Sunday, November 27, 2016

On The Side: 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown

The 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown has come and gone and it was another top notch event.  This is truly one of my favorite events as it, like the food that is showcased, it crafted with great care.

Instead of just pushing masses of people through the gates, the Houston BBQ Throwdown keeps the attendance low enough to guarantee you’re never waiting in line for more than just a couple of minutes.  This is truly a celebration of Houston Barbecue instead of just a line-waiting extravaganza.  This also allows you the opportunity to meet the faces of Houston barbecue in a casual setting.  It’s very cool to see fellow pitmasters mingling and sampling the offerings of the other booths as the event winds down. They’re of the same community and have the same dedication to elevating the craft of Houston Barbecue.

The whole basis of the Throwdown is to stretch the definition of “Houston Barbecue.”  That in itself guarantees unique dishes that you won’t find anywhere else (well, unless it’s a hit and pops up on the menu at your local barbecue joint).  With all of the novelty, it’s notable that we are two years in and there has not been a dish that has failed to impress me.

This has become a must-do event in the Houston area, even if you are not a barbecue enthusiast.  It is the most laid back event of its kind and is a honestly just a good day to enjoy good food and good conversation.

I just wanted to check in with a brief summary of this year’s event.  If you’d like a more flowery description, take a look at my write-up from last year.  (And if you’d like to see better pictures that do this even justice, head over to Jimmy Ho’s site.)

The event once again featured 14 area barbecue joints.  A few barbecue names from last year were absent at this year’s event (BBQ Godfather, Chopped N Smoked BBQ, Jackson Street BBQ) but some new names were injected into this year’s lineup (Killen’s STQ, Midtown Barbecue, Tejas Chocolate Craftory).

Unlike the presidential election, both the popular vote and the electoral votes count towards the results of the contest that is at the center of the Throwdown.  And this year we saw both awards, the “People’s Choice” and the “Judge’s Choice,” change hands.  Killen’s new STQ brand deservedly took home the judge’s choice with their three beautifully presented items. This year the People’s Choice award actually went to the item that I voted for as Feges BBQ was named “People’s Choice.”

This Year’s Attendees and Their Entries (In Alphabetical Order):

Blood Bros BBQ – Gochujang Beef Belly Burnt Ends with Korean Salad and Pickled Onions

Brooks’ Place [2015 Judge’s Choice] – Brisket and Boudin Stuffed Bell Peppers with a Beef Oxtails Twist

Corkscrew BBQ [2015 People’s Choice] – Smoked Chile Mac-n-Cheese: Creamy Cheddar Mac-N-Cheese, Smoked Hatch Green Chile Topped with Pepper Crusted Prime Beef Rib

Feges BBQ [2016 People’s Choice and My Favorite] – Beef Belly Burnt Ends with Pimento Cheese Grits, Braised Greens, Bourbon Cane Syrup, Pickled Red Onions and Chives

Killen’s STQ [2016 Judge’s Choice] – “Beef Short Rib Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” (They went all out with three items at their booth)
Yesterday: Short Rib Tamale, Pork Belly and Brisket Chile de Arbol Con Carne, Queso Fresco and Micro Cilantro
Today: Smoked Beef Short Rib Ravioli, Port Demi Cream, Parmesan, Fall Black Truffle
Tomorrow: Smoked Short Rib Umami, Bonito, Mushroom, Mushroom Powder, Smoked Beef Consume Pipette

Midtown Barbecue – Smoked Prime Rib with Chimichurri

Pappa Charlies BBQ – Short Rib Vindaloo with Paneer Queso

Pit Room – Chopped Brisket Taco with Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream and Salsa Roja

Pizzitola’s – “Pulled Pork & Waffles”: Smoked Jalapeno, Cheddar and Green Onion Waffle Topped with Pulled Pork, Pit-Candied Pecans and Sweet Pork Sauce

Ray’s BBQ Shack – “Muddy Waters”: Sausage With Shrimp, Crawfish, Crab and Pork in a Pork Casing.

Roegels Barbecue Co – Smoked Pork Belly with Surf and Turf Boudin

Tejas Chocolate Craftory – “Tejas Tostada”: Santo Braised, Smoked Pork Cheek with Pinto Whip, Avocado Verde ‘Cue Sauce, Pickled Red Onion Cilantro on a Crisp Corn Tortilla

The Brisket House – “Beef Rib Ala Veracruz”: Slow Smoked Beef Rib Cut into Cubes, Basted in Veracruz Sauce, Served Over Rice with Fresh Pico de Gallo

Tin Roof BBQ – Smoked Tomahawk Prime Rib Served with Back Pew Milk Stout Au Jus & Horseradish Cream

2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown at Saint Arnolds Brewery
Saint Arnold Brewery serves as a perfect host for the Houston BBQ Throwdown
Line for 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
The line of anxious attendees stretched beyond the train tracks

2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown crowd
The crowd in the brewery
Dishes from 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Clockwise from Top Left: Midtown Barb, Pit Room, Tejas, Pappa Charlies

Meats from 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Clockwise from Top Left: Blood Bros, Corkscrew, Ray's, Feges

Items at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Clockwise from Top Left: Pizzitola's, Brooks' Place, Roegels, Killen's STQ, Killen's STQ

Killen's STQ offerings at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
The three dishes of STQ. From Top: Smoked Short Rib Umami,
Smoked Beef Short Rib Ravioli, Short Rib Tamale

Tin Roof's prime rib at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Tin Roof's Smoked Tomahawk Prime Rib
Beef Belly Burnt End from Feges BBQ
A closer look at Feges Beautiful Beef Belly Burnt End

Killen's STQ at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
The spread at Killen's STQ

Roegel's at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Roegel's crafting their multi-faceted dish

Killen's STQ at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Killen's STQ Booth

Pizzitola's at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Pizzitola's assembling pulled pork & waffles

Tin Roof at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Tin Roof slicing their prime rib

Midtown at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Midtown Barbecue serving their Smoked Prime Rib with Chimichurri

Corkscrew BBQ at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
The folks at Corkscrew assembling their mac & cheese with prime rib

Ray's at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Slicing up the seafood sausage at Ray's booth

Casting my vote for my favorite entry

Happy BBQ fans at 2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Another look at the happy crowd at the Throwdown
2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown
Preparing to announce the winners of the Throwdown
2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown Awards
A look at the hardware that goes to the winners

2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown People's Choice winner
Feges took the People's Choice award

2016 Houston BBQ Throwdown Judge's Award Winner
Killen's STQ was the Judge's Award winner 
We Love Houston mural at Saint Arnold
Saint Arnold's mural fits the scene at the Houston BBQ Throwdown well


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*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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