BBQ Road Map 2016 - 2017

BBQ Road Map 2016 - 2017

Always on the lookout for good bar-b-cue, Katherine and her my Mr. Wonderful will travel far and wide for a memorable, smoked meal. Here's our 2016 - 2017 line-up - a running list. Includes pointers on how to navigate food issues (low-FODMAP, gluten-free, dairy-free) on the BBQ scene.

OK, I love good bar-b-cue. Or is it barbecue, bar-b-que, barbeque, or BBQ. However, you want to spell it, I LOVE it. I'm a Texas girl, remember? I basically have hardwood smoke flowing through my veins. No, really, I do.

As my Mr. Wonderful and I journey across the great state of Texas and beyond, we will report back to you our findings of amazing BBQ in one place, right here, folks. Also, we will keep you up-to-date on tips and tricks to navigate the pit lingo with food sensitivities.

Everyone, well, except vegans, can enjoy a hearty meal at almost any BBQ joint. And even if you are not in love with the flavor of a particular BBQ style, you can still have a blast visiting with the locals and getting to know the pit crew. BBQ is all about the people you meet along the way.

Food Issue Pointers

  • BE PREPARED: Call ahead to talk to someone who knows the ingredients if you are concerned about food issues. The nice thing about BBQ joints is that they are small and usually operated by a loyal, long-time crew who really knows every single ingredient. On most days, you can even find the pitmaster (read: boss), who certainly knows all of the ingredients by heart.
  • WHEAT: Most BBQ joints include bread with the order. So if you are low-FODMAP, then eat a (one) piece of bread with your sliced meats. If you are celiac, then by all means, tell the servers no bread and that you have an allergy so that they will change their gloves and not double-dip serving utensils; no mac 'n cheese for you, and most corn pudding is off-limits, too.
  • RUBS: In Texas, most meats are simply seasoned with black pepper and salt, especially when it comes to brisket (one well-seasoned BBQ friend tells me that the further east one gets the more garlic appears in rubs, so be aware). This simple spice blend is good news to low-FODMAPpers who are sensitive to onion and garlic and also especially good news to migraine-sufferers who need to be wary of hidden MSG.
  • SAUSAGE: Sausage is not usually safe for persons with food issues. Too many unknowns including occasional dairy and gluten.
  • CHICKEN: A BBQ pitmaster hand to one of Texas' greats informed me that some chickens have a onion-based mop (that is, the liquid that is brushed on at the beginning of the BBQ process for this poultry in order to make it crispy and delicious). To avoid, simply remove the cracklin' skin from the bird prior to eating if you have trouble with onions (remember, they are water-soluble). I will do some more investigative work to see if the same holds true for turkey. Stay tuned.
  • SAFE SIDES: Lately, almost every BBQ joint that I have visited has a plain baked potato on the sides menu! This is awesome for those of us who abstain from veggies loaded with sauces and onions and garlic. A nice, simple starch that we can feel good about eating. Sometimes you can find another side that works for you, such as cole slaw (always ask what the ingredients are and what type of mayonnaise or vinegar they use), and fresh corn. Honestly, I sometimes pack a fresh side salad from home to take on the road so that I feel full of "safe" veg when sampling smoked meats.
  • SAUCE: Yes, most BBQ sauce has lots of garlic and onion. A small portion is FODMAP safe. And, honestly, in Texas, we don't use much sauce, if any. The true flavor of the meat should always shine through and not need to be hidden by sauce.
  • SWEET: OK, friends. Y'all know that I love a little something to satisfy my sweet tooth. It can be hard to find something that fits the medical diet bill at a BBQ joint, truth be told. The usual dessert line ups include cobbler (beware stone fruits, blackberries, etc. and wheat), banana pudding (beware migraine-triggering bananas and wheat and dairy), pecan pie (beware migraine-triggering nuts and wheat), and occasionally, if you're super lucky, cake and ice cream (beware wheat and dairy). In my pre-gluten-free days, when I was simply low-FODMAPping, I'd go for a bite of pecan pie or a bite of cake...but only if they are homemade. I hear rumors of one joint considering a gluten-free dessert soon, and I will keep you posted!
  • SIESTA: After a meal heavy on the 'que, I find it a good idea to rest my body, including my stomach. That means a simple, vegetarian dish for the next major meal. Of course, I take home leftover BBQ, but I save that for serving up the next day's dinner.

Calling All BBQ Critics

Tell me where I should eat! Use the comments below, and I will check it out and report back to you my findings.

The Joints (in alpha order)

  1. CorkScrew BBQ – 26608 Keith St., Spring, TX

    If you live in suburbia, consider yourself a Hipster, and fancy yourself a BBQ expert, well then bless your heart. Nestled in Old Town Spring, just north of Houston, Corkscrew is a breath of fresh air amongst all of the antique and boutique shops. We were informed by Bo$$ Hogg that all rubs contain salt, pepper, and a special spice blend rub (not injected) which does include “small amounts” of garlic, which may be troublsome for those of us with stomach issues (I was successful in removing the bark of my meat in order to avoid the garlic). They smoke on red oak only, which lends a unique, clean flavor to the meats. Honestly, I’ve had better brisket and turkey, not that the meat was bad, just not memorable. The amazing pluses to this joint include a delineated list of gluten-free items, multiple safe and extremely fresh veg choices (baked potato, spinach salad), real sugar cokes by Texas’ Oak Cliff Beverage Works (no high fructose corn syrup here), and a clean restaurant with not much smoke scent. One downside is the obvious lack of BBQ knowledge by their audience, as evidenced by the menu having a BBQ for Dummies vibe (they spell out the difference between lean and moist brisket and tell you how much meat to order per person, for example)…which bothers me because they are having to cater their flavor and cuts to the masses and not to me…which makes me want to find them at a competition and sample their unrestricted creative style. Décor? Hipster meets Miss Piggy’s Boudoir.
  2. Goode Co. (as in Company) BBQ - 5109 Kirby Dr., Houston, TX

    I'm a native Houstonian, and I love Goode Co. It is simple BBQ with a good Mesquite smoke and predictable flavor. I have no idea about the above as to why. Their brisket-loaded baked potato is so good and comforting. Splurge on their Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie; really, do yourself a favor and get it. For years, I have seen the same faces behind the counter on the line, and this loyalty makes me happy...and it makes me feel safe eating here to know there is consistency from the wood to the spices to the quality of meat to the people. Eat outside with the real Texans, and hum to a classic country song while chomping on your good smoked meats. East Texas memorabilia decor.
  3. Hays Co. (as in County) Bar-B-Que - 1612 S. Interstate 35, San Marcos, TX

    Careful, you might miss it, but definitely loop back around on the highway and try the feeder again. During the week, the parking lot is full of government and service vehicles. Yes, I judge a BBQ joint by the make and model of the trucks out front, and this one attracts the best kind of BBQ eaters - the hungry, working persons! Hays' Mesquite and Post Oak smoked meats all look delicious, and they serve the coveted beef rib. Brisket was butter-like delicious, as was potato salad. Pass on the desserts...nothing fancy. I need to make another stop here to have my Mr. Wonderful sample the sausage on my behalf as I hear it is one of Texas' best! Standard BBQ eatery decor. Cool, breezy outdoor patio and band stage with live music, beer, and fun on weekends.
  4. Killen's Texas Barbecue - 3613 E. Broadway St., Pearland, TX

    Long lines are totally worth the wait. One of the few venues open on Sundays...and go on a Sunday, peeps, as they offer an amazing Southern fried chicken that will bring you closer to heaven than you have ever been (warning: not gluten-free)! Back to the BBQ, they use a blend of Pecan, Oak, and Mesquite to make mouthwatering smoked meats. The brisket is delicious yet on the fatty side, so if ordering a chopped beef sandwich or loaded potato, then ask for your meat to be sliced brisket so that you can trim the fat away. My Mr. Wonderful loves the ribs here, especially beef ribs. Look closely at the crowd; you might spot Texans' football player J.J. Watt! Standard BBQ diner decor. I prefer dining outside under their nice pavilion for a warm bit of sun and to take a gander at the pits and peeps.
  5. Update January 18, 2017: We enjoyed a memorable TMBBQ behind the pit dinner and one-on-one with class-act Ronnie Killen and uber-knowledgable and equally friendly Manny Torres. The take-home message from the masters: great quality ingredients including wood shine through every time. The pork belly is like candy, every side is amaze-balls (if you get lucky and ever see brussels sprouts on the menu, get it!). Their recent dinner service is a great way to take in this tasty joint without the hassle of the lunch crowd.

  6. Kreuz Market - 768 N. Earl Rudder Freeway, Bryan, TX

    On the road just north of College Station is one of Kreuz Market's newest satellite locations. The brand has been around since 1900, and well, folks, this location is surviving on reputation and not execution. Do your taste buds a favor and keep driving away from the smoke. My Mr. Wonderful wants to rename this place Creosote Market! Overpowering stench of accumulated ash and dirty smokers fills the air of this cold joint. The brisket was the wrong, too gray, color and lacked a memorable quality other than the awful, greasy smoke aftertaste that lingered from lunch through dinnertime. And there were no options for food sensitive peeps like me...not a plain veg or starch in site! Ugh. I should have guessed this was not the place for me when the parking lot was wide open in the middle of the weekday lunch hour! Sparse, industrial, smoke-laden decor.
  7. Pappa Charlies Barbeque – 2012 Rusk St., Houston, TX

    Located in the east side of Houston’s downtown area is an amazing BBQ joint run by Wesley Jurena, a proud U.S.A. Veteran who knows his way around the pit. What I love about this place: totally comforting, not pretentious, good, clean smoked meats. They use salt and pepper only on all meats with the exception of chicken and ribs, and the wood smoke is post oak for a crisp flavor. Their brisket is “like candy” and the pork ribs are “a delight” according to my Mr. Wonderful. The turkey is moist and flavorful with a good bark for a turkey…gobble-woof! A BBQ friend says that the mac ‘n cheese is out of this world, and we will trust his judgment as no one in our City-Ranch household is able to sample such dairy fare. Owner is on-site and engaged with customers whether in person or on social media which makes me confident that the consistency and quality are of utmost importance. Can’t wait to make this our regular hometown BBQ spot. Atmosphere is industrial sports bar meets the family pit, perfect for visiting with friends old and new before the big game.
  8. Snow's BBQ - 516 Main St., Lexington, TX

    Nestled in a typically quaint central Texas town, down a few side streets, nearby the auction house is an unassuming BBQ joint with mostly street and grass parking. Snow's BBQ might not have fancy digs; what is does have is charm and a well-earned list of kudos as long as I-10. Pitmasters Kerry Bexley and Tootsie Tomanetz work up the crowd's appetite long before one takes a first, flavorful bite...clean, post oak smoke wafts through the country air and lures folks in, youngsters, old-timers, bikers, and preps alike. Open Saturday's only, put this one on your must-eat list; and get there early to score the coveted pork steak. Did you hear me?! GET THE PORK STEAK! I was told by Tootsie's hand that her secret is salt, for everything. Whatever her secrets, she's the First Lady of the BBQ Pit in my book, and her word is as good as golden chicken cracklin'. Leave room for Ms. P's famous coleslaw and potato salad, the perfect flavor and texture compliments to the smoky-savory BBQ; they will make you want to kiss the person sitting next to you on the family-style outdoor picnic bench. I hear the banana pudding should not be missed, if you are able to handle the dairy and the wheat. Kerry is a kind man who takes ownership seriously and is willing to answer any food issue query. Raw onions are present in small quantities in the potato salad; no garlic is used in either side (I did not inquire about the endless, gratis beans); vinegar based cole slaw; rubs are simple salt and pepper only for all meats. Mr. Clay, the right hand man to the pitmaster duo, was open to share that the mop used for the chicken does contain onion, so I simply removed the skin prior to stuffing my face with that moist meat. Oh, and BYOB, friends (I saw a group of ladies partying it up at 10:00AM with mimosas!). Family-style outdoor dining in a get-to-know-your-neighbor friendly way with great people-watching of the diners and the smokers. And listen up for an amazing classic country legends serenade courtesy of the guy across the way in the antiques barn.
  9. Southside Market and Barbeque - 534 Hwy 71 W, Bastrop, TX

    Owner Bryan Bracewell's second location of this Texas institution that probably served my grandpa's grandpa their legendary, Post Oak smoked meats and sausage. True meat market style BBQ, which is how BBQ originated in this state. Great selection of cuts ready for your smoker in addition to cooked fare ready to go in your mouth right then and there. Their cobbler selection changes daily, and they are all wicked tasty. My Mr. Wonderful's favorite BBQ selection is the all-beef sausage with a side of brisket. Grab some thick, uncooked bacon to fry up the next morning; thank me later. Fresh and clean BBQ diner decor on the eat-in side; traditional butcher shop decor on the meat market side.
  10. Update July 28, 2016: Southside messaged Deliberate Fare with the following awesome and important information: They offer a fresh garden side salad and an entree size salad which can be ordered meatless; great to know for vegans and vegetarians! For any gluten-free patrons, please mention your allergy upon arrival to a manager, and the staff will follow their protocol to reset the serving line in order to avoid cross-contamination. This line is my favorite, "And of course, we never use MSG. Other places may use it to add a meaty flavor. We just add meat!" - classic!

  11. Truth Barbeque - 2990 Highway 290 W, Brenham, TX

    Boy, howdy! We made the picturesque drive from Houston to Brenham on a pleasant Sunday afternoon to find that this popular joint sells out quickly on Sundays...get there early or go home sorry. Pitmaster Leonard Botello treated us hungry travelers well and loaded us up with the last beef rib and turkey slices and all the fixin's. Let me tell you, that beef rib was huge and meaty, just like Fred Flintstone would have loved (note: beef ribs are a Saturday luxury only). And the turkey, juicy as any bird could ever want to be, not your typical Thanksgiving dry poultry here. Mama Truth bakes the prettiest layer cakes and sells them by the slice; get a piece, friend. They offer free beer...yes, free. Cool, Texas chic decor.
  12. Update August 18, 2016: Returned to Truth for a sample of brisket and of course a slice of Mama Truth's fab chocolate layer cake. Brisket was tender, juicy, and had a glorious beefy flavor that I can still taste if I close my eyes. Cake...that cake...let's just say, that when one dreams of chocolate layer cake, this should be the iconic image and flavor. P.S. My slice of cake was the first removed from this tower of dark chocolate goodness; there's something so satisfying about having the first slice of cake. Anyways, I went back to grab two slices of cake to go (one for my sweet, pregnant neighbor and one for moi - oink, oink), and can you believe that the entire rest of the cake was snatched up by another patron right before my very eyes! Oh, well. We took home a slice of the strawberry funfetti cake, a pretty in pink number fit for any preggers member of the breakfast club (cake for breakfast is for champions!).

Special Thanks

Thanks to the self-proclaimed BBQ Snob, Mr. Daniel Vaughn of Texas Monthly and for his mention of our BBQ Road Map 2016 article in his BBQ News: 07/29 - 08/04.