Monday, March 16, 2015

Destination BBQ Coming Soon to River Oaks? - Pinkerton's BBQ

UPDATE: August 2015

The Joanel St. location of Pinkerton's Barbecue was not able to be realized. Pinkerton's is currently in search of a new, permanent location. In the meantime, you can call (832) 483-1919 for catering and info, and follow Pinkerton's Barbecue on Facebook or Twitter for info on days and times of popups and special

Grant Pinkerton is eager for you to be able to try his product on a full time basis.

He's so sure you're going to like what he has to offer that he want's you to be able to get your hands on it now, before he's officially open for business. With that in mind, he hosted his first BBQ pop-up this past Saturday in front of the future home of Pinkerton's Barbecue at 2612 Joanel St. in Houston, not too far from the intersection of Westheimer Rd. and Edloe St. By my count, 60 or 70 people showed up for some quality Central Texas-style BBQ, and all seemed very pleased with the teaser of brisket, ribs, sausage, pulled pork, and sides he graciously provided free of charge.

Future home of Pinkerton's Barbecue, 2612 Joanel St., Houston

Pinkerton's Barbecue is building out a permanent home at this location, a former auto repair and machine shop just south of the River Oaks area. Design is underway, and with city permits and remodeling efforts ahead, he is hoping for a mid-August opening. "Sometime in August, slow-smoked goodness will be sold," he says. Grant was happy to show us around the property, and described his ideas for the layout and decor. Envision a rustic Texas icehouse design, with indoor and outdoor seating areas, and windows that will allow the pit and prep areas to be in view by the patrons--BBQ on display. He will also incorporate ranch gates at the east and west entries, which will be based on the design of ranch gates he remembers from his childhood at his uncle's farm near Junction, TX. They will feature the Rockin' P logo for Pinkerton's, which has its origins in a similar old family Rockin' M design. The building exterior will be cleaned up and finished in a Pinkerton's black-and-white color scheme. 

BBQ pop-up by Grant Pinkerton at future home of Pinkerton's BBQ

Keeping the firebox going; primarily oak, with a little mesquite.

I got there early so I could get a little time with Grant before the crowd arrived. He and his buddy Matt Degen were putting the finishing touches on the ribs for the day, with the briskets already wrapped and resting in coolers to keep them hot. I learned he has been cooking pretty much his whole life, and by the time he was 12 years old he had assumed much of the grilling duties at home from his dad. He was in the agriculture program at Lamar High School, and some of the pigs he raised became another part of his training regimen, eventually finding their way onto the pits for their annual pig roast.

Grant deserves to be proud of these ribs

After graduating high school, Grant was off to Austin to attend the University of Texas, where he majored in writing and rhetoric. While there, he cooked for his fraternity and for tailgating events, and began to develop a following and expertise in cooking for a crowd. He also spent time traveling in and around Central Texas, and the style of BBQ he encountered on the road during those journeys became a significant influence on the methods and style he has developed today. Upon completing his degree requirements at UT, he returned to Houston, and took a job with a local fitness club. His passion for cooking was still strong though. One day he stopped in at a well-known local BBQ establishment, and was sorely disappointed. "I can cook way better that this," he told himself. Fueled by this realization, he began focusing on his product in earnest. Sometimes he brought samples to the gym where the trainers he worked with loved it so much they would be eating it while working with their clients. About 18 months ago, people began to bring him meat and game and asking him to cook it for them.

Grant Pinkerton's brisket

The day's first brisket

The word was getting out, and catering jobs were rolling in. At one point he decided to do a pop-up in his West University neighborhood, and sold 100 lbs in just 45 minutes on his very first day. One of his catering customers recognized the quality of his product and enthusiasm for serving great BBQ, and was so impressed he offered to support Grant in the startup of the permanent brick-and-mortar location. From there, things have really begun to click. The catering jobs have continued, and he recently did a stint on the pits at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo BBQ Contest for the Holy Cow Cookers competition team.

Grant presents the first brisket slices of the day

Crowds lining up for samples

For a 26-year-old, Grant is very confident in his abilities and his product, and doesn't seem intimidated at all by the idea of having a place of his own. He already turns out a spectacular brisket, and I surely hope this will translate well to the regular hours of a BBQ restaurant, where he plans to be open for both the lunch and dinner hours. On this day, all the Houston BBQ paparazzi were well aware of the Pinkerton's pop-up, and we descended upon the place eager to get a piece of what most of us had only seen in pictures. No one was disappointed. Writers, bloggers and photographers analyzing every bite in detail; what a sight we must have been! We tasted, picked, poked, pulled, and photographed all that we could. We then went back for another bite of various items, just to make sure we hadn't missed anything. I saw lots of smiles and encouraging head nods in the affirmative all around.

Ohh, that brisket; fantastic.

Attention spareribs, all together now for your closeup!

Ribs, tender with a sweet, spicy glaze

No caption necessary

The brisket was succulent and perfectly seasoned, and not overpowered by the smoke. The ribs had a nice rub and were finished with a sweet glaze, but not too sweet. The sausage was regionally-sourced and high quality. Grant puts in a lot of hours perfecting his sides as well, which are all homemade--no potato salad from a plastic tub to be found here. BBQ pinto beans, seasoned with fresh poblano pepper, onions and garlic were a hit. He also scores well on his jalapeño cheese rice, a unique offering, with fresh jalapeños and just enough cheese to hold it together. Not too hot, and not too cheesy. He says he makes a great coleslaw, and we might also see some other unusual items on the menu, like a Duck/Venison Jambalaya he really likes to make.

Jalapeño cheese rice

Scott and Andrew micro-analyzing that first slice of brisket

J.R. discussing his options with Pitmaster Grant

A little of everything, including homemade sides and sauce; all great

Everything was really, really good--very well executed on all fronts. Grant says we can expect to see more pop-ups this spring and summer when he has time between catering gigs and getting the restaurant built out. "I just can't wait to get my new pit so I can cook more," he says. He has a 42-inch diameter custom pit in construction right now over at Klose Pits, which will add 200 square feet to his cooking surface area. If you want to be in the know about his future events, be sure to follow Pinkerton's Barbecue on Facebook and Twitter. You can also catch him with his new pit at this year's Houston BBQ Festival on Sunday, April 26, where he's recently been added to the list of featured BBQ joints (purchase your tickets now at!).

Homemade desserts; blueberry cobbler and chocolate sheet cake

Gathering of the Houston BBQ Brethren; writers, bloggers, photographers--a fearsome front line, protecting the citizens of Houston from bad BBQ!

Grant's dad, Glenn, and his mom, Michelle were both there for the pop-up, keeping the drinks and sides stocked, and helping with the serving. With them, plus the siblings, in-laws and friends in attendance and helping out, he has a fantastic support team. You can sense the excitement in the air from all of them, eager to see this venture succeed. If he can survive the repetitive grind of turning out great BBQ on a daily basis, he is going to do very well. As Grant stated in a recent Twitter post, "We can't wait to spread the BBQ love!"

River Oaks is about to get some destination BBQ.

- Scott

Pinkerton's Barbecue, 1504 Airline Dr., Houston, TX 77009.
Follow Pinkerton's Barbecue on Facebook or Twitter for info on days and times.

1 comment:

  1. Well said! Outstanding BBQ, fabulous sides, delicious desserts all served with gracious hospitality! Can't wait to go back to Pinkerton's!