Is Houston the new BBQ capital of Texas?

Brisket from Papa Charlie's. Copyright 2015 D. Laurel
Brisket from Papa Charlie’s. Copyright 2015 D. Laurel

Texas is well known for its love of barbecuing. We take it pretty seriously and people are always looking for ways they can bring more flavor to their BBQs. From smoking it for as long as possible to using a type of bbq pellet that creates a rich, smoky flavor – there are tonnes of ways you can bring out the best of some BBQ ribs. The Houston BBQ Festival is the perfect example of just how good BBQing can get with award-winning food being served there every year.

The Houston BBQ Festival is an opportunity for Houston-area pitmasters to showcase their talents to a wide range of barbecue fans. Though not a barbecue competition, the festival definitely brought the best out of each participant, and I dare say, Houston may be catching central Texas as the BBQ capital.
Jokingly dubbed by some as the ‘beef rib’ festival, there were still plenty of booths serving up items other than beef. Patrick Feges was drawing ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from spectators as he plunked down his halves of whole hog. Other standouts included smoked duck from Oak Leaf Smokehouse and a Boudin-stuffed pork roll from CorkScrew BBQ. (All of which delicious).

Whole hog from Patrick Feges. Copyright 2015, D.Laurel.
Whole hog from Patrick Feges. Copyright 2015, D.Laurel.

So what does this mean for Houston and its growing barbecue scene?
It means that despite rising beef prices there is still demand, and high expectations, for great barbecue. Killen’s will continue to draw crowds like it did at the festival, but places like Gatlin’s BBQ, Pappa Charlies, Ray’s Barbecue Shack, and the like, are making everyone else around Texas- and beyond, take notice.
The festival was also a great event for Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor to gauge interest. Though

Lamb chop from Louie Mueller Barbecue. Copyright 2015. D. Laurel
Lamb chop from Louie Mueller Barbecue. Copyright 2015. D. Laurel

barbecue fans should already know the name, his hope to open another location in Houston was backed by the amount of people that waited in his line for his offerings that included a tasty lamb chop.
The event itself was put on masterfully by JC Reid of the Houston Chronicle, Michael Fulmer and the rest of the Houston BBQ Festival crew. There was plenty of space to move around, food lines moved relatively quickly, and the band played music that most could appreciate.
That being said, there are a few things I would have liked to have known or seen, and maybe can be done in the future. Here’s a quick little list of what the kids call these days, Pro Tips:

Personal suggestions:

a) Bring a tray. The pros were walking around filling up a tray with samples to take back to the table and enjoy.
b) If you do bring a tray to load up, I’d suggest a permanent marker to write down where each sample came from. Not all booths put their business cards in with the sample (hint, hint).
c) Sunscreen! Even if it’s cloudy you’ll get burned. The festival is in a parking lot, and when those tents filled up it got hot really quickly.

Festival suggestions:

a) Need a second drink station. Once general admission came in- the line for beverages never ended. There was plenty of space to accommodate another drink station, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
b) This is a nit-pick, but the samples were too big to try and taste what everyone was offering. I know business owners wanted to showcase as much as possible, but with bigger portions came less amount of meat to last the entire day. Some booths were starting to cut the pieces much smaller as the day went on once they realized they were going to run out.
c) Keep the VIP offerings. It’s a great incentive, and if you were lucky enough to try something special it was worth it. (Suggestions aren’t always bad, y’all)
d) This is a bit of a stretch, but I’d like to see a little booklet with each of the locations featured in it. In the back, maybe a space for tasting notes, so people can use previously mentioned marker to write down what they thought of each booth and decide where they want to go back for seconds.

Thanks to the Houston BBQ festival for allowing me to attend and cover the event. Definitely looking forward revisiting a handful of these places again in the near future.

Did you attend the festival? Let us know what your standouts were in the comment section below.
Look for us on Instagram (Txbrewandbbq) to see other pictures from the event.

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