number of reasons.  However, the spots on my “To Do” List like Roegels Barbecue Co. more than justified their being on my list.

Of all meats, I think Houston’s strongest tradition is in the pork rib.  However, Sunday’s efforts were clearly focused on the other meats as I found just seven pork ribs on the roster at the festival.  Pizzitola's Bar-B-Cue's legendary ribs were among my favorites of the day.  Pork was on display in several different ways, but the buzz of the festival was about Feges BBQ's extraordinary effort in building a burn barrel and hog cooker for their whole hog.  Pork was pulled directly from the hog at their booth and was served with Carolina mustard and vinegar.  It was most impressive.  Pulled pork was on display at the Tennessee influenced Fainmous BBQ along with The Wooden Spoke and Gatlin's BBQGerardo’s and El Burro & The Bull both chose tacos as their method of delivering some delicious smoked carnitas.  Corkscrew BBQ went a bit off script with their pork belly and boudin stuffed pork loin.  I was surprised that Corkscrew did not bring any of their more renowned meats, but you can’t argue with the delicious choices they brought.

There was plenty of good brisket to go around and I think Brooks’ Place, Blood Bros. BBQ and Pinkerton’s BBQ were among my favorites.  Five spots were serving up some tasty beef ribs with Killen’s Barbecue handing out whole beef ribs at one point.  Killen’s burnt ends may have been the best thing I tasted all day.  Gerardo’s had a second taco at their booth featuring barbacoa.  Tin Roof BBQ boldly served chopped beef from their prime spot near the entrance.

Sausage was widely available.  Southside Market & Barbecue brought their famed sausage and offered three different varieties at their booth.  Ray’s BBQ Shack had a nice combo of their interesting sausage along with some boudin.  The Wooden Spoke also brought boudin and I thought it was their best meat.  My favorite sausage of the day may have been courtesy of newcomer, Pinkerton’s Barbecue.

Lamb was another barnyard friend that was served at the Houston BBQ Fest.  Pappa Charlies Barbeque had a well crafted lamb slider option and Louie Mueller Barbecue brought their fan favorite lamb lollipops.

A variety of birds rounded out the field.  Fainmous BBQ had their pulled chicken, Oak Leaf Smokehouse featured smoked duck, and Pappa Charlies served up some smoky turkey.

Even the sides were well represented.  El Burro & the Bull’s attempt to healthy us up with a kale salad with pear cider vinaigrette was appreciated and delicious.  Spring Creek Barbeque passed around jalapeno poppers; I appreciated the food coming to me for a change.  Pinkerton’s jalapeno rice was a treat.  Ray’s offered deep fried corn on the cob.  My favorite sides came from Oak Leaf Smokehouse who provided fried Mac N’ Cheese Brisket Balls along with some tasty corn pudding.

It is no surprise that Killen’s and Louie Mueller consistently drew the longest lines of the day.  Louie Mueller’s claims to have gone through 2000 servings of brisket, 2000 servings of beef ribs and 1500 lamb lollipops.  Corkscrew and Gatlin’s were the other two spots with noticeably lengthy lines.

The Houston BBQ Fest spoke loud and clear about the barbecue scene in the Bayou City.  Like the city itself, Houston barbecue pulls from many different cultures.  Houston showed that they could do just about any meat you can think of and they did it all well.

The other story of Houston BBQ Fest was the respect that this city’s pitmasters have for each other.  The stories that came out of the days and night leading up to the festival were those of camaraderie and appreciation.  They are all on the same mission to bring good barbecue to the city and together they’ve forged quite the barbecue scene in Houston.

My hat goes off to all of those involved in this year’s Houston BBQ Fest.  It was a well planned and well executed event.  It was a thrill to celebrate Houston’s barbecue culture with fellow Houstonians and with the top pit masters representing our city.  It’s even more exciting to know that the barbecue scene in Houston is still growing.

A look at the 2015 Houston BBQ Festival
It was a great day to celebrate Houston BBQ at the 2015 Hou BBQ Fest
Feges BBQ pulled from a whole hog at the Houston BBQ Festival
The Whole Hog at Feges BBQ
Nine separate sampled of meat from the 2015 Houston BBQ Festival
A sampling of barbecue at HOU BBQ Fest
The crew from Blood Bros. BBQ at Houston BBQ Festival
The crew from Blood Bros. BBQ
Pinkerton's booth at Houston BBQ Festival
Grant Pinkerton repping Screwston with the DJ Screw shirt
A trayful of meat at Houston BBQ Festival
Another sampling of Houston's finest meats.
Slicing meats at the Corkscrew BBQ booth.
Will & Nichole slicing up their unique selections at the Corkscrew booth
Killen's Barbecue at the 2015 Houston BBQ Festival
Ronnie and the crew from Killen's Barbecue
Gatlin's BBQ at the Houston BBQ Festival
Ribs and Sausage on the cutting board at Gatlin's
Blood Bros BBQ represents at the 2015 Houston BBQ Festival
Representing Alief at the Houston BBQ Festival
Another serving of meats at Houston BBQ Fest
Another serving of meats at the 2015 Houston BBQ Festival
The Brisket House booth at Houston BBQ Festival
Prepping the selections at The Brisket House
Music from the Houston BBQ Festival
Music from the Saint Arnold Stage set the vibe for a lively event



*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.

 
BBQ Reviews, Barbecue, Barbeque, Texas BBQ, "Best BBQ in Texas", Best BBQ in Metroplex, Best BBQ in Austin, Brisket, Sausage, Ribs, Pork Ribs, Beef Ribs, "Best Brisket", Barbecue Blog, Barbecue Rating, Lockhart, Luling, Smoked Meat, Smoked Ribs, Smoke...Hey! Stop reading this!