Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Joseph's Riverport BBQ in Jefferson reopens tomorrow


Here's the news we've been waiting for. Joseph's Riverport Bar-B-Que is reopening tomorrow, Thursday June 28, after a fire that totaled the restaurant last January.

Owner/pitmaster Stephen Joseph sends these photos of his new joint, which was rebuilt from the ground up on the original location at 201 N Polk Street in downtown Jefferson. He installed a new Bewley pit, which he has been breaking in for the past couple of months.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Posse members react to Clyde Biggins' BBQ



There is no shortage of opinions on the Texas BBQ Posse. Often we differ among ourselves.

That wasn't the case when we ate lunch last week at Clyde Biggins' house.

We all agreed that the former Dallas BBQ King, trying to make a comeback after nearly 17 years in prison, can still cook.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Clyde is back, cooking some of the best BBQ in Dallas, but you can't buy it


Sometimes, the only place to start is at the beginning.

In early January 2010, a large manilla envelope came to me in the mail from the federal prison in Fort Worth. A reader commented on a story I had written for The Dallas Morning News about the Posse's very first barbecue tour, to the Central Texas BBQ heartland.

"It's all good," the reader wrote. "'But' have you really tasted the best barbecue in Texas?"

The reader said his name was Clyde Biggins and that he once owned "Clyde's Old Fashion Hickory Smoked Barbecue" on Westmoreland Road in Dallas.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The BBQ Chronicles: Houston, we have a barbecue problem

The eight stops on the Texas BBQ Posse's Gulf Coast BBQ Tour.  (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)     

Houston is a wasteland for good barbecue, but Galveston and Bryan aren’t.

The main mission on the BBQ Posse’s recent 35-hour, 700-mile barbecue tour to the Texas Gulf Coast and back was to find good smoked meat in Houston.

We didn’t.

But an hour south, on Galveston Island, we met Leon O’Neal and learned again about the true power of barbecue.

O’Neal, who runs Leon’s World Finest In & Out Bar-B-Que House at Broadway and 55th, told us about the cleanup after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

He lost everything in his kitchen, he said, speaking from inside his old smokehouse where the storm’s surge had been 7 feet deep.

“The water didn’t do nothing to this pit,” he said, motioning toward a rusted, 18-foot tank-style smoker.

So he cleaned it, fired it up and started cooking barbecue for repair crews working on his joint and other places in the neighborhood. Soon, he said, people smelled the smoke, and he had cars lined up around the block.

“Everybody just wanted something normal again,” said O’Neal, who might be the most stylish barbecue proprietor we’ve encountered on our tours.

Leon O'Neal sits in his old smoker room at Leon's World's Finest In & Out Barbeque.  (Photo ©Chris Wilkins)  

Aged 70 plus a couple years, he wore a white T-shirt, beige shorts, red apron and black, shiny shoes, with a white mustache, soul patch and a straw hat.

His homemade Downtown Link was worth the trip by itself. The sausage had a nice initial kick and a lingering, changing aftertaste, like a good wine.

“Every now and then, you come across something special,” Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said.
We asked Leon what was in the sausage. You could tell that he got that question a lot, and he wasn’t really intent on giving up any secrets.

He said it was a meatloaf mix that he developed with his butcher. Whatever. It was the tastiest meatloaf, stuffed in sausage casing, we’ve ever eaten.

Leon has a new pit now, a gas-fired Ole Hickory. We were happy to see that it has a huge firebox for wood, and O’Neal keeps it loaded with nothing but “pure oak.”

Wilkins, a photo editor at The Dallas Morning News, sets the itineraries for all of our barbecue tours. This was our 11th and first to the Houston area.

Over the past couple years, we’ve traveled about 4,000 miles looking for great barbecue and interesting joints in Texas.

We had high hopes for Houston because some of our planned stops had received very good reviews from respected blogger and self-proclaimed BBQ Snob Daniel Vaughn as well as Houston food writers.

The Posse, however, was underwhelmed. Adapting a phrase from Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, “That’s how barbecue go.”

Our order of sliced brisket, pork ribs and smoked chicken at Gatlin's BBQ.  (Photo ©Chris Wilkins)    


At Gatlin’s BBQ, the top-rated Houston joint just a few miles from downtown, we sampled the brisket, pork ribs and chicken.

“It’s a lot of OK,” Posse member Jim Rossman said.

“If this is the best Houston has to offer,” there’s no doubt that Dallas-area joints have it beat, Wilkins said.

Pulitzer-winning photographer Smiley Pool, who sandwiched a tour of duty at The News between stints working at the Houston Chronicle, joined the Posse on this stop.

In Houston, Pool observed, “everyone says that if you want good barbecue, you pile in a car and take a two-hour drive.” He referred to the great joints in Central Texas.

Ouch.

In Dallas, we have the Pecan Lodge, which the Posse ranks among the top 10 in the state. And there’s Meshack’s in Garland, another excellent place.

Houston wasn’t the only disappointment. Our first stop was New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue in Huntsville.

The joint has received rave, almost reverential, reviews, but we thought we were served re-warmed meat from the day before.

“It was like a bubble burst,” said Posse member Phil Lamb, an attorney. “Boy, the romance is gone from that place.”

Tom Rossman enters Fargo's Pit BBQ, in their old location in Bryan.  (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)       

A joint that didn’t disappoint was Fargo’s Pit BBQ in Bryan. The Posse thinks it’s one of the top two or three places in the state, right up there with Franklin BBQ in Austin.

Fargo’s is a takeout place, so, sitting on our own chairs on the sidewalk out front, we sampled brisket, ribs, chicken and sausage. Everything was good, a rare consistency that defines a great joint.

“Mmmmm, that’s good,” Rossman said, licking his fingers again. “It’s a good meal when you can finish like that.”

Yes, it was. We just wish we could say that about any joint in Houston.

Houston BBQ tour itinerary

FRIDAY June 1
8:30 a.m.: Leave Dallas
11 a.m.: New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue, 2601 Montgomery Road, Huntsville; 936-294-0884; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
1 p.m.: Fargo’s Pit BBQ, 720 N. Texas Ave., Bryan; 979-778-3662; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
2:30 p.m.: Mallett Brothers Barbeque, 9339 Texas Highway 6, Navasota; 936-825-9440; 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
7 p.m.: Pizzitola’s Bar-B-Cue, 1703 Shepherd Drive, Houston; 713-227-2283; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday
(Stay overnight in Houston)

SATURDAY June 2
10 a.m.: Galveston Beach for fishing and sun
11 a.m.: Leon’s World Finest In & Out Bar-B-Que, 5427 Broadway St., Galveston; 409-744-9363; 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
1 p.m.: Gatlin’s BBQ, 1221 W. 19th St., Houston; 713-869-4227; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
2:30 p.m.: Virgie’s Real Pit BBQ, 5535 Gessner Drive, Houston; 713-466-6525; 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday
3:45 p.m.: Byron’s Gourmet Bar-B-Q, 2101 W. Little York, Houston; 713-290-0870; 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Saturday
4:15 p.m.: Leave for Dallas; arrive home at 8:15 p.m.

BBQ posse
The Texas BBQ Posse began in November 2009 when six friends took their first barbecue road trip to Central Texas.

Keep up with their travels:
Blog: texasbbqposse.com
Facebook: facebook.com/TexasBBQPosse
Twitter: @texasbbqposse

The Texas BBQ Posse sets up camp in the shade next to Fargo's Pit BBQ in Bryan on June 1, 2012, during the Posse's recent Gulf Coast BBQ Tour. Left to right, Chris Wilkins, Gary Jacobson, Phil Lamb, Tom Rossman and Jim Rossman.     

Friday, June 22, 2012

About the iguana who thought he was a cat and the python who only eats rats


On a barbecue tour, there is no such thing as down time. Even the long drives bring surprises.

Last year, returning to Dallas from East Texas, we decided that someone should call out Texas Monthly for including joints that use gas-fired pits in its Top 50 BBQ rankings.

We did just that, eventually engaging TM food editor Pat Sharpe in a constructive discussion about the magazine's selection criteria.

Sometimes, we just learn interesting things about our fellow Posse members.

On the first leg of our recent 35-hour, 700-mile dash to the Gulf Coast and back, Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins talked about his family's pet iguana, Ozzy, who recently died.

Acquired when he was not much more than a fingerling, Ozzy, named for, yes, Ozzy Osbourne, eventually grew to more than five feet in length, counting his tail. And, in his golden years, he refused to eat anything but cat food.

"Ozzy thought he was a cat," Wilkins said.

That may be because of all the feline company he kept.  The Wilkins' family still has eight cats and a dog.

Tales of Ozzy led to tales of Azeem, the nearly five-foot-long ball python owned by Posse member Phil Lamb, who was the wheelman on this trip.

"Snakes have no personality," said Lamb, who acquired Azeem two decades ago.

Lamb said he named Azeem after Kevin Costner's sidekick, played by Morgan Freeman, in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Still in college when he bought the snake, Lamb initially tried to feed him mice, but Azeem refused.

Worried Azeem would starve, Lamb asked the previous owner for advice. The owner said he fed the snake rats, and once a snake tasted rat he never went back to mouse.

So, for 20 years, Azeem has had a steady diet of -- yes, live -- rats.

"Don't ever feed a snake a gerbil," Lamb advised. "They're expensive, and the snake will never go back to rats."


Photo of Azeem by Phil Lamb (bottom), photo of Ozzy by Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse












Wednesday, June 20, 2012

At Pecan Lodge, the Franklin-esque lines for BBQ begin to form at about 10:15 a.m. weekends


Just the other day, a barbecue friend asked me when the lines begin to form for the Pecan Lodge, open Thursday through Sunday for lunch at the Dallas Farmers Market.

We have both tried to eat there on a work day since the Lodge was featured on the popular TV show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and been discouraged by long lines and gone elsewhere.

This morning, I ran into my Oak Cliff neighbor and Pecan Lodge pitmaster Justin Fourton.

He said business has continued to build since the show first aired in late May.

On Thursdays and Fridays, he said, lines begin to form at 10:30 to 10:45 for the 11 a.m. opening. On Saturdays and Sundays, they begin to form at 10:15-ish, Justin said.

At one point last weekend, there were well over 100 people in line, he said.

That's absolutely Franklin-esque, the kind of line Aaron Franklin gets daily for his Austin joint.

Another testament to the power of great barbecue...and  TV.

Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse




Monday, June 18, 2012

Professor Rossman explains the BBQ star system


So we're sitting in our bring-your-own chairs on the narrow sidewalk outside of Fargo's Pit BBQ in Bryan during our recent tour, loudly licking our fingers after eating some fine brisket, ribs, chicken and sausage.

"I like everything," I said.

"That's rare," Posse member Jim Rossman said. "A five-star place is good at everything. A six-star place is good at everything all the time. Consistency."

Rossman, a technology expert at The Dallas Morning News when he isn't visiting pawn shops and eating barbecue, did an authoritative job explaining the star-rating system that the Posse borrows from Daniel Vaughn, the BBQ Snob.

True, Vaughn can be a bit more poetic. He defines a six-star joint, his highest rating, as a place to "reconsider your honeymoon destination."

But there are only two in Texas -- Fargo's and Franklin BBQ in Austin -- and we were at one.

"Mmmmm, that's good," Rossman said, licking his fingers again. "It's a good meal when you can finish like that."

Yes, it was.


Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse. Bottom photo of Jim Rossman, left, with his dad Tom.














Thursday, June 14, 2012

A meditation on "creamy, crunchy" BBQ perfection


Recently, one of our readers, probably from Houston, took issue with a reference here to the spectacular ribs at City Market in Luling, seen in the photo above.

A Posse member called the best rib he had ever eaten -- just that morning at City Market -- "moist, creamy, crunchy perfection."

Our reader wondered how any real barbecue fan could ever call a rib creamy.

Of course, he was probably more upset that the same post essentially said the best barbecue in Houston was average when compared to the best in Dallas.

Hot barbecue opinions, like hot sports opinions, do generate reaction.

Anyway, back to creamy.

On the Posse, we aren't limited by the restrictive vocabulary of barbecue criticism that focuses on  smoke rings, crust and sugar cookies. That can get predictable.

We say what we feel.

Once, a Posse member described the ribs at a famous Fort Worth joint as looking as if they had been extruded from a machine. It was a wonderful, and accurate, description.

And if you've ever had a perfectly cooked rib that's moist and tender and has a silky smooth textured taste combined with a bit of hard crust, then you, too, know what "creamy, crunchy perfection" means.

If you haven't, keep looking....And probably not in Houston.

Photo ©Jim Rossman/Texas BBQ Posse








Just in time for Father's Day - Here's an updated list of our favorites


A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Dallas Morning News food and travel editor Cathy Barber, who I work with as a photo editor at the paper.

The dallasnews.com web team was looking for Father's Day content and wanted to rerun our list of favorite joints that ran in the DMN travel section and online last fall.

"Do you think this story is still pretty solid, or have you guys changed your mind about some of them?," Cathy asked.

Our original list of 12 joints had stirred up a little dust in the BBQ blogosphere. We had intended this to be a travel story,  not necessarily the best meats in Texas, but a list of our favorite BBQ places to hang out. Some folks didn't read the fine print.

There were a couple of non-traditional picks on the list, like Pat Gee's in Tyler and Taylor Cafe. Both places are definitely past their prime when it comes to being a top-10 meat producer. However, they are still pretty good and are both magical places to go and soak in the religion of Texas barbecue.

I told Cathy we would have to update the list, we had some additions since we had been on several tours since then. We now have 4,000 miles and 11 Texas BBQ tours under our belt. Our original 12 picks would stay on the list.

We had a Houston BBQ tour coming up that weekend and wanted to wait to see how joints there measured up. We hoped to add a Houston joint or two to the list. After visiting four of the top-rated places in Houston, that didn't happen. Much to the chagrin of at least one blogger down there, I might add.

We ended up adding City Market in Luling, Fargo's Pit BBQ in Bryan, JMueller BBQ in Austin and Miler's Smokehouse in Belton. Now the list of our favorites totals 16 and we hope to add on as we continue searching for the greatest smoked meats throughout the state.

Click here to see our Posse favorites list on dallasnews.com.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On a barbecue tour, Facebook is your friend


From the accompanying video, it would appear that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a barbecue fan. Though it's hard to think that Silicon Valley's apparent taste for fish eyes would ever catch on in Texas.

Anyway, real barbecue aficionado or not, the Posse wants to thank Zuck for developing the best tool ever for keeping barbecue fans informed and connected, especially when they are on a tour.

Witness our recent 700-mile, 35-hour run to the Texas Gulf Coast and back.

Posse co-founder and ace photographer Chris Wilkins regularly posted photos and updates to the Posse's Facebook page, keeping our friends informed of our progress.

When Posse member Jim Rossman decided to go rogue Saturday morning and head off on his own to Lockhart and Luling, he posted a photo of his delicious looking breakfast at City Market. We were envious.

Rossman, by the way, absolutely refused to drive an hour or so to Galveston with the main body of the Posse. Too far. So, instead, he drives over two hours to Lockhart. Go figure.

About 11 a.m. Saturday, someone posted a photo of the long line of people waiting for the Pecan Lodge to open in Dallas. The Pecan Lodge is one of our favorite places and this was the first Saturday since the Lodge appeared on the Food Network's popular Diners, Drive-ins and Dives show. From the photo, the line appeared absolutely Franklin-esque.

And, later that day, our friend and Oregon radio host Bruce Bjorkman -- Mr. BBQ -- caught up with our travels. He Facebooked Wilkins asking him to talk on the show that afternoon.

So, at about 4:30 p.m. Texas Barbecue Time, as we're cruising home to Dallas on I-45, Wilkins dialed Portland from his cell phone.

On the air, Bjorkman asked what we had discovered during our tour. You can hear the interview around 21 minutes into the show.

"I have to say that we feel pretty good about ourselves and our Dallas BBQ scene after what we've had this weekend," Wilkins said. Then he pronounced Houston barbecue "average" to "very disappointing."

Posse members are never short of strong opinions.

So, Zuck, thanks again for your great innovation. And if you're ever in Texas and want to taste real barbecue, just holler.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Houston BBQ king Jerry Pizzitola's epiphany: His brisket isn't in the same league as Snow's


WARNING: This post contains some gloating, but we hope it stops well short of excessive celebration.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about our latest BBQ tour, in search of good smoked meat in Houston.

We didn't find any. And we quoted Houston Chronicle photographer Smiley Pool, who shared a Pulitzer Prize while at The Dallas Morning News, saying if you wanted good BBQ in Houston, then you had to get in a car and drive two hours.

Several readers chided our taste and challenged our BBQ expertise. One even took at shot at the beer we drank. That's low. Really low.

Now comes a story out of Houston about Jerry Pizzitola, owner of Pizzitola's Bar-B-Cue on Shepherd Drive, one of the places we visited. We found the history of his joint better than the barbecue.

It seems that Pizzitola had an epiphany while eating at Snow's in Lexington early this year. After tasting Snow's brisket, Pizzitola realized that the brisket he served wasn't in the same league.

The Posse agrees. We think Snow's brisket is great. Only two other places in the state -- Franklin's in Austin and Fargo's in Bryan -- are equal or better.

Since seeing the light, Pizzitola and his pitmasters have been experimenting with different sizes of brisket, different cooking times, temperatures and wrapping techniques.

"It's better," Pizzitola told the Web site 29-25.com last week, "but it's not where we want it to be. Not now. Not yet."

We applaud Pizzitola's honesty and wish him luck in his quest. Better brisket is a noble goal.

And, we have to thank him for supporting our original judgment about Houston.

Indeed, good barbecue there is still two hours away.

Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

History more interesting than BBQ at Pizzitola's in Houston


Pizzitola's. Great name for a pizza joint.

And that's exactly what what some potential customers mistakenly thought until the place changed its signs several years ago, adding references to barbecue, said manager Lexie Moore.

"Everyone thanked us for bringing barbecue to the neighborhood," Moore said. "We had it all the time."

We arrived at Pizzitola's Bar-B-Cue on Shepherd Drive in Houston about an hour or so before closing on a Friday night.

The joint touts itself as "Houston's Home for Spareribs" and they weren't bad. Neither was the sausage. But the brisket was closer to roast beef, dry and without much taste.

The real story of Pizzitola's, though, is its history rather than its smoked meats.

The joint's lineage traces to the 1930s and pitmaster John Davis, who ran Shepherd Drive Bar-B-Q. "John P. Davis, World's Greatest Barbecue Man," says one sign on Pizzitola's wall.

According to a 1988 Houston Post article that also hangs on the wall, Davis, who was black, segregated his customers. Blacks in the front and whites in the back.

Jerry Pizzitola, who played football for the Texas Aggies in the early 1960s, took over operations from the Davis family in the early 1980s and changed the name. He retained the original wood-fired brick pits, which are still used.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the two 12 foot-by-6 foot pits are examples of "traditional open pit barbecue that can't be found anywhere else in Houston."

Moore said retaining that history comes with some limitations. Pizzitola's can't make major changes to its building.

"If we do, we lose our grandfather clause on the pits," he said as he gave us a tour of the place.

That would be a shame.




Photos ©Philip Lamb (top) & Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Monday, June 11, 2012

If you want good BBQ in Houston, get in a car and drive 2 hours


Gatlin's BBQ, located just a few miles from downtown Houston, might have the best motto we've ever run into on our barbecue tours.

"Welcome to Gatlin's," the sign said. "Where love is the secret ingredient."

And if you want to experience the reality of life in a no-zoning, anything-goes big city, this is the place.

Next door is a garden expo that looks like a nursery. Directly across the street are an engine repair business, a house where people live and an automotive sales building.

Welcome to Houston.

Gatlin's gets rave reviews from some, but the Posse was underwhelmed.

"If this is the best Houston has to offer, we've kicked their ass," Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said, referring to the Dallas area.

Houston photographer Smiley Pool, who sandwiched a tour of duty at The Dallas Morning News between working at the Houston Chronicle, joined the Posse on this stop.

In Houston, Pool observed, "everyone says that if you want good barbecue you pile in a car and take a two-hour drive." He referred to the great joints in Central Texas.

The Posse agrees. At Gatlin's, we ordered brisket, ribs and chicken. To begin with, the service was excruciatingly slow. Then, the brisket was moist, but bland. And the ribs and chicken were just O.K.

"It's a lot of O.K.," Posse member Jim Rossman said.

Of course, you might want to discount Rossman's opinion just a bit. On a solo run to City Market in Luling that morning, he had what he called the best rib he had ever eaten.

"Moist, creamy, crunchy perfection," Rossman said.

Yes, the best barbecue in Houston is two hours away.


Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Posse takes a beach break in Galveston



For me, a little beach goes a long way.

So, during the Posse's 45-minute beach break in Galveston last weekend, midway through a 700-mile, 35-hour barbecue tour, I mainly watched the pelicans dive-bombing for fish. At times, I'd swear those big birds were flying in attack formation.

Phil Lamb, an attorney and also the wheelman on the tour in his Chevy Tahoe, fished from a rocky breakwater nearby. He caught one small mullet and 15 pounds of seaweed.

Chris Wilkins, a photo editor at The Dallas Morning News, shucked his shoes and walked into the surf for a while.

Then he did what he always does. He started taking photographs ... of Lamb and other fisherman...of the buildings just across the road from the seawall ... and of me, watching the birds.

All in all, it was a nice way to spend part of a Saturday morning as we waited for Leon O'Neal to open the doors of his joint -- Leon's World's Finest In and Out B-B-Q -- just a few minutes away.


Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Friday, June 8, 2012

Unlocking at least one secret to what makes Fargo's Pit BBQ so good


Alan Caldwell, owner and pitmaster at Fargo's Pit BBQ in Bryan, has been very protective of the cooking secrets that help make his joint one of the top two or three in Texas.

In the past, he has refused to tell the Posse and BBQ Snob Daniel Vaughn the kind of pit he uses or the kind of wood he burns.

"You still refusing to show anyone your pit?" he was asked during our weekend barbecue tour that covered 700 miles and took us to the Texas Gulf Coast.

"That's my secret," he said. "Let's talk about something else."

After we had eaten and Caldwell came out from behind the counter to talk, he seemed to mellow a bit.

He said he cooks with a brick pit that he had built on site.

"I like it because it will just seal in that flavor," Caldwell said of his smoker.

And, without being specific, he said he uses a mixture of wood.

Before we drove to our next stop, we did sneak a look through a gap in his fence. Outside his smokehouse was a big stack of oak.

Was that for real? Or, just a prop to fool BBQ snoops like us?

Only Caldwell knows for sure.


Photos ©Jim Rossman, bottom, & Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Houston BBQ Tour - A quick look at our itinerary


Here's a quick look at the itinerary for our first Houston BBQ Tour. Last Friday, we headed south down I-45 for a 700-mile journey, searching for the best smoked meats in the Houston area. Over the next two days, we stopped at eight joints stretching from Huntsville to Galveston.

This was our tenth organized BBQ tour since November 2009, when an early-morning visit to Snow's BBQ in Lexington started an obsession to search for the best BBQ in Texas. Barbecue would never taste the same again after that day.

We'll be writing about the tour in an upcoming travel story in The Dallas Morning News and on dallasnews.com, but here's a sneak peak at our itinerary.

HOUSTON BBQ TOUR ITINERARY

FRIDAY June 1
8:30 am: Leave Dallas
11 am: New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue, 2601 Montgomery Rd, Huntsville, TX 77340, 936-294-0884, Open: Thur-Sat 11 am-7 pm.
1 pm: Fargo’s Pit BBQ, 1220 N. Texas Ave., Bryan, 979-778-3662. Hours: Tue-Sat, 11 am-7 pm.
2:30 pm: Mallett Brothers Barbeque, ‪9339 Texas 6, Navasota, 936-825-9440. Hours Mon-Thurs 11 am-8:30 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am -9 pm, Sun 11 am-3 pm.
7:00 pm: Pizzitola’s Bar-B-Cue, 1703 Shepherd Dr, Houston, 713-227-2283. Open Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm.
Overnight in Houston. Sheraton Houston Brookhollow Hotel

SATURDAY June 2
10 am: Stop by Galveston Beach for an hour of fishing and sun.
11 am: Leon's World's Finest In & Out Barbeque, 5427 Broadway St, Galveston, 409-744-9363. Open Sun-Thurs 11 am-7:30 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-8 pm.
1:00 pm: Gatlin's BBQ, 1221 W. 19th St, Houston, 713-869-4227. Open Tues-Sat 11 am-7 pm.
2:30 pm: Virgie’s Bar-B-Que, 5535 Gessner Dr, Houston, 713-466-6525. Open Wed-Fri 11 am-6:30 pm, Sat 11 am-5:30 pm.
3:45 pm: Byron's Gourmet Bar-B-Que, 2101 W Little York, Houston, 713-290-0870. Open Mon, Wed-Sat 10 am-6:30 pm.
4:15 pm: Leave for Dallas, home at 8:15 pm.


Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The thrill is gone from New Zion Missionary Baptist Church BBQ


Everyone in the Posse -- all five of us on this trip -- looked forward to our visit to New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue in Huntsville, the first stop on a 700-mile, 35-hour tour last weekend to the Texas Gulf coast.

Some love the Church's food and wax poetic about the atmosphere. But we were disappointed. Really disappointed.

"It was like a bubble burst," said Posse member Phil Lamb. "Boy, the romance is gone from that place."

"It was probably good yesterday," Jim Rossman said after tasting the brisket. No smoke, no taste, and the meat looked as if it had been reheated. The ribs and sausage were also routine.

"Our brisket at the K.C. hall is better," echoed Jim's dad, Tom, making his first tour with the Posse. Tom lives in Katy. He said his Knights of Columbus council cooks more than 100 briskets at a time for special occasions.


The first tip-off that things have changed at the Church's barbecue joint sat right outside the front door: a still shiny Ole Hickory smoker, mainly gas fired.

When did you get the new smoker? we asked the order taker.

"October," he said.

Does that thing use wood?

"Yes, some wood," he said.

We each ate a rib and finished the sausage but we couldn't eat all the brisket.

"When has the Posse last left brisket on its plate?" Lamb asked as we left.

Exactly.

The Church, aka: New Zion Missionary Baptist Church BBQ, 2601 Montgomery Rd, Huntsville, 936-294-0884. Open Thur-Sat 11 am-6 pm.


Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Monday, June 4, 2012

Avoiding the dreaded barbecue belch


On a barbecue tour, sometimes wisdom sneaks up on you.

And so it was in Galveston on Saturday when Leon O'Neal told us his secret to preventing his customers from burping after they ate his smoked meat.

Use dry wood, the owner of Leon's World's Finest In and Out B-B-Q said, standing in front of a tall wall of cut oak. "That's where the after belch comes from."

In other words, sappy wood is burping bad.

Some might put this wisdom in the same category as always buy brisket from the left side of the cow, which we wrote about a while back.

Perhaps.

But Leon, with his straw cowboy hat, red apron, patent-leather-shiny black shoes, white mustache and soul patch, is the most stylish barbecue proprietor we've ever met.

So, until proven otherwise, we're cutting him some slack.

Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse