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Jan 4, 2011 05:26 PM

To which hole-in-the-wall BBQ place would you go to impress?

A good friend who lives in Boston is coming to Houston for one night and one night only, and he wants BBQ. I want this friend to want to visit Houston more often, so a high degree of deliciousness is critical!

Would you take him to Thelma's? Is Thelma's back after the fire? Are there other joints you would consider?

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  1. I'm personally partial to Pierson's, although I haven't been in a few months. Not sure how late they are open -- I think 7:00? -- but someone else may be able to confirm.

    Gatlin's has been getting a ton of buzz recently, although I have heard there is always a serious wait for your food, just fyi for your planning. I haven't been so I cannot personally vouch.

    1. thelmas has been back for almost two years, although in a different location. it's a good central houston option.

      in addition to piersons and gatlins, i'd also recommend virgies, which is on the northwest side (290/beltway).

      probably catch some crap for this, but you could always take him to rudy's. your friend is from boston and won't know the difference.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bulldozer

        Over the last year or two, Rudy's has gotten a lot better. I love their spicy sauce. I don't care for their sides but the moist brisket and sausage are very good. A real plus for us is it seems to heat back up well where so many pieces of sliced brisket just come out of the microwave like shoe leather. I have been back to 3 different Rudy's in the last year or two and all have been surprisingly good. I wouldn't drive across town just for that but when I'm near one and want to bring home some brisket or sausage, I stop in.

        1. re: texasredtop

          I ate at Rudy's just last week for the first time; (US 290 just south of the Beltway). I also had the "Moist" beef, (versus the "Lean"). Additionally, we tried the half chicken. I took most of it home and made chicken salad. I thought the potato salad was actually pretty good.

          I agree with Bulldozer who noted that it would be a decent place to take an out of town guest just for it's funky atmosphere. My son liked all of the signs imploring the diners to bus their own tables since, "Your mother doesn't work here".

          Next time I feel like driving for bbq, I will pass Rudy's and continue on to Pierson's. I just love the cue and I love the folks.

          You will too.

      2. If you want to show your Bostonian some of Texas, take a country drive out to The Swinging Door in Richmond. Good BBQ in cow country. It's been a favorite in our family for over 35 years. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

        Swinging Door
        3714 Fm 359 Rd, Richmond, TX 77406

        3 Replies
        1. re: Lambowner

          Good call. We used to go out there Friday nights about 25-30 years ago and hit the dance hall, after dinner.

          Good times...

          1. re: DoobieWah

            I agree taking someone to Swinging Door for the evening will give them a real Texas feel and the BBQ is pretty good too. Plus they are open later than most Que places in town besides the chains. I do like Pappas BBQ best for chain BBQ...never tried the Rudy place or the Carl's place so will add those to my list. We live by Goode Co on Kirby and it is hit or miss there...but when it is a good night, the food is awesome. However, during Rodeo season is it really uber crowded there each night. Have fun with your friend. Let us know where you end up.

            Swinging Door
            3714 Fm 359 Rd, Richmond, TX 77406

          2. re: Lambowner

            I love Swinging Door, and it is a great place to take an out-of-towner, but for your own future reference Galvan's Sausage House on Highway 90-A at Pitts Road has better brisket, and the ribs and sausage are at least as good as SD's. It's more of a take-out place, though; only has two or three tables.

            Galvan's Sausage House
            1924 E Highway 90A, Richmond, TX 77406

            Swinging Door
            3714 Fm 359 Rd, Richmond, TX 77406

          3. If you're looking for someplace to take your friend in the evening for bbq, as I understand the question, your options are limited. I've never been to Rudy's but it isn't sounding too bad; other options would be Goode Co. and Pappas --- yes I know; I'm putting on my armored suit now.

            Pierson's closes at 7 or earlier. That would be my first choice in the city right now though I don't care for the use of mesquite wood. I don't know about Thelma's but I'd doubt if she's open in the evening. Gatlin's closes at 7 also.

            Re: Gatlin's - it's not worth the hype it's been getting and I think the buzz is dying down. I've been twice and it wouldn't be my choice even if I lived in the Heights. Besides the loooooooooong wait, both to order and for your food, the cue is being steamed, I think. It is extraordinarily tender, melt in your mouth tender. That is probably one reason some people love it. The bark is pasty, the smoke ring and flavor negligible, the rub barely detectable. A request for fatty brisket yielded slices with no more than 1/8" fat. The sausage was very lean, also, and too salty. Ribs, while not St. Louis style, were trimmed. Sides were okay, especially the slaw. The dirty rice might have been good had it not been bone dry.

            It's twice as far to Pierson's for me but I bet I could get to Pierson's, get my cue and eat and be on my way home by the time I could have gotten anything to eat at Gatlin's. Lord help you if you get in line behind some regulars, as I did; everybody in the family has to be caught up on to foster that homey, neighborhood vibe they're going for.

            However, your friend, being from Boston might be impressed.

            Edit to add: a friend has told me they use a gas oven, not a pit. I don't know if that's true. If I had known that I wouldn't even have tried it once.

            4 Replies
            1. re: brucesw

              Haven't been to the Rudy's in Houston, but we had pretty good luck with the one in Austin on N183. At least they don't use a gas oven. According to them, anyway, it's a 100% wood (oak) pit.

              One member of our group doesn't eat beef or pork, so she always got the smoked turkey. The rest of us shared the moist brisket and some ribs.

              Not my favorite 'cue in the state, obviously, but for those nights when we just wanted to grab a quick dinner, it was a pretty good substitute.

              1. re: brucesw

                I find the meat, especially the brisket, better at Rudy's than Goode Co and Pappas. I've been to both locations in Spring and off the 290. I will say, Goode Co on Kirby has the hole-in-the-wall ambiance.

                1. re: brucesw

                  We ate at Goode co for years but in the last two years the BBQ sauce
                  now tastes like Salsa and BBQ sauce mixed. Very disappointing

                  1. re: gulfcoastgal

                    I jmoved to Houston about two years ago, and of course, being a big fan of barbecue, gave Goode Co a try pretty soon after arrival..

                    I was with three other native Texans, all from the Hill Country.

                    We thought that "barbecue sauce" was the weirdest we had ever tasted - like some sort of strange BBQ-influenced tomato-based spaghetti sauce or something. (And just for the record, I've tasted barbecue sauce all over the country, so it's not like I've only had one variety and dislike anything that differs.)

                    Of course, we never went to Goode Co "back when it really was good," as some folks put it.

                    Interesting to note that the sauce has changed. That does solve a few mysteries.

                    Like how they've managed to stay in business for so long.

                2. I think Luling in the galleria area is pretty good not as good as driving out to Luing but... Also Wallr county BBQ is pretty good for a gas station and if u keep drivng North on 290 there's a place call juniors and it is awesome

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ac1488

                    We had a fairly interesting chat about that "Luling in the galleria area" here:


                    Speaking just for myself, I have considerable ethical issues with those people.

                    Not to mention that, in my book anyway, charging $13.35 a pound for brisket disqualifies it from being a "hole in the wall."

                    Those are pretty upscale prices (especially for barbecue that mediocre), and takes it from being a "hole in the wall" BBQ joint, and moves it into upscale restaurant territory.

                    1. re: Jaymes

                      I would never eat at "luling" in Houston. What a truckload of losers over there. You know their food is bad if they have to rip off another establishment's good will to get anyone in the door.

                      1. re: Lambowner

                        Boy, is that the truth. If I were going to open a restaurant, the first thing I'd do is to put my own name all over it. And be ready, willing and able to take the credit if it's good.

                        And the blame if it's not.

                        A "truckload of losers" is a perfect description.