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May 25, 2011 12:49 PM

Heading to Houston this weekend just want some BBQ!

Howdy folks, this will be my first time to houston (coming from California). Most of the trip is planned but this Saturday I get to decide on what to do and all I want to do is try some down home texas bbq. Specifically brisket, I know some of the best joints are in central texas but if I can try something comparable that would be great.

I asked my gf and she said that we would go to Goode Co. She also specifically told me not to look too much into it and just give it a try. But it seems like that place doesn't get much love on this board and it seems kind of theme-y (not all people in TX are cowboys right?) I only have once chance to eat some bbq so thats why i got to make it count. Also we will be staying in sugarland so it has to be somewhat close. If it was up to me I would rent a car and drive to all the spots in central tx.

So far I have

Pierson & Co
Luling City Market (but is this hit or miss? and what's the ethical reasons?)

Hopefully I will be successful or my gf will be giving me grief for not going to goode co.

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  1. I do not like Goode Co. at all, dry, flavorless meat and ribs. Pierson's is a zillion miles from Sugarland, and might be a little hard to find. I like Gaitlin's in the Heights but they have strange hours and they are in super slow motion, plus there is little room to eat there. I like Galvan's, between Richmond and Sugarland on Alternate 90. Not much atmosphere, but good brisket, have them leave the fat on. I would call ahead at any of these places to be sure they are open. As for cowboys in Texas, there are still a few in rural areas, but you won't see one in Houston, probably not even a wannabe.

    1. I don't know what part of CA your from but if your from LA, the Bay Area, or even San Diego, Pierson's may not feel like a zillion miles especially on a Saturday. I haven't made my way over to Pierson's but it comes highly recommended by Houston chows that know, James Cristinian being one of them. If you only get one chance for bbq and are willing to drive to central tx I think you might as well experience Pierson's and then let us know what you think.

      but then I'm a native CA that lived in LA and would drive to San Diego for dinner

      1 Reply
      1. re: tlegray

        I come from the bay area so 45-60 minute commutes are quite common, looking at google maps it's about a half hour drive from sugar land to Pierson's. Then again I don't know exactly where in sugar land I'll be staying but the drive doesn't bother me. I drive about an hour into San Francisco quite regularly to get my chow on.

      2. I haven't been in Houston for more than a couple of years, so others have more info/knowledge about the local BBQ scene than I. But I'll join James Cristinian in warning you away from Goode Co. We went there quite soon after moving here (from Austin where we filled up on Central Texas barbecue pretty regularly), and we all thought it was so bad that we didn't even take the (considerable) leftovers home, and we've got a big family that usually never turns our nose up at leftovers.

        As far as where to go, depending upon where in Sugarland you are, it's a straight shot and about a half-hour drive at Interstate speeds down Hwy 59 to Wharton, and Hinze's BBQ. I wouldn't put it right up there with the iconic joints in Luling, Taylor, Lexington and Lockhart, but I drive 59 down to the Mexican border fairly regularly, and I always stop there for lunch. Like I said, it's not in my personal "top tier," but pretty solidly in my second. And it might take you a lot less time to get there than it would to fight Houston traffic, as you would if you head 45 miles or so in the other direction, i.e., into town rather than away from it.

        Also a place we tried recently that we liked is Dozier's BBQ in the little town of Fulshear. Fulshear is also west of Houston, as is Sugar Land, and, again depending upon where you are in Sugar Land, should only take you about twenty minutes or so to get there.

        You asked about the "ethical issues" with the Houston location of "Luling City Market."

        In Central Texas, there is a town called Luling. In Luling there is a small meat market called "City Market." It's been there for decades. They put out what everyone agrees is some of the absolute best barbecue in Texas and, therefore, the world. They, and their product, and name, and pitmasters, are legendary.

        So some Houston businessmen decided to trade on that name. First, they lured away one of the fellows that worked at City Market in Luling (in fact, I think he was a cousin in that family-owned enterprise), got him to divulge recipes, methods, etc., and started doing business in Houston as "Luling City Market," complete with an oil pump logo, which the town of Luling is also famous for. They have no connection with the original. They are trading on the resulting confusion, and making money off of the name, brand, reputation, and excellence produced by someone else.

        And of course, as these things so often go, after a while, they dumped the guy that they originally lured away. And all of this is made (in my eyes, anyway) even worse by the fact that the Houston ripoff isn't that good. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, "I haven't been to City Market in Luling, but I've been to their location in Houston, and didn't think it was that good. It's sure not worth driving to Luling for."

        6 Replies
        1. re: Jaymes

          Ah I see, got ya I'll be sure to spend my money on good honest businesses. I did get a little confused if perhaps City Market in Luling and "Luling City Market" were the same branch. They didn't sucker me in!

          Thanks everybody for the tips

          PS. I don't want to look like a fool ordering, what's with the lingo? Fatback? wet? High cut or something? Are they asking if you want a lean cut opposed to the fatty cuts?

          1. re: Justin L

            My son lives out in the Bay Area, and does a lot of barbecuing. He tells me that it is almost impossible to get a whole, untrimmed brisket out there, so I hope you won't feel insulted if I'm telling you something you already know.


            If you look at a whole, untrimmed brisket, you will see that it basically has two parts. The bottom part is usually called the "flat." That's what you buy in most stores to take home and corn, or boil with cabbage, etc. And, according to my son, that's really all that's readily available out there. In fact, the flat is so common that many folks are not even aware the whole, untrimmed brisket actually includes another part.

            The top part of the brisket is called many things: the deckle, the point, the fat cap, etc. It's definitely a much fattier cut than the "flat" which is also referred to as the "lean." These two sections are joined by a layer of fat.

            Briskets are generally considered to be easier to smoke, and to produce a good final product, if they are smoked intact, with the fat in the deckle basting the flat.

            So, different folks prefer different parts of the brisket. My father very much prefers the lean part, or flat. In a perfectly-smoked brisket, the flat will also be tender, juicy and tasty. But that's much harder to do. You're certainly hedging your bet if you order your brisket cut from the deckle, or point. And getting a nice juicy bite of that is Nirvana to some folks.

            Up in Kansas City, they sell something called "burnt ends." It looked to me like that was basically the deckle, cut into bite-sized chunks, so the last time I was there, I asked a KC pitmaster and he told me that's right. So many folks up there prefer their brisket "off the high side" as well.

            We usually order a little of each.

            The bottom part is usually always called the same thing: "lean."

            For that top part, you can say any of the following: "I want it off the high side, the point, the deckle, the fat cap, moist, wet, fatty, loose."

            And, depending upon where you go, generally speaking you order it by the pound. So, in our family, depending on where we are, and how much other stuff we want (sausage, ribs, etc.), we usually try to wind up with at least a half-pound of total meat per person.

            So our order goes something like "two pounds brisket off the high side, one pound of lean, one pound of ribs, and four of those hot links."

            You mentioned "fatback." Don't say that.

            That's something else entirely.

            1. re: Jaymes

              Thanks Jaymes, what great information.

              1. re: Jaymes

                Wow! no don't worry not insulted at all, I remember seeing a tv show about bbq talking about how brisket is made up of two parts. Thanks for the detailed info! I'm salivating! can't wait for the weekend.

                1. re: Jaymes

                  What a great succinct description Jaymes. The Visitor's Bureau should print that up and send it out with their info packets.

                  I knew all of that, (okay, "most" of that), but it would have taken me three times as long to say it.

                  1. re: DoobieWah

                    Well, thanks, guys!

                    Of course, now that I'm reading it over, wish I'd added another sentence or two.

                    To wit, that if you don't specify which part of the brisket you want, the default is lean. For one thing, there's a lot more of it. And also, folks that don't prefer the top half can get really indignant if there's a lot of fat in their portion.

            2. Brisket BBQ in Bellaire ( wouldn't seem like destination dining, but it has always been great! Brisket of course is great & sausage is surpurb!!! Admittedly, haven't been in a while, but it was good the 7 years we lived nearby...BBQ isn't always on my mind. Luther's used to be a hot spot, but they've been bought out. Pappas Bros. BBQ has most of the locations & is still one of the better places. Another place I like (small chain) is Hickory Hollow. Seems like there are others on the fringes of my mind. Will post if I think of them. Many Houston/Texas folks enjoy BBQ at home or at a friends, not necessarily out. Sorry!

              Hickory Hollow
              101 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

              29 Replies
              1. re: DaTulip

                Okay, Guy's Meat Market near the med ctr does good does Schulzes in Richmond/Rosenberg. Demeris catering is also good, but not sure they have restos. Spring Creek is a chain, but does good chopped beef samies.

                Here is a link to a Yelp post on BBQ in the Bay Area

                Spring Creek Restaurants
                9005 Broadway St, Pearland, TX 77584

                1. re: DaTulip

                  Thanks for the suggestions! Looks like I have options in all sorts of directions! Hopefully I'll be able to try something besides or maybe and Goode Co so my gf and I can both be happy. I'll be sure to report back! thanks again!

                  1. re: Justin L

                    not to confuse u further,, FWIW,, a terrific write up this morning in the Houston Chronicle from Katarine Shilcutt on The Brisket House on Woodway Dr. "This place will make a believer out of anyone who thought a strip mall off Woodway couldn't turn out some wicked Texas barbecue"..Apparently the pit master at Tom's, a long gone BBQ restaurant in College Station now runs The Brisket House.. This place is now on my short list....

                    1. re: bornie

                      Oooh! Do they serve it like the old Tom's in B/CS??? On a piece of parchment paper with only a knife, 1/2 an onion, pickles, couple slices of bread, a big hunk of cheese, and a side of BBQ sauce?

                      1. re: DaTulip

                        You got it!!! ck out the thur chron!

                        1. re: bornie

                          Mom and I went to The Brisket House yesterday, (Memorial Day) for lunch. The rest of my tiny family were pursuing their own adventures.

                          We arrived right at noon, so the expectation was that all of the meat would be fresh from the smoker.

                          I don't know if that's true or not, but I was very disappointed.

                          I got the 8 oz Special with brisket and chicken, (you know me and my chicken!).

                          The brisket, (high side, Jaymes), was a uniform gray with no smoke ring, whatsoever.

                          The chicken was likewise dry and fairly flavorless.

                          The cheese, onion and pickle were great though.

                          The search continues...

                          1. re: DoobieWah

                            Man, that sucks. What with all that "Aggie style" hype, had big hopes.

                            Doobs, have you ever been to the Red River BBQ & Grill in League City? As I said elsewhere, one just opened in Katy.

                            1. re: Jaymes

                              I have had really good ribs at Brisket House but I get them with the sauce on the side. Without them being smothered in the sauce, I have found them very tasty in the past. Haven't had them in a couple of years or more though.

                              1. re: texasredtop

                                I thought Brisket House only opened a year back ?

                                1. re: FarleyFlavors

                                  Pappa's Brisket House has been around Houston for decades. It's a chain. Is there another one that I'm unaware of?

                                    1. re: texasredtop

                                      The Brisket House is at Woodway and Augusta.

                                      K Shilcutt did a story in last week's Houston Press:


                                      and apparently a year ago:


                                      Hmm, whatsamatter K, running out of restaurants?


                                      1. re: texasredtop

                                        The original Brisket House is the one downtown by the St. Joseph Hospital. The others are just called Pappas BBQ.

                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                          Yeah, that's the one I started eating at in the 70's when I worked downtown. I just thought that was the only one. Sorry.

                                  1. re: Jaymes


                                    I have not.

                                    I expect a quick report on the new location from you ...


                            2. re: DaTulip

                              DaTulip -

                              Thanks for that link about BBQ in the Bay Area. My son lives in San Jose and has the misfortune to be forced to compare the barbecue out there to the best and most iconic of the Central Texas meat markets, which he visits every time he comes to Texas. I'll send him a copy of that link.

                              He says that he's tried all of the 'cue out there, and that there's only one place that comes close. Unfortunately, it's a little inconvenient, to say the least. You can only get it during ski season. And you have to ride the Sierra Tahoe lift.

                              But there are some fellers up there with a good smoker and a pile of firewood turning out low and slow barbecue the way it's supposed to be.

                              "We've even had folks tell us it's the best barbecue in Northern California."


                              1. re: Jaymes

                                The yelp link has bay area bbq joints in tx?

                                1. re: Justin L

                                  Sorry for any confusion! Yes, it is for the Houston "Bay area" as in near Baytown...Texas.

                                  1. re: DaTulip

                                    Yeah, wow, obviously confused me. The only "Bay Area" I've ever heard referenced in that manner is the northern California one. I've never heard southeastern Texas referred to that way.

                                    Is it common?

                                    1. re: Jaymes

                                      There is Bay Area Boulevard down there, but I've never heard the area called that. Usually it's Clear Lake, or NASA/ Clear Lake, Kemah/Seabrook, or specific towns, like League City, San Leon, etc.

                                      1. re: James Cristinian

                                        Ah, thanks...

                                        And interesting. When you think about it, I am sure there are lots of 'bay areas.' But the only one I've ever heard referred to that way routinely is San Francisco Bay.

                                      2. re: Jaymes

                                        It never occurred to me that confusion would arise on the Houston board. Again my apologies.

                                        1. re: DaTulip

                                          No apologies needed. You were absolutely right. I shouldn't be so obtuse!

                                          Frankly, would never have occurred to me that you might be talking about barbecue in the SF Bay area, except that the OP had said that's where he's from.

                                          But I should have thought it through more carefully.

                                          My bad. Not yours.

                                          1. re: Jaymes

                                            Jaymes, obtuse!!!! That reminds me of the old WKRP show where the Big Guy's mom refers to Les Nessman as obtuse, and Herb as addle minded. They both took it as a compliment. By the way, what is your favorite BBQ in Houston, not considering driving distance?


                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                              Honestly, I don't have a "favorite" yet. I'm trying mightily to get to a few more. There are maybe, what, a couple dozen places to try ? I've been to probably half. Most of them were okay, some pretty good, but none yet that I like enough to go to any real effort to reach.

                                              Although again, I should point out, I'm mainly on the lookout for brisket. So while a place like Swinging Door was really fun, and the smoked turkey was great, I'm personally not a fan of their brisket. So my search continues.

                                              Did try a new one in Katy last night: Red River Grill. Just opened a few weeks ago. Thought it was pretty good. The place had a "chain feel" - more a "Texas BBQ theme restaurant" ambiance than old German meat market that has been smoking meats for a thousand years, or East Texas-style ramshackle 'cue joint with finger-lickin' ribs and baked beans and sweet potato pie.

                                              So I chatted up the waitress a bit. Asked if it's a chain and she said, not really, although there is one in League City. She asked if I thought two restaurants makes "a chain." Probably not, I said. Yet.

                                              Will this be my favorite? Too early to tell. But the brisket was pretty dang good. Probably the best I've had since I moved here. And when I ordered it "off the high side," she knew exactly what I meant, and that was a very good sign. And, that's what I got. And it was delicious. However, I'm definitely planning a return trip for more investigation before I go all dewy-eyed this time.

                                              And, DW, they do have chicken. I sat fairly close to the cash register, and a lot of folks came in and got chickens to go. They're $10.79 for a whole chicken; $6 for a half. I would have gotten one myself, but my family is away for Memorial Day (up in Lexington, actually), so I didn't want to haul home a lot of food that I can't eat up.

                                              1. re: James Cristinian

                                                Well, okay, JC, I've found a tentative "favorite."

                                                Red River BBQ & Grill, out here in Katy. Yes, I'm awarding bonus points for location, since I can practically walk there, but I've been three times now, and have had a really good experience all three times. In fact, took the whole family last night and son-in-law said he thought it was outstanding and we should add it to our regular rotation. To which I happily agreed.

                                                I've gotten the "three meat combo" each time, with brisket, sausage and pork ribs. And every time, just to my taste anyway, I've found it to be the best overall barbecue I've had since I got here.

                                                It's not a hole-in-the-wall by any means. It's a full-service restaurant with lots of items and Shiner on tap (more bonus points). It does have something of a "chain feel," but it's not really a chain, although this is the second one (first is in League City).


                                                1. re: Jaymes

                                                  Knowing your passion for BBQ, you've convince me to try it!

                                                  1. re: Lambowner

                                                    Well, I ain't saying it's slap-yer-grandma good. And I'm still going to be making the trek to Luling/Lockhart every other month or so to bring back a couple of briskets for the freezer. But as far as where I'm going when I get the craving, usually around once a week or so, I'm hitting the Red River Grill, until they do me wrong.

                                                    Recommending a barbecue place is really tricky, isn't it? It's not like saying, "Oh, go to this or that diner; they've got great pancakes." Nobody gets their panties in a wad about pancakes. But when you start talking about barbecue to folks that love it, things turn really intense really quickly. Passions flare; debaters stake out their territory. It gets personal.

                                                    So I hope you like Red River Grill, Lambowner. I can't promise you that you will. But I can say that I definitely do.

                              2. You will be close to The Swinging Door in Richmond, and I see no reason to go anywhere else, personally. I drive a long way for that BBQ.


                                Swinging Door
                                3714 Fm 359 Rd, Richmond, TX 77406

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Lambowner

                                  So true! Can't believe it didn't come to mind.

                                  1. re: DaTulip

                                    The Swinging Door is fun, but we haven't had particularly good luck with their brisket. We usually get the smoked turkey when we go there.