Heavy's Outdoor Bar-B-Que


9/5/14 12:16pm -  I was six days too late to run into Daniel Vaughn eating at Heavy's.  I did not eat the same BBQ he did.  This was once the location of McBees, which made top 50 back in 2008.  The name may have changed but the quality has not.

I scored Heavy's a 90 out of 100.  This is Grand Champion Texas BBQ.

Smoke:  Mesquite.  Well I knew I would run into this sooner or later.  The combination of a gasser and wood fired pit.  The same two twin pits that made McBees famous are still in use today, but behind them is a Southern Pride.  I am guessing the briskets start out in the pit and spend the night in the gasser.  Around 145F the smoke ring process stops and so does smoke flavor.  At this point your pit becomes a oven.  Only bark and fat benefit from the smoke past this point.

Brisket:  Excellent.  Top 50 quality.  A 5/16in impressive red smoke ring underneath a big black bark.  Near perfect tenderness, silky and moist.  Smokey fat rendered well.  Full smoke flavor with a salty rub.  No sauce needed.

Ribs:  Very Good.  I wished these ribs tasted as good as they looked.  They scored high on tenderness but lack of flavor hurt.  A bronze bark with pink meat.  A soft bite left a clean bone.  Near perfect tenderness.  The seasoning was visible but all the flavor had vanished. Surprisingly very little smoke flavor (gasser ribs?)  These ribs only had one flavor, pork.  Use the sauce.

Sausage:  Excellent.  Anytime I see a smoke ring in a sausage, I get a little excited.  At first bite I knew this was a winner.  A beef/pork mixture with bold traditional spice.  Just enough salt to makes it pop with flavor.  The garlic and pepper leaves a long lasting aftertaste.  No sauce needed.  According to DV's article, they purchase this sausage from Pollok's Market in Falls City, Tx.  Its a fifth generation recipe dating back to 1854.  A fabulous link and a real connection to the old world.

Sauce:  Good.  An average thin tangy sauce that does the job.  Make sure you get it on the side.


                                    Heavy's Outdoor Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Texas Bar-B-Que House


8/15/14 12:17 - I am starting to notice a trend here.  Houston Greeks are really bad at Texas BBQ. They took over the restaurant back in 1983.  The joint dates back to the 1960's.  They serve both BBQ and home style meals.

I scored Texas Bar-B-Que House a 71 out of 100.  This is Bum Steer BBQ.

Smoke:  Mesquite and Hickory.  An ancient Oyler is beneath the smoke stack.  Owner says its the "original" and dates back to 1946.  She claims she has the "papers".  I think she was implying this was the original in Houston.  Not sure exactly what she has.  She may be mistaken about the date. The patent for Oyler was filed in 1968.  The first pits were named Lean-To Smokehouse Ovens and built by the inventor Herbert J Oyler. Mr Oyler died in 1973.  Since she has "papers" one can assumed this was a purchased item.  She may have an original Lean-To Smokehouse built by Herbert J Oyler and that would be very very cool.

Brisket: Fair.  An 1/8 in smoke ring beneath a thin bark.  Overcooked and crumbled under the fork.  Could not detect a rub, the only flavors were beef and smoke.  Very dry.  Use the sauce.

Ribs:  Good.  Served one spare rib cut into two halves. Nice pink smoke ring beneath a bronze bark.  Bite required some tearing and ate tough of tender.  There was a fabulous black pepper seasoning.  Great smoke and great flavor.  No sauce needed.  Best item on the plate.

Sausage:  Fair.  You cant really taste filler but you can recognized its texture.  This sausage had a lot of filler.  It had mild spice flavor and very little after taste.  Smoke was very mild also.  Use the sauce.

Sauce:  Very Good.  A thick tangy sweet dark red sauce that can cover up some bland meats.

Texas Barbecue House on Urbanspoon

The Granary 'Cue and Brew

1900's house

8/8/14 11:06am - If this is the future of Texas BBQ, I only have one thing to say.....BRING IT!.  I don't care what they serve at night because they are serving some killer Texas BBQ for lunch.  The lunch and dinner menu are totally different.  A total food snob joint.  The chef is probably a shoe end for the Jimmy Beard award or something.  They have hand crafted beers, an eclectic dinner menu, and they doing some fun stuff with smoke like the pastrami short rib.  According to the chef, they "honor the past tradition of Texas BBQ with their lunch menu and look towards the future of Texas BBQ with their dinner menu".  Gee whiz thanks.

I scored The Granary 'Cue & Brew a 95 out of 100.  This is Grand Champion Texas BBQ.  Oh yeah, they made Texas Monthly top 50 for 2013 like that even matters.
Wood Fired

Smoke:  Oak.  Big stacks of oak in front of the wood fired Olyer pit are on proud display on the side of a quaint 1900's house. The house belong to a German family who worked at the Pearl Brewery.  That's cool. According to the chef they use smoke as a perfume.  Cute, the foodies will love you.  I can see how the Olyer is the tool of choice for these modernist pit masters.
The red stuff is Pastrami!

Brisket:  Excellent.  I have been suffering for weeks searching for a slice this good!  A 1/16 in smoke ring beneath well seasoned black bark.  A near perfect score on tenderness.  Every bite moist, silky and pull apart tender.  No knife needed.  The smoke, oh my the smoke.  Every bite of meat, bark or fat was under its spell.  I could smell it on my fingertips hours later and just smiled (the wife thought it was creepy). The whole slice ate like a tender juicy burnt end. No sauce needed at all.  It was almost the perfect slice but for the 1/16 inch smoke ring?!  Come on....gassers produce a bigger smoke ring.

Ribs:  Excellent.  I have not been wowed by a pork rib in weeks until now.  These cute little St Luis or baby backs were like meat candy.  Near perfect tender with soft bite and clean bone underneath a reddish bronze color.  They looked as good as they ate.  You could taste all the smoke, seasoning, and porkyness flavors. They had a subtle sweetness. One bite and you can't put them down.  No sauce needed.

Sausage:  Very Good and Unique.  Are they grinding up filet mignon to make beef sausage?  Seriously, this beef was as succulent and luxurious as a fine steak. A large course ground loose beef link with bold traditional spice and mild after taste.  The smoke was mild.  The casing was kinda tough but after first bite you get over it. I love the pink center.  They should ask you at what temp do you want your sausage served. I like medium rare please.  No sauce or steak sauce needed.  Warning: you will need a napkin.
Yellow smear is mustard for Pastrami!

Sauce:  Excellent.  A dark brown semi thick very tangy sauce.  Its strong apple cider vinegar flavor made it a stand out.  It has an over powering effect so use it sparingly.  Nothing here needs sauce but its fun to dip a bite or two.

PASTRAMI!!:  Grand Slam Home Run.  If you are lucky enough to be in San Antonio for lunch on a Friday, there is no other choice than The Granary.  This blows away all deli pastrami.  Don't decide between brisket or pastrami, just get them both.  A bright cherry red center from top to bottom from the brine process beneath a well seasoned black bark. Just as tender as the brisket.  Just as smokey as the brisket. And it tastes like barbecue pastrami!  How come nobody in Texas thought of this before?

Craft beers

The Pearl Connection

The Granary Cue & Brew on Urbanspoon

Waller County Line BBQ


7/28/14 11:46am - This place sure knows how to pull in the clients flying down Hwy 290.  Bright signage, big black steel pits and blue smoke.  No doubt they are serving wood fired barbecue.  My advise is to keep on driving.  You are not missing out on anything.

I scored Waller County Line BBQ a 67 out of 100.  This is Bum Steer BBQ.

What are they used for?

Smoke:  Oak.  Under the banner "The Pit Crew" is a fenced off area with big black steel pits.  Large stack of Oak wood.  The billowing blue smoke leaves no doubt this is wood fired something.

No smoke ring, nada!
Brisket:  Poor.  No smoke ring.  No bark.  My first thought was "Did they cut it off?"  Closer examination revealed it was never there to begin with.  Pre-sliced big hunks of brown beef.  It look like roast beef and ate like roast beef.  Are the pits for show?  Overcooked way past tender, it dried up and crumbled on my plate all by itself. One of the worst excuses for Texas Brisket I have ever had.  Drown the plate in sauce. They should refuse any requests for sauce on the side. They should only sell chopped beef.  Hell they should just take brisket off the menu.

Ribs:  Fair.  A thin spare rib with zero smoke ring.  There was a paper thin bark and grey pork beneath.  I had to wait a little in line as they did not have any ribs ready to serve.  First bite was cold!  Yep, these are re-heated left over ribs!  You have to try to be this bad.  They were overcooked past tender and dry.  They had a rubbery texture from spending the night in the frig.  Little flavor except pork.  Little smoke again begs the question "What is inside those pits!?".  Use the sauce and demand your ribs are re-heated fully.

Sausage:  Very Good.  A course ground mostly beef link.  Great traditional spice with mild after taste.  A great smokey dark casing (Oh! the pits are for the sausage, I get it now).  No sauce needed.  Get the one meat plate and save some money.

Sauce:   Very Good.  I guess Waller is too close to Houston because they follow the Houston formula: Great Sauce + average BBQ = Houston BBQ. They serve two sauces, one mild and one spicy.   They are equally great.  The mild is a thick tangy sweet ketchup based sauce that could make liver taste great.  It coats the meats well and hides how bad the BBQ is here.  The spicy sauce has a little heat and its a little thinner than the mild.  Use either one generously and drown the whole plate.
Used to keep warm


Waller County Line BBQ on Urbanspoon

Lyfe Tyme Wood Fired Brisket

7/5/14 - I bought this Lyfe Tyme pit for one reason: wood fired barbeque.  Up until now I have used charcoal for my heat source and wood chunks for smoke flavor.  My focus has been on controlling temperature and charcoal works very well.  I use a chimney starter so I can measure whole or half chimneys of charcoal.  I use an old Weber Smokey Joe as a base to set the starter on.

Since I have not set the backyard on fire yet, I think it works well.  With firebox vent at half open and stack at half open my pit averages around 230F to 250F.  I have had the pit for a year now.  Time to grow up. Charcoal is for wimps.  Real pit men use wood.  Cave men use wood.  I want to be a cave man.

The problem I have with wood is the wood.  My firebox is limited by two support bars for grill. They are only about 13" apart.  I have had little luck finding wood that will fit inside my firebox.  I have managed to collect a lot of smoke wood too big for my pit.  Without a chainsaw (birthday gift anyone?), I have not found a good way to cut it to size.

But wait, they have now started to sell mini logs at local groceries (H.E.B) and sporting goods stores  (Academy).  These babies are 8 to 10 inches long.  Perfect!

They are not "seasoned" naturally so I have concerns about being too green.  I found these at Academy. They are kiln dried.  Good enough for me since no one has bought me a chainsaw for Christmas.

The wife bought me a guilt brisket while she took off to Galveston with her girlfriends for the entire weekend and left me with the 5 year old.  It was a 6 lb trimmed brisket.  Not a whole packer brisket but who am I to judge? I rubbed it with kosher salt and course ground black pepper.  I have some fancy store bought rubs.  I have made my own fancy rubs.  When it comes to slow cooking for hours and hours.  The only flavors that remain are salt and pepper.  The rest are just.....fancy.

I am not interested in building a camp fire.  I want the pit to heat up fast and I want the wood to catch fire fast.  Therefore I used a full chimney of charcoal. I put the brisket on the pit and charcoal in the fire box.  Pit temp reached 220F in 15 minutes.  Once the coals started fading and temp started dropping (235F), I put the first mini log on.  Temp reached 262F in 15 minutes and held for 30 minutes.  I then flipped it and it flashed burned and temp hit 285 and died fast.  I put another mini log on those smoldering coals and repeated for the next 9 hours.  Finally the brisket hit the magic 196F and i pulled it off.  Using the coals of the previous mini log to light the next mini log keptan average temp of 248F over 9 hours.

The trimmed brisket split at both ends.  Weird.  But hey, now I have more burnt ends!

Brisket:  Very Good.  5/16 in smoke ring.  Tested a little tough of tender.  Did not hit that sweet spot and used a knife.  Fat rendered well and was smokey good.  Rub came through and added that extra zip to overall flavor.  No sauce needed.

Old Smokehouse


6/22/14 11:31am - Thirty years in the same location is a testimony of mesquite smokey greatness.  One of the two spin offs from local legend Bob's Smokehouse, it eventually changed hands and renamed Old Smokehouse.  This 'que was so good, I did not snap a foodie pic until halfway through lunch.

I scored Old Smokehouse 89 out of 100.  This is Reserve Grand Champion Texas BBQ.


Smoke:  Mesquite.  A long brick pit built along the side wall of a strip center with outside firebox on one end and cinder block chimney at the other end.  For their sake I hope they own the property. Even though mesquite is not my favorite, it does remind me of home back in West Texas.  It requires a bit more skill to use than oak or hickory, but when done right its flavor is phenomenal.  Old Smokehouse does mesquite right.


Brisket:  Excellent.  A 1/4 in smoke ring beneath a thick black crunchy smokey bark.  First in line, i got the burnt end.  I nearly swooned with first bite.  I got slices from the flat and watch them crumble a little under the pressure of the knife.  The slices pulled apart with ease and were moist at first but did dry out little towards the end.  They pulled this brisket off the pit at the nick-of-time.   No knife needed tenderness.  Dominate flavor was the mesquite smoke.  Full intense smoke flavor throughout meat and well rendered fat.  No sauce needed for this masterpiece.

Ribs:  Very Good.  A meaty spare rib.  They cut the tips off separate which I like.  It was fall off the bone past tender.  No matter, with smoke and rub seasoning I inhaled them.  They were voted best rib in 2008 by San Antonio Express.  No sauce needed for this local favorite.

Sausage:  Good.  My hopes of 5 star Grand Champion were dashed with first bite of sausage.  It was course ground pork link with too bold salt flavor masking the traditional spice.  Aftertaste was OK along with mild smoke.  Use the sauce.

Sauce:  Very Good.  A thick tangy sweet sauce with a bit of spiciness.  It worked well with ribs and sausage.

PS: Try the pork shoulder.  Mesquite smokey goodness!

Old Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Hungry Farmer Bar-B-Q

5/24/14 11:39am - I am a big fan of Hungry Farmer.  I love their Crosstimbers location so naturally I wanted to sample their S Postoak restaurant. I like the whole vibe of Hungry Farmer.  Lets start with the clever name that is a play on the idiom "Eat like a farmer".  The name has a cartoon sound to it and fun to say out loud.  It makes me smile. The decor is late 1970's urban cowboy/truck stop/hunting lodge. The biggest kick are the horrible pictures of the food and plate dinners.  These drab yellowish pictures look like something out of a 1970's cookbook your grandmother owns.  The pictures are as appetizing as a school lunch.  They are wretched.  How Hungry Farmer has escaped becoming a Houston landmark baffles me.  They have been around since 1973 serving great BBQ in some of the worst locations.  So much better than the other Houston BBQ grandpas.

I scored the S. Postoak Hungry Farmer an 84 out 100.  Reserve Grand Champion BBQ.  Not as good as the Crosstimbers location.  See my earlier post.

Smoke:  Hickory.  There is a large smoke stack in the back and a large stack of wood.  They use wood fired Olyers at the original, I assume they have the same here.

Brisket:  Good.  A sad slice compared to Crosstimbers.  A 1/8in smoke ring beneath a thin bark.  They got the tenderness nearly perfect.  Flavor was just beef and mild smoke.  Use the sauce.

Ribs:  Very Good.  A big meaty Memphis style spare rib.  Smoked slow and then thrown on a hot grill. A nice red smoke ring beneath a bronze bark with grill marks.  The smokey porky rib meat was moist and tender.  No sauce needed for these babies.

Sausage:  Excellent.  A medium ground pork link with bold traditional spice and nice peppery aftertaste. It was moist and a little greasy and had a mild smoke flavor.  No sauce needed.

Sauce:  Fair.  Wow this was bad.  A dark brown stew thick tangy spicy sauce.  It was bitter and the sauce developed a skin, eweh!  It made everything taste worse.  Skip all together.
(see the skin below?)

Beef Rib:  Good.  The best thing about this beef rib was the price.  $4.50!!  I think they messed up but I wont't tell (just did).  It was knife tough and dry.  You get what you pay for.  Use the sauce.

The school lunch pictures on along the counter.

There is a truck stop missing all its booths.

Hungry Farmer on Urbanspoon