Saturday, September 30, 2017

On The Side: 2017 Houston BBQ Throwdown

Last weekend marked the 3rd Annual Houston Barbecue Throwdown at Saint Arnold Brewery.  As always, the intent of the Throwdown is for local competitors to create unique Houston-style barbecue dishes. Houston is so diverse, the definition of “Houston-style barbecue” can have any number of interpretations. And the event always displays a variety of really well executed plays on this idea.

For three consecutive years now, I have babbled about this being my favorite event of all, so I’ll skip the flowery language and simply discuss the event.

The big story of the day was Tin Roof BBQ suffering a fire early the morning of the Throwdown and yet, still participating – and WINNING the People’s Choice Award for their outstanding Beef Rib. Their first award at the event made for a really inspiring moment.

Another first occurred when we saw the first ever tie for the Judges’ Choice award. The judges’ panel was a prestigious one featuring Ronnie Killen, Alison Cook, Robert Lerma, Wayne Mueller and D’Artagnan Bebel.  The judges’ decision was split on the dishes of two of the event’s newcomers: El Burro & The Bull with their pozole and the tacos from Beaver’s Westheimer.

Speaking of newcomers, six of the fourteen competitors were first-timers to the event. This included Beaver’s, El Burro and the Bull, Gatlin’s BBQ, Harlem Road Texas BBQ, Pinkerton’s Barbecue and My Yard Reaction BBQ (which was a new name on the lips of many, including mine).

These entries are typical of the beautiful dishes offered at the Houston BBQ Throwdown
Every entry was terrific, but the bites from Feges, Pit Room and Blood Brothers were among my unheralded favorites. For the second year in a row, my personal vote went to Feges’ entry. I am apparently prepared to be customer #1 when Patrick finally finds himself a permanent location.

During the event, the folks at the Throwdown also announced an exciting Houston Vs. Austin event scheduled for this December. If you’ve never been to a Houston BBQ Throwdown, that should be a great opportunity to see the most creative (and tasty) event yet.

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

Beaver’s [2017 Judge’s Choice (Tie)] –  44Farms Beef Short Rib and Brisket Tacos with Homemade Tortillas (made with brisket fat), Pico de Gallo, Pickled Onion, Queso Fresco, Yellow Bird Crema and Cilantro

Beaver's Award Winning Taco
Blood Bros BBQ – Brisket Fried Rice with Pork Jowl Char Siu

Blood Bros' delicious Asian fusion
El Burro And The Bull [2017 Judge’s Choice (Tie)] – Smoky Pozole Topped With Smoked Pork Shoulder and Housemade Tostadas

El Burro's pozole presepnted in a molcajete
Feges BBQ [My Pick] – Peachwood smoked Pork Belly Pastrami with housemade kraut, comeback sauce, provolone & rye

It was close, but I think Feges' entry was the best of the day
Gatlin’s BBQ – Smoked Rabbit on Cheddar-Chive Biscuit with Raspberry-Chipotle Sauce, Topped with Quail Egg
Gatlin's put together a unique and pretty dish
Harlem Road Texas BBQ – Bone-in Pork Chop with Black Cherry Balsamic and Creamy Polenta

I believe Harlem Road brought us the first polenta sighting of the 3-year event
My Yard Reaction BBQ – “Wagyu Brisket Bento” – Marble Ranch Wagyu Beef Brisket Smoked with Post Oak and Pecan Wood, Beef Tendon Puff Dusted in House Smoked Shrimp Salt and Sesame Seaweed Salad

There was a lot going on with these new timers, but My Yard Reaction's Wagyu was impossibly tender
Pappa Charlies BBQ – Go Chu Jang Chicken with Pickled Broccoli Slaw and Fresh Jalapeno

I believe this event was created for Pappa Charlies as Wes Jurena is ALWAYS innovating
Pinkerton’s Barbecue – Smoked Flank Steak on a Toasted Crostini with Fire Roasted Tomato Puree, Goat Cheese and Chimichurri Sauce

You know you're at a high-brow culinary event when Pinkertons is producing beautiful dishes like these
Pit Room – “A1 Thick & Smoky” – Beef Cheeseburger Link with House Cured Bacon, Grilled Onions and A1 Thick & Hearty Sauce

Pit Room's Whataburger parody was delicious and hilarious
Roegels Barbecue Co – Pastrami Tacos

This was my first ever pastrami taco, but it was a brilliant idea by Roegels
Tejas Chocolate Craftory – Pork Belly Cue with Poblano and Oaxaca Mac, Mango and Micro Cilantro

Delicious formula by Tejas: Pork Belly + Poblano Mac & Cheese
The Brisket House – Pulled Beef Rib Taco with Homemade Tortilla, Salsa de Molcajete, Mexican Slaw, Queso Fresco and Avocado

The Brisket House stuffed their taco to the rafters with flavor
Tin Roof BBQ [2017 People’s Choice] – Beef Ribs with Hot Bread & Butter Pickles

Tin Roof offered a simple concept, but nailed the execution to earn the People's Choice

Tin Roof took home the People's Choice Award

We saw a tie between El Burro & the Bull and Beaver's for the prestigious Judges' Choice Award


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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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