Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Texas BBQ Trip, May 2018 - Day 1

Early on a Saturday morning in May 2018, I once again found myself on a plane headed for Houston. As in the past, this was a work trip, but I had planned to go down a day early in order to get in some barbecue before my 4 days of customer meetings.  When I booked the trip, the early morning flight that got me into Houston just before lunch seemed like a great idea, but arriving at the airport at 4:00 am after a near sleepless night didn't feel like my best plan ever!

I managed to get a little shut eye on the plane and arrived in sunny, hot & humid Houston around 11:00 am.  I recovered my luggage, picked up my rental car and headed straight to my first barbecue stop, Tejas Chocolate and Barbecue in nearby Tomball.  It was about a 30 minute drive from the airport and when I arrived there was a lineup about 10 or 12 deep out the front door.

Tejas was ranked number 6 in the Texas Monthly Top 50 last year.  Last summer after the issue came out, I was able to get a copy delivered to me in Calgary which included the Top 50 Passport. 

First stamp!
I'd been hanging on the the passport for close to a year waiting to get some stamps in it and this was going to be my first one!

The line moved at a decent pace and once I'd made it onto the patio I grabbed one of the Lone Star beers they keep in a cooler outside for their customers.  I was in Texas after all and Lone Star is the National Beer of Texas!  The restaurant is located in an old house in Tomball with a large front patio.

My first Lone Star!
Once inside the doors, I was able to take stock of the decor.  They have Stewart's Soda on tap and the line takes customers past perhaps the most unique feature I've seen in any barbecue restaurant...the chocolate counter.  Tejas started out as a bean to bar chocolate craftory and when they realized that chocolate alone wasn't going to pay the bills, they decided to add barbecue to the mix.  I for one am glad they did!

So much chocolaty goodness!

It had been requested that I bring some chocolate home, so I scoped out the display while waiting to order my lunch.  I was posting to Instagram while in line and I received a reply from them inviting me to come back to the pits after I'd eaten to say hello.  Very cool!

When it was my turn I ordered some brisket (moist, of course) and a jalapeno cheddar sausage with a side order of their famous carrot souffle and a shot of the mole barbecue sauce.

You order and pay at the counter here and they give you a number.  I found a table on the covered patio outside and it was only a couple of minutes before my number was called.  I went inside to get my tray and grabbed some pickles before heading back to my table.

A tray of pure barbecue gold!
That first bite of brisket was pure heaven!  I'd been away from Texas for too long and I was so glad to be back.  The Tejas brisket easily ranks up there with the best I've had...Franklin, Louie Mueller..anywhere.  The fat on the moist brisket was perfectly rendered and the pieces of meat easily pulled apart and melted in my mouth.  The sausage was equally good.  Cheesy with just the right amount of jalapeno kick and flavour.  I had been hearing about the carrot souffle for a while and was eager to give it a taste.  The piece of souffle in a small cup appeared cake-like, with a golden orange colour and a deeper orangy-red top.  I put a forkful in my mouth and was delighted.  It was light and creamy in texture and the flavour was excellent.  Perhaps the most unique side I've experienced, and definitely a treat. The mole sauce was a nice addition as well.  They used to provide it for free, but it complex and costly sauce to make with a lot of different ingredients and they found that it was being wasted.  Now for $1.00 you can get a small cup of it.  All around, this was easily one of the finest trays of barbecue I've eaten.  Once I finished enjoying every last bite, I made my way back to the pits and was greeted by co-owner and pitmaster Scott Moore.  We chatted for a few minutes and Scott showed me their large Moberg offset smoker, Dude. 

Dude Abides
I recalled seeing pictures of it being craned into place on social media when they took delivery of it shortly after the Texas Monthly Top 50 rankings came out last year.  In an ode to The Big Lebowski, the nameplate on the firebox reads "Dude Abides".

Two dudes!
After visiting with Scott I went inside to pick out some chocolates to bring home and added another t-shirt to my growing BBQ joint collection. 

From there I headed into Houston and made my way to Roegels.  I'd had the opportunity to enjoy Roegels on my last Houston trip and it was excellent.  They are also another Top 50 joint, so that meant another stamp in my passport and it was an chance to get a couple of entries into the Tales From The Pits podcast big giveaway.  Brian & Andrew from the podcast have placed one of their stickers at 10 bbq joints around the state.  To get an entry into the contest, you need to take a selfie with yourself and the sticker in the picture, and you get a second entry if you also include a picture of your food from that restaurant.  The prize is a Yeti cooler stuffed full with t-shirts, hats, coozies, stickers and some gift cards and other swag.  I managed to get 6 out of a maximum 20 entries while I was in Texas.  The draw is at the beginning of July...fingers crossed!

Getting into the contest!
I ordered some brisket, a boudin sausage and some Texas caviar to go. 

When I was at Roegels last year, I ate lunch at the restaurant and got an order of their Bourbon Banana Pudding to go.  By the time I got around to eating it at the airport, it had warmed up and was a little runny.  This time around, I ordered my food to go and ate the banana pudding fresh and cold while I was there.  I was once again served by Bruce, one of the friendliest and most helpful barbecue people I've come across.  Once I got checked into my hotel I stashed my to go box in the fridge and when I ate it cold two days later it was still excellent!  Clearly a quality product.

After my day of travel and eating, I was done for the day.  I packed it in for the night, ready for another day of barbecue starting the next morning!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Paddy's Barbecue & Brewery

Address: 3610 Burnsland Rd. SE, Calgary, AB
Smoker: Southern Pride
Wood: Oak, Maple & Cherry
Pit master: Paul
Head Slicer: Kevin
Instagram & Twitter: @paddysbrewbecue

A friend let me know about this relative newcomer to the Calgary BBQ scene early in February and we quickly made plans for a visit.  Before making it there though, I started following them on social media and enjoyed seeing the joint's namesake, Paddy, document his travels to some of the Texas barbecue spots I have been fortunate enough to visit.

It was a nice February afternoon when Andrew, and I visited Paddy's along with our youngest daughters and Andrew's friend Scott who was visiting from Hong Kong.  We had worked up an appetite playing laser tag and we were ready to eat!

Snow capped sign!
Paddy's is located just off Macleod Trail on the south side of downtown Calgary, in a bit of an industrial/commercial area.  Parking can be a bit tight, but once all the piles of snow are melted that should free up a few spots.  The interior is clean, modern and welcoming.  They have clothing and hats for sale that decorate the walls, along with an awesome bison (or is that buffalo?) head mounted near the entrance.

Just inside the entrance is the ordering counter where you get a numbered sign to take to your table.  The back of the restaurant houses their beer brewing area and a bar where you order your drinks.  They brew a number of their own beers here and also feature guest brews on tap.  They also feature a house made root beer for the younger crowd or those not wanting beer.  Unfortunately, besides a self serve water jug, the root beer is the only non-alcoholic option.  If you like root beer, it is worth a try for sure though!

We determined that the Family Feast was going to fit the bill for our group and ordered it up.  The feast comes with 1 lb of brisket, 1 lb of turkey and 1/2 lb of pulled pork along with 3 sides.  We opted for the baked beans, cheesy mac and fries.  They serve white bread, pickles and pickled red onion on the side.  The 3 adults ordered up a flight of 8 mini sizes glasses of an assortment of beers.

The Family Feast

A few minutes later our food arrived and toasted our laser tag accomplishments and dug in!  The meat comes out the way it should in my opinion - that is without sauce.  They have a couple of sauce options in bottles on the tables.  I found the brisket tasty with a nice peppery bark, but it was a little dry and tough and didn't pass the tear apart test.  The pulled pork was excellent.  It was nice and moist with a slightly tangy flavour.  My favourite meat on this day was the smoked turkey.  It was incredibly moist and tender with just the perfect kiss of smoke.  I haven't had a lot of smoked turkey at barbecue restaurants, but this was easily the best.

For the sides, I enjoyed the baked beans and the cheesy mac.  The fries were excellent and I liked the pickles and pickled onions.

I found myself back at Paddy's a couple of weeks later, this time with my wife and youngest daughter.  It was about 6:00 on a Saturday evening and we decided to stop in to see if they were open.  Not only were they open, but the place was packed!  A great sign!  We went for the 1/2 family feast this time around which featured brisket, ribs and a 1/4 smoked chicken with two sides.  The brisket was considerably better this time around.  It had the same excellent flavour and bark as on my previous visit, but it was far more tender.  I really enjoyed the ribs.  Like the brisket, they had great flavour and seasoning and they were cooked right to my liking.  For me, that means not quite falling off the bone, but when you bite into them and pull with your teeth, the meat comes off clean.  I had the chance to meet Paddy on this visit and he mentioned that they were tweaking their rib recipe.  I'd say they are on the right track!  The chicken was excellent and was easily my wife's favourite protein.  Much like the turkey on my earlier trip, it was moist and juicy and had just the perfect amount of smoky flavour.

Our sides were the beans and the coleslaw.  The beans were great once again and I liked the coleslaw as well.  The dressing was a little bit on the vinegary side.  I generally enjoy more of a creamy slaw dressing, but this was nice and refreshing.  The vinegar is good for balancing off the heavy meats as well.

Paddy's is an exciting addition to the growing Calgary barbecue scene and it is great to see a joint doing it right.  Get over there and support Paddy's, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Big Sky BBQ Pit

Address: 306016 15th St. E, Okotoks, AB
Smoker: Backwoods
Wood: White Oak, Red Maple, Apple, Cherry & Peach
Head Pitmasters: Rob Bolton & Ryan Lumbao

Imagine realizing that perhaps the best bbq joint in the area is nearly right in your own backyard and you've only been there twice in the last year.  That was the conclusion I came to recently after my second visit to Big Sky BBQ Pit in Okotoks, AB.

My first visit was just over a year earlier in January 2017 when our family was south of Calgary and we met my boss and his kids at Big Sky for lunch.  The big, spacious dining room right away reminded me of a Texas bbq restaurant, as did the communal style tables.  A good first impression!

Texas Style BBQ in Alberta

There is a counter that you place your order at, and then they call your name when your food is ready.  Next to the order counter is a self-serve table with a selection of sauces, including apple and root beer varieties.

I ordered a two meat plate with brisket and sausage, while my family opted for pulled pork sandwiches.  Our sides were cole slaw, cornbread and the signature smoked beans.  The brisket had great flavour and was pull apart tender.  The sausage was also excellent with a good spicy kick to it.  I had a taste of the pulled pork and it was also very good.  The southern slaw was good, but the beans stole the show as far as the sides went.  They were cooked in a thick, sweet sauce and complemented by chunks of smoked meats.

All of our meals were excellent and my only complaint on this visit was the fact that you paid for your food at the counter when ordering, and then paid a server separately for your drinks.

Fast forward a year and I made the trip south again to meet up with a couple of co-workers for lunch on a Sunday afternoon.  They were there when I arrived and they had ordered a Fired Up Pig Tail appetizer already.  I ordered a beer and the appetizer arrived shortly afterwards.  It was a cream cheese stuffed jalapeño wrapped in bacon and a caramel sauce.  We cut it into 3 pieces and each had a bite.  For our tastes, it was beyond spicy.  I enjoy a little heat, but this was too much in my opinion.  Our server suggested we may have got one with some of the seeds left in it which would explain the burning in our mouths!

I was pleased to see that they had fixed the ordering process that I wasn't a fan of from a year earlier.  You now order everything from a server and there is one bill for both food and drink together.  We ordered up the Piggy Chick Platter to share between the 3 of us.  The platter consists of 4 lbs of ribs, 8 chicken thighs, a tub of beans and cornbread.

The Piggy Chick Platter...a mountain of smoked meat!

Another couple that joined us ordered the Carnivore Platter with pulled pork, chicken, ribs and sausage.  It normally also comes with brisket but they were sold out when we were there.  They also ordered sides of the scalloped cheddar bacon potatoes and bacon jalapeño mac n' cheese.

The ribs were outstanding and cooked perfectly.  They serve them dry with just a rub cooked on.  I detected a bit of sweetness in the rub, maybe some brown sugar.  The meat wasn't fall off the bone, but had a great bit and pulled away with little effort.  The smoked chicken thighs were also very good, but were overshadowed by the ribs!  The bone-in chicken was juicy and tender and the skin was well seasoned and had a bit of crispness to it.  The beans were as good (or better) than I remembered from a year ago and the cornbread was also excellent.  It had a smooth, dense texture and great flavour.  Everyone at the table appreciated the fact that there were no chunks of corn as you sometimes find.  The Piggy Chick platter fed all 3 of us and left enough to take home for 2 or 3 lunches.

The friends with the carnivore platter said the pulled pork was good, but they especially enjoyed the sausage.  The server said it was a new variety they were making with maple syrup and cheddar.  The scalloped were potatoes were a hit, but they found the jalapeño mac n'cheese too spicy.

I have been back two more times since that visit in January and I continue to be impressed.  Both times I have had the Hungry Man Platter which comes with 3 meats and a side of those excellent baked beans.  My wife and daughter each went with the pulled pork sandwich with the scalloped potatoes and corn bread.  The pork was served on a delicious herb bread.

Pulled Pork sandwich, scalloped potatoes and corn bread

Between my 3 recent visits I've been able to try all of their meats with the exception of the beef ribs.  Everything has been excellent, but I did find the brisket a little dry on one of my trips, but that will happen.

The Hungry Man Platter, Texas Trinity Style

The maple & cheddar sausage is some of the best I've had anywhere and the pulled pork has great flavour to it, I particularly liked it with a touch of the root beer sauce.

Big Sky boasts a huge outdoor patio and they host a number of special and community events.  One of the things I love most about barbecue is the sense of family and community.  These guys seem to get that and embrace it.  I strongly encourage you to make the short drive from Calgary out to Okotoks to try it for yourself.  I'm certain you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

My Cooks - Smoked Turkey, December 16, 2017

Nothing says Christmas quite like turkey!  Around our house though, we generally do a prime rib for Christmas dinner, so I needed another reason to try smoking a turkey.  Well last week the opportunity presented itself when we invited some good friends over for to celebrate the season with us.  Jackpot!

I picked up about a 15 pound fresh bird at Costco on Friday and stored it in a cooler out on our back deck.  Saturday night I prepared a brine of salt water, some onion and some fresh herbs.  I had picked up a large oven roasting bag and after washing the turkey I placed it in the roasting bag with the cooled brine and it all went back out into the cooler for the night.

Turkey brining in a roasting bag
We woke up to a bit of a windy morning which had me worried about keeping the temperature stable on my Oklahoma Joe Highland, but fortunately the wind calmed down a little by the time I was ready to cook.

I got the smoker going shortly past noon with a couple of chimneys of charcoal and then added some oak and apple chunks before putting the turkey on around 1:30.

Not to toot my own horn, but I've set the bar pretty high when it comes to cooking turkey!  Our friend Keith shared a method for cooking turkey on a propane grill a few years ago and it has become the go to.  We start by peeling the skin back off the breast meat and poking some holes in the breast meat with a knife.  Fresh garlic cloves get inserted into these holes and then the breast meat gets coated with a thin layer of barbecue sauce and then slices of thick cut bacon are placed over the breast meat. You then pull the skin back into place.  We have needed to use toothpicks in the past to hold the skin back in place...just remember how many you use and make sure to get them all out afterwards!  With the skin back, a layer of yellow mustard is spread over the whole bird followed by the rub of your choice and then another layer of bacon.  We then place the turkey in a foil roasting pan with some broth or white wine in the bottom and cook it over indirect heat on the grill.

For this turkey, I had decided to spatchcock the bird to speed up the cooking process, but I figured there was no reason I couldn't prepare the turkey as usual with the all the bacony goodness!  I cut the backbone out, flattened out the bird and went to work.  For the rub, I used Cluck & Squeal.  I get it at my local Barbecues Galore store and I'm quite fond of it.

Seasoned, covered in bacon and ready to go!

Onto the smoker
I had my iGrill2 set for 165 with a probe in each breast.  With the turkey underway, I went to work on the appetizer of pork belly burnt ends.  I had done these once previously and they were great.  I made a big mistake this time when buying the pork belly though and forgot to have the butcher remove the rind.  I quickly realized this when I started cubing up the pork belly to season it for cooking.  This really added to the time it took to cut up the pork belly and hopefully this isn't a mistake I repeat in the future.  We're lucky to have a top notch butcher shop nearby in NW Calgary, Bon Ton Meat Market, and they were happy to remove the rind for me the last time.  Lesson learned!

Once I had the pork belly cubed up, I tossed it in some Cluck & Squeal and spread the pieces out on a grill pan and added them to the smoker alongside the turkey.

Pork Belly Burnt Ends - Bacon Candy! 
The wind and the cooler Alberta weather factored in, but I was able to get the smoker holding pretty steady around 250 degrees.  I added 4 or 5 chimneys of charcoal throughout the cook, along with plenty of oak splits and apple chunks.

We decided kind of last minute to add another appetizer into the mix, some prawns in a butter sauce.  I had seen a posting on Instagram earlier in the day that looked great, so when we were at the grocery store before I started cooking we had grabbed what we needed.

My wife prepared the prawns in a sauce of butter with some lemon juice and worchestershire sauce and tossed in some rosemary for good measure.  Once the pork belly came off the smoker after a couple of hours, I put the prawns on for about 45 minutes to an hour.

To finish off the burnt ends, I tossed the pork belly cubes in some sauce, put them in a foil pan and put them on the propane grill to get yummy!  The smoker was full with the turkey and prawns, and I wanted the higher heat from the grill to crisp them up a bit.

Everyone enjoyed the burnt ends and prawns while we waited for the main course.  To go along with the turkey, we had prepared some mashed potatoes, a cauliflower and broccoli au gratin and corn bread with honey butter.  After about 6 hours the bird was ready to come off.

The finished turkey

I got the turkey carved up and ready to eat, along with that deliciously crispy bacon.  The outer layer of bacon gets nice and crispy during the cook, but the inside layer under the turkey skin stays pretty soggy.

In the end, the turkey was very good, as were the two appetizers I smoked.  With the white breast meat, none of us really noticed any substantial smoke flavour, but I did notice it more on the dark meat.  It was a great meal and a good way to kick off the Christmas season with some special friends.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Skinny's Smoke House, Medicine Hat, AB - July 23, 2017

This is my first blog post about a BBQ joint in Alberta.  Now that I have finished documenting my Texas BBQ adventures, it is time to start writing about the scene closer to home.  It was a busy summer and start to fall for our family, so this post has taken a couple of months to move from draft status to published.

I had the opportunity to visit Skinny's last summer and was impressed with the BBQ, so when we were going to be there again on a Sunday afternoon it seemed like a no brainer to go back!  Our kids had been spending the week with their grandparents in Regina and we were meeting them in Medicine Hat to bring them home, so we planned to meet at Skinny's for lunch before everyone went their own ways.

Skinny's Smoke House, Medicine Hat, AB, Canada

Knowing in advance that we would be there and wanting to expand on my blogging experiences, I contacted the restaurant ahead of time to see if they would have a few minutes to talk with me while I was there.  I promptly received a reply from Jeff Brewster, one of the founders, who said he would be happy to visit.  This was going to be my first 'interview', and I'll admit to being a little anxious about it.

Skinny's is located in a small shopping strip in a largely residential neighbourhood, but it is easily accessed off of the TransCanada Highway, just 3 or 4 minutes from the highway.  My in-laws, with our kids in tow, were waiting inside when we arrived.  We joined them inside and since everyone was hungry it made sense to order and eat and then introduce myself to Jeff afterwards.  You order and pay at the counter and then they call you when your order is ready.

The décor inside Skinny's is very southern BBQ.  It isn't a big place and they have 4 large communal tables that fill the dining area.  Murals painted on the walls along with a pretty decent licence plate collection and some other knick knacks give it a casual and comfortable down home feel.

The license plate collection at Skinny's

The menu here is pretty standard BBQ joint fare; pulled pork, brisket, ribs, sausage and chicken for the meats.  Their regular sides are baked beans, potato salad and slaw and they have different daily special sides that they offer. 

The menu board

We all ordered individual meals and the pulled pork sandwich seemed to be the popular choice, with everyone except myself going that route.  I opted for the 2 meat plate with ribs and brisket, with slaw and the feature side of the day, corn bread topped with honey butter.  My order came accompanied by a dinner roll and some house-made pickles.  The ribs and brisket were served sauce free, with 3 sauce options available on the tables.  The pork rib portion of my order was 3 meaty ribs with a tasty, but not overpowering rub cooked on.  They were very good and came off the bone without too much effort, although I did think they could have used just a little more time in the smoker.  When my 11 year old saw what I had, she asked to try a rib and she also enjoyed it.

My daughter's partially eaten pulled pork sandwich with corn bread

Next up was the brisket.  The serving was two thick slices of meaty goodness.  The slices were probably double the thickness of what I've become used to getting in Texas.  My first thought was that they were trying to hide something, but after one bite I was convinced that it was just how they roll at Skinny's.  I've heard of places slicing their brisket thick when it is overcooked and too crumbly to slice thinner...not the case here.  Even with the extra thickness I was able to pull it apart with my fingers.  It was moist and delicious with a good bark on it.  The fat was nicely rendered and melted in my mouth.  A little dip of the meat in their regular sauce added to the flavour party happening!

My two meat plate with ribs and brisket

The cornbread was really good and the honey butter drizzled over top gave it an awesome sweetness. I really enjoyed the coleslaw and the house made pickles were great.

After we ate I went over and introduced myself to Jeff.  While we sat down to chat he was testing out some smoked chicken wings and offered me one to try.  It was great with a really tasty rub, a little bit of spice and also some brown sugary sweetness.  Definitely something they can consider adding to the regular menu!

Skinny's has been open in Medicine Hat since 2013 and Jeff is the co-owner along with Todd Lindsay.  At the time both men were looking for a change of scenery career wise.  Jeff was on a waterskiing trip in Florida and visited a BBQ spot in Auburndale, FL called Peebles Bar-B-Q; and that is where he caught the BBQ bug!  Soon after, he and Todd took a trip through the southern states doing research that took them through Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  I asked Jeff if there were any stops on their trip that stood out for him.  He mentioned Q39 in Kansas City as having the best pulled pork he had tasted.  They visited LA Barbecue and Stiles Switch in Austin and Riscky's BBQ in Fort Worth.  Jeff mentioned that a couple of places in Danville, KY and Tulsa also stood out, but the names escaped him.  There is a great mural painted on one of the walls inside the restaurant depicting their journey.

Jeff & Todd's Excellent BBQ Adventure!

They cook on an Ole Hickory gas assist smoker using primarily cherry and apple wood, although Jeff mentioned that they had been experimenting with smoking some fish using mesquite.  Jeff also let me in on the fact that construction has started on a new location on the west side of Medicine Hat in a new commercial area just off the highway with a much larger capacity, between 150 and 170.  They are also selling their sauces commercially in area grocery stores.

These guys are making great BBQ out in Medicine Hat and I look forward to visiting them again and checking out the new location once it opens.  If you find yourself around Medicine Hat, definitely go and find Skinny's!  Support your local pit master and eat more BBQ!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Houston 2017 Trip Wrap Up

This will be my final blog entry about my February 2017 trip to Texas.  I have already written about most of the great BBQ experiences I had, and wanted to do up a quick entry on a couple of others places I had the chance to visit while in Houston. 

I was down there for work, which spilled into the evening on a few occasions, so unfortunately I did not have much opportunity to visit Houston area BBQ spots, even though I did have a list of places I hoped to visit while I was there.

One of my Calgary work colleagues happened to be down there at the same time with his wife and we met up at Pizzitola's.  They are famous for their spareribs and have an interesting story.  They have a 70 + year old brick pit in the restaurant that they cook on.  Houston does not allow such pits in restaurants anymore for safety reasons, but Pizzitola's pit has been grandfathered in and is still allowed.  They problem they have is that they cannot do any renovations or expansions because that would void the allowance for the pit, so it puts them in a bit of a tough spot.  That said, it is a neat old place with lots of pictures and historical mementos on the walls.  We all ordered the ribs since that is what they are known for, and also because by dinner time they were out of a couple other meats.  The ribs weren't they best I've had, but they were pretty good.  All in all it was a good BBQ meal shared with some good company!

The other place that I'm not going to dedicate a whole blog entry to is Pappas BBQ.  Pappas is a chain restaurant that is part of a larger group of restaurants and they have a number of locations in Houston, including one in Humble not far from my airport hotel.  I've been there on past trips and while it is a big commercial operation, the BBQ is decent, they always have everything available, the portions are generous with good sides and I love their pecan pie!  I bought a whole pecan pie this trip to bring back home to Calgary for the family.  When I leave the office late and don't feel like exploring some area of Houston away from my hotel, it's nice to have Pappas to fall back on for a good BBQ dinner!

All in all, I had some wonderful BBQ experiences on this trip and really that is what led to this blog.  I have already started making a list of new places I want to get to on my next trip south and I look forward to sharing those stories with you.  Until then, I am going to start writing about some of the joints closer to home that I have had the opportunity to visit.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Roegels Barbecue - last stop on the journey

It was March 4, 2017 and it was my last day in Houston on this work trip.  I had an early evening flight back to Calgary, which left me time for one more BBQ stop before heading to the airport.

Based on my thorough and in-depth social media research I had my sights set on Roegels Barbecue Co. in Houston.  I hoped it would be a fitting finish to what had been a great stretch of gluttony the previous 8 or 9 days!  I got myself checked out of the hotel and headed out.

Roegels is located west of the city centre, so it was a bit of a drive from my airport hotel. Despite my phone's spotty (at best) GPS performance, I made it in reasonable time without any wrong turns, other than driving past the restaurant on my first pass!  A quick turnaround at the shopping centre a block or two up the road and I was pulling into the parking lot. 

Not sure how I missed the sign!

Roegels is located in the building that previously housed a Baker's Ribs location, which was owned and operated by Russell Roegels.  A few years back he decided to cut ties with the chain and open his own joint.  In 2014 Roegels Barbecue Co. opened their doors and the accolades started coming.  They were recently named to the list of the Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine.

The interior decor of the restaurant is nice, although fairly typical.  It has a relaxed, casual feel to it, with lots of wood and western style decorations.  The photo on my blog's home page came from inside the restaurant.

I approached the counter and was greeted by a very friendly man named Bruce.  With Bruce's help, I opted for the three meat plate with the Texas trinity of brisket, pork ribs, and sausage, but instead of the usual sausage  I switched it up for a link of their boudin sausage, something I had been wanting to try but that isn't very common in and around Houston (more of a Louisiana and East Texas specialty).  For my 2 sides, I went with coleslaw and Texas Caviar, a salad made with black eyed peas, corn and peppers.

I had tweeted them earlier that I was coming by, and when Bruce asked me if I was on a BBQ tour, I suspected that he had seen the tweet.  My suspicion was heightened when I overheard Bruce telling the meat cutter to make sure he gave me a nice piece of brisket (they did) because I would be taking pictures of it!  Whatever the reason, the tray of BBQ that I received looked outstanding.  I loaded up on pickles and some bread and grabbed a seat.  The place wasn't packed for early on a Saturday afternoon, but there was a steady flow of people coming in. 

The Texas Trinity with slaw and Texas Caviar

Folks, they are serving up some excellent BBQ here.  The ribs were outstanding with a great bite.  The brisket is right up there with anything I've tried and the thick peppery bark was outstanding.  I really enjoyed my first taste of boudin, some different flavours than I'm used to, but really good.  The coleslaw and the house made pickles were great and the Texas Caviar was a nice alternative to the traditional sides.

The only downside to my experience was my choice in dessert, but that is totally on me.  I was full after lunch and decided to get a dessert to go, thinking I would eat it later at the airport while waiting for my flight. The idea was good, but the execution in choosing the bourbon banana pudding was a mistake.  So was not making sure I grabbed a spoon.  By the time I got around to eating it, the pudding had warmed up and was a little runny...especially trying to eat it with a plastic fork.  The pecan cobbler probably would have been a better option.  Live and learn!

Like I said earlier, the food here is top notch.  The restaurant has a great ambience, the service was super friendly and in my opinion they are worthy of their Top 50 ranking. This is by far the best BBQ I have experienced in the Houston area.  Roegels is definitely worth a stop and I will absolutely try and get back there on future trips to Houston.