Monday, September 29, 2014

Greater Houston, we have barbecue redemption

The four meat plate with a link of boudin brought a smile to Posse faces at Ray's Real Pit BBQ Shack in Houston.
(Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

In a previous post, careful readers might wonder about the heading over the itinerary of our weekend trip:

"Houston Redemption BBQ Tour"

What's that all about?

Flash back to the Posse's first Gulf Coast tour two years ago. It was disappointing. The only good barbecue we found was in Galveston, 50 miles away.

"Houston, we have a barbecue problem" was the headline on that chapter of our BBQ Chronicles. Some of our smoked meat brethren in The Bayou City are still upset at us.

So, one of the main goals of our most recent tour was to see if Houston had redeemed itself, in a barbecue way.

Or, would that billboard along I-45 near downtown about a dinosaur exhibit prove true?

"Best ribs in town
Houston Museum of Natural Science"

While finding good smoked meat in the city proper is still a challenge, we can report that, yes, the greater Houston area certainly has found barbecue redemption.

Beef ribs at Killen's BBQ in Cypress. (Photo ©Daniel Goncalves/fotobia.com)
Five of the six joints we hit served solid barbecue. One, Killen's Barbecue in Pearland, might just be the best place in the state.

(Note: Because of an internal communications snafu, Posse members actually ate at 7 places last weekend. While the main body went to The Brisket House location in Deer Park, one member went to the location in Houston. The food at both received good reviews.)

The only real disappointment, food wise, was Virgie's Bar-B-Que, located in the city. We didn't like it two years ago. Ditto last weekend.

"I thought we might have been wrong the last time, but we weren't," said Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins.

Texas Monthly rates Virgie's among its Top 50 in the state. The Posse can't figure out why.

Houston Redemption BBQ Tour

Friday 6/27
7:45am: Leave Dallas

10:30am: CorkScrew BBQ, 24930 Budde Rd., Spring, 832-592-1184. Open Tues-Sat 11am-til the meat runs out. Website: http://www.corkscrewbbq.com (Texas Monthly Top 50)

1pm: Virgie's Bar-B-Que, 5535 Gessner Dr., Houston, 713-466-6525. Open Tues 11am-2pm, Wed-Fri 11am-6:30pm, Sat 11am-5:30pm. Website: http://www.virgiesbbq.com (Texas Monthly Top 50)

3pm: Brooks' Place, 18020 FM 529, Cypress, 832-893-1682. Open Wed-Sun 11am-til the meat runs out. Website: Website: http://www.brooksplacebbq.com (Texas Monthly Top 50)

7:10pm: Detroit Tigers @ Houston Astros, Minute Maid Park.

Overnight in Houston, Club Quarters Houston hotel

Saturday 6/28
10:30am: Killen's BBQ, 3613 E. Broadway, Pearland, 281-485-2272. Open Tues-Sun 11am-until they run out of meat. Website: http://www.killensbarbecue.com

1pm: Ray's Real Pit BBQ Shack, 4529 Old Spanish Trail, Houston, 713-748-4227. Open Mon-Sat 11am-8pm. Website: http://www.raysbbqshack.com

3pm: Brisket House, 5775 Woodway, Houston, 281-888-0331. Open Mon-Sat 11am-9pm, Sat 11am-6pm. Website: http://thebriskethouse.com

4:00pm: Head back to Dallas

Brooks Place pitmaster and owner Trent Brooks talks BBQ 101 with the Posse in Cypress. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Behold the Fried Rib from Pecan Lodge -- You need to try one

The fried rib from Pecan Lodge in Dallas. (Photo by Jim Rossman/Texas BBQ Posse)

It’s not often that I’m surprised by the menu at a BBQ joint.

I’ve been to more than a few dozen places and didn’t think there was much else you could do to a pork rib, but I was wrong.

One day last month I was eating at Pecan Lodge in Dallas when I spied a new entry on their menu board. It was a fried pork rib and I had to have one.

The rib was a very large and meaty. It was lightly battered and then deep fried. The crust was crunchy, but not very thick. The fried rib was then dipped in BBQ sauce, plated and then topped with bleu cheese and some green onion.

It was a glorious mess.

I wanted to run back and order a second one, but the thought of my upcoming annual physical kept me in my seat. I’d really forgotten about the rib until the Posse’s recent Denton County tour, when I remembered and told the others.

I’ll have to get back and try the rib again. I asked Pecan Lodge if the rib was a regular on the menu and was told, “we have them on a pretty regular basis.”


Certainly worth a try if you see it on the menu.

Pecan Lodge, 2702 Main St. Dallas, 214-748-8900. Open: Tues-Thur 11am-3pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-3pm. Website: www.pecanlodge.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Smoked meatloaf is a hit at Texas Smoke BBQ Co. in Sanger

The Posse samples various smoked meats at Texas Smoke BBQ Co. in Sanger. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

In the 5 years the Posse has been on the hunt for the best smoked meats in Texas, we've met lots of people chasing their barbecue restaurant dreams, including a preacher, a city councilman, and former corporate consultants.

Jay Coin, the owner and pit master at Texas Smoke BBQ Co. in Sanger, is our first former undertaker.

Texas Smoke was the second stop of our recent Denton County tour. We traveled 120 miles in 6 hours and ate at 4 places.

Coin's place, located in a rustic building downtown, is decorated with old photos and signs, along with sports jerseys and a football helmet from Sanger High School. "Purple Pride," a sign said. There's also the requisite mounted deer head.

It reminded us of Buck Snort BBQ in Van Alstyne, also located in an old downtown building. Buck Snort, where you can eat a free buffet on your birthday, is run by Jim Smith, a former Van Alstyne city councilman.

The smoked meatloaf, bottom right, was a huge hit for the Posse at Texas Smoke BBQ Co. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins)

Coin, 38, said he was in the funeral business for about a decade. He started Texas Smoke in a trailer about a year ago, moved to a building at the first of this year and more recently moved again to his current location.

"What do I need to do to get better?" he asked us at the end of our interview.

Posse member Ahna Hubnik told him his smoked meatloaf, an unusual offering, was great. "You can't beat that," she said. Coin said he cooks it about two hours.

Posse members Jim Rossman and Bruce Tomaso told Coin he needed to bolster the spice he used in the rubs for his brisket and pork ribs.

The brisket was cooked perfectly, but needed much more flavor, they said.

Earlier, Posse members Michael Meadows and Gary Barber commented that Coin's barbecue sauce went very well with his brisket. Tomaso also liked the meatloaf and the regular sausage.

Coin said he buys his sausage -- regular and jalapeƱo -- commercially, but someday wants to make his own. He said he's having more fun now than in his previous vocation and business is going well.  He said he sells 10-12 briskets a day.

"It keeps me out of the funeral business," he said.

Denton County BBQ Tour

Bet The House BBQ, 508 S Elm St., Denton, 940-808-0332. Open Wed-Sat 11am-8pm (or when the meat runs out), Sun 11am-3pm. Website: www.BTHBBQ.com

Texas Smoke BBQ Co., 205 Bolivar St, Sanger, 940-231-6674. Open Mon-Fri 11am-6pm (or when the meat runs out), Sat 11am-3pm.

Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ, 102 Lobo Lane, Little Elm, 972-987-4885. Open Tues-Sun 11am-9pm.

Chasin' Tail BBQ, 8656 S Stemmons Fwy, Hickory Creek, 940-321-0524. Open Tues-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 11am-7pm. Website: www.chasintailbbq.com

Texas Smoke BBQ Co. pitmaster and owner Jay Coin visits with the Posse. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Ribs and brisket at Texas Smoke BBQ Co. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Texas Smoke BBQ Co. is located on Boliver St. in old downtown Sanger. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Barbecue photography the old-fashioned way

Posse member Bruce Tomaso lends a hand with a reflector as photojournalist Guy Reynolds focuses in on Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ owner Blake Merrell in Little Elm. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

If you follow this blog, you know it regularly features great barbecue photography. Several Posse members are photographers and they bring their equipment -- all kinds of equipment -- when we go on tours.

Our recent Denton County tour, though, saw the most unusual piece of equipment yet. Guy Reynolds used a tripod mounted Graflex to shoot portraits of some of the pitmasters we visited.

On other tours, Guy has used his digital cameras, but he says he wanted to try something different this time. Here, Guy explains his mission:
I brought along my vintage '50s Graflex Crown Graphic 4x5 camera to shoot portraits with film just for the challenge of it.

Using a view camera requires a tripod and a dark cloth over the shooter's head in order to compose and focus the image on the ground glass at the back of the camera. The subject has to remain still during the interval between the settings being made and the film holder being inserted. This can easily be 30 seconds and many pieces of film are wasted.

The old camera was given to me several years ago by Bill Weisner, of Bill's Records and Tapes, because he had no use for it. It's a very difficult beast to use so I don't very often but the results and hard to beat.

The bigger the negative, the better the image - as far as sharpness goes when making enlargements. That's the same with digital file size: the more megapixels the better end results. 4x5 negatives can easily make prints 30x40 without the quality falling off to much. That's not possible with a 35mm negative, which is about 1/12 the size.

I only had 8 pieces of film loaded to do shots at our stops so there's not much margin for error. And there may not be any worthwhile. It's a risk limiting the number of takes that much. Unlike the instant gratification of digital, I won't know what I got until the film is processed and I have to take it to a lab for that. The film costs about $4 per sheet and processing is another $6 so it can get expensive real fast.

Just call me crazy but I still enjoy the craft of photography.
Blake Merrell, Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ in Little Elm. (Photo ©Guy Reynolds)

Cody Smithers, left, and Shawn Eagle of Bet  the House BBQ in Denton. (Photo ©Guy Reynolds)

Jay Coin, Texas Smoke BBQ Co. in Sanger. (Photo ©Guy Reynolds)

Guy Reynolds puts a 4x5 film holder into his Crown Graphic camera before photographing Texas Smoke BBQ Co. pitmaster & owner Jay Coin in Sanger. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)