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 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 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.
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
Hours: Monday - Saturday: 11AM - 7PM; Sunday 11AM - 3PM