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.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Extreme BBQ Road Tripping - 5 Stops, 1 Day

"We must pace ourselves," we all agreed.

"Doing four stops in a day won't work if we overdo the first." Then Bryan had the idea to add one more, making it a five-stop excursion. "It's on the way, we're going right by it, plus they open at 10:30 so we'll still be able to make our first stop close to the time we planned."

Pace ourselves. Discipline. Restraint. Moderation.

Three bloggers with a love for Texas BBQ, four five destinations on our horizon, and we're off for a day-long extreme BBQ road trip through central Texas. I joined @BBQBryan and @HoustonFed for a near 400-mile, 12-hour journey few could appreciate. Making five stops to sample great Texas BBQ in one day. Could we muster up the willpower to leave room enough for a meaningful sample at each? "Bring it on," we decided. 

Even my mother asked, "Have you gone crazy?"

No, not crazy, just interested in finding excellent BBQ and sharing our discoveries with others. I'm glad to have found two other compatriots like Bryan and HoustonFed who are passionate about great BBQ, and are as stoked for a challenge like this as I am. Please go check out their unique perspectives of this all-day BBQ road trip on their blogs, Texas BBQ Treasure Hunt, and Houston Fed.

We met up in Tomball to start our day at 8:45 am, where Bryan floated the idea of adding another destination. Since we were headed through Bryan, it seemed logical to adjust our plans and stop by to see pitmaster Marco Oglesby at the new Kreuz Market location. 

Kreuz Market, Bryan,TX

Kreuz Market's new location in Bryan, TX

The new location is spacious and bright, with the requisite Kreuz Market "No sauce, no forks, no kidding" signage posted in multiple locations throughout. We planned to start safe with three slices of brisket and one sausage link to split. Then a rack of ribs showed up on the cutting board. "Just one to share," we added with some reluctance. 

First brisket of the day, sliced by Lee Jasper, at Kreuz Market - Bryan

We slipped behind the counter for some action photos, and the friendly staff began to pepper us with questions, "How about some sides? You want to try our desserts?" We declined, given what we had planned for the day. Once our tray was loaded we moved to a nearby table. As we finished our BBQ nerd photos of what we were about to dig into, Marco brought out a freshly-sliced beef chuck rib, just off the pit, and dropped it on top of the pile. Our confidence was being challenged.

Kreuz Market - Bryan, sliced brisket, fresh off the warming pit

The brisket was moist and flavorful, a great start to our day. The sausage link, a specialty if you are familiar with Kreuz in Lockhart, did not disappoint. Nicely spiced with a good snap from the casing. The peppered pork rib was good. The big beef rib with its magnificent smoke ring was beautiful, but would have been better had it spent more time in the pit. Well, we were early, so it wasn't a huge surprise.

Pork rib, brisket, jalapeno sausage and a beef rib from Kreuz Market - Bryan

The fine BBQ being offered by Marco, Lee and their team at Kreuz Market in Bryan is a welcome addition to the local B/CS restaurant scene. There haven't been too many options for BBQ in this area for some time. We couldn't help but imagine how busy this place is going to be on a home football game weekend. We suggested they put together some football tailgate to-go packages for game days; I have no doubt those will sell out faster than they can possibly imagine right now. Kreuz Market in Bryan is a worthy destination the next time you find yourself on Highway 6 near Bryan-College Station.

Marco Oglesby and @BBQBryan deep in BBQ discussion

Blue Moon BBQ, Hearne,TX

Blue Moon BBQ, on OSR just outside of Hearne, TX

This place is off the beaten path. In fact, we drove right past it by over five miles before we realized our mistake. Chalk it up to three guys talking BBQ nonstop and not paying attention very well. It's not really in Hearne proper, but a few miles east, closer to a little community called Edge, TX, which may or may not be on your maps. Knowing that it's at the corner of OSR and Macey Rd. will help you find it.

Owner Matt Moon was away for the day, but Toni greeted us at the counter and took our order for some moist brisket and a couple ribs. One of the things that first caught our eye at Blue Moon BBQ is their Cowboy Cornbread, described on their menu as "chopped brisket, tomatoes, chilies and onions, stirred up in cornbread, cooked in a cast iron skillet then covered in cheese." We had to have one. Every bite was delicious. If I could make a pillow out of this just so I could eat it all night, I would.

Cowboy Cornbread at Blue Moon BBQ 

Matt's father, Rick Moon, running the pits on this day, checked up on us before we left to be sure the product was to our liking. It was. The brisket was tender and had a unique rub that provided a flavorful bark, and their baby back ribs had a nice glaze with a little spice. When we asked for other recommendations, Toni suggested that we try one of her bacon brownies, so we finished this visit by splitting a piece three ways. What a great bite--slightly chewy brownie, with a healthy amount of diced cooked bacon embedded in the surface prior to baking. The result was a perfect balance of savory and sweet, with the salt of the bacon providing just the right complement for the sweet chocolate brownie. It's a dessert I wouldn't normally try, but I'm glad I did, and we all went back and each bought another one to take home.

We agreed this was a great visit, and with their very tasty brisket at just $13.45/lb, one of the best values by far for quality BBQ on the trail. Make Blue Moon BBQ a destination priority on your list of great places to try.

Moist brisket and ribs from Blue Moon BBQ

Miller's Smokehouse, Belton,TX

Miller's Smokehouse, Belton, TX

A TMBBQ Top 50 spot, Miller's Smokehouse has been in operation in downtown Belton since 2008. The place was still busy at 2:00 pm. We ordered 'just enough to sample' and were seated in front. Bryan, having been there before, warned us about Momma Miller and her desserts. "If she spots us we'll have to take some. 'No thanks' is not an option." 

Owner/Pitmaster Dirk Miller was out, but we did get to speak to his son Dustin who was in charge of the pits for the day. All five offset smokers and four vertical drum smokers were going strong, even though it was mid-afternoon. Some product was being loaded for the evening shift, and others pits were finishing up a big catering order for the day. Dustin shared that they stagger their load on briskets so that they have fresh product available at noon, in the afternoon, and in the evening.

One of five offset flow-through pits, plus four vertical drum smokers at Miller's

Loading chickens into a vertical drum smoker at Miller's

Our order of moist brisket, regular sausage, and turkey arrived, as well as some very nice bark ends. The brisket was excellent, tender and flavorful throughout. The sausage was good, but they wouldn't let us get away without trying a small sample of their homemade hot links and jalapeno cheese sausage as well. I loved the spicy links as well as the jalapeno cheese, and vowed to make them a priority on my next visit.

Then Dirk's wife, Lisa Miller, spotted us. Before we knew it, she had two of her homemade desserts in front of us to try, faster than we had a chance to decline them. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. She had the charm on full throttle, and no amount of protest would have provided an escape. I'm glad we didn't. The highlight was her Hurricane Cake, sort of an upside-down German chocolate cake with pecans, and a thick, cream cheese ribbon. If the dessert at our last stop was good, this one had us on our knees. Every bite left you wanting more, and we didn't leave without an extra piece to take home.

Moist brisket closeup, at Miller's Smokehouse

Sliced brisket and ends, plus sausage, at Miller's Smokehouse

Sensing the day getting away from us, at about 3:00 pm we packed up and headed out for Austin to our next destination.

Was I supposed to make a left back there?

Freedmen's Bar, Austin,TX

Freedmen's, Austin, TX

Interior bar shot at Freedmen's

Bryan had been talking about Freedmen's all day, saying it may be in his top five right now. We parked out back and on our way in greeted Chef and Pitmaster Evan LeRoy, who was hard at work on the next day's briskets in the screened-in smoker enclosure. Freedmen's is situated in one of the University's student housing and fraternity areas. We could hear the raucous Saturday evening parties just getting underway in the neighborhood.

Chef/Pitmaster Evan LeRoy sprinkling his magic dust on tomorrow's brisket

Sitting on the front porch, we placed our order with our server, immediately sensing this was not your run-of-the-mill BBQ establishment. Freedmen's is really more of a bar with a smoker out back to help feed the thirsty patrons. The Holy Trinity Plate on the menu for $19 caught our eye (yes, we ordered from a real menu). It would give us just enough to sample everything we wanted to try.

I'm not sure what we were expecting, but the tray that arrived was a thing of beauty. Thickly peppered brisket and burnt ends, ribs adorned with the speckling of cracked black pepper I enjoy so much, and house-made sausage, all sided by homemade bread, pickles, jalapeno slices, and pickled onions.

Holy Trinity Plate at Freedmen's

Peppery ribs, packed with flavor

The brisket slices and ends were some of the best bites we've had in a long time. Perfectly timed on the pit, rich and moist, and a beautiful crust. Those ribs were nicely seasoned throughout, tender without falling off the bone. The homemade sausage was good, even better dipped in their unique sauce.

Evan LeRoy is doing magical things with the product being offered there. Be on the lookout for Freedmen's to take a very high spot in future BBQ rankings while he's at the helm. This is destination BBQ in Austin, without the lines.

One of the finest trays of Q any of us have had in a while

Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, Austin, TX

Stiles Switch BBQ, Austin, TX

We ended our BBQ pilgrimage with a stop at Stiles Switch, another TMBBQ Top 50 spot, knowing they were open into the dinner hour. One more round of Q and a beverage seemed like a good way to end the day before heading for home. The Big Bark Amber Lager on draft by Live Oak Brewing Company of Austin turned out to be an excellent choice.

Lined up for dinner at Stiles Switch

We selected the smoked turkey and moist brisket, and the friendly counter staff threw in a few rib bites for us to sample as well. The turkey was juicy and full of flavor with a black-peppered crust. Brisket sliced from the point was nice and flavorful with a decent bark above the seam, but just fair in the bottom half. We only had a couple of slices, and since this was my first time here, this brisket will need another visit or two for a better sampling.

Stiles Switch had a healthy dinner crowd lining up as we were leaving, going strong towards their closing time of 10:00 pm on Saturday nights. This is one destination where you can count on quality BBQ well into the evening, while many other well-known Austin spots sell out by mid afternoon.

Peppered turkey, moist brisket from Stiles Switch, plus rib samples

Your 1993 "Dazed and Confused" throwback reference, location of Stiles Switch

That about wraps it up for this Central Texas BBQ quest. 5 stops, 4 cities, 3 bloggers, on the road for 12 hours, doing what we love to do on a weekend--chase BBQ. Hope you enjoy all our respective write-ups of the trip. Don't forget to visit the posts by BBQBryan and HoustonFed

Weary but satisfied, we arrived home about 9:00 pm and parted ways, pleased with our day's journey, and each looking forward to the next excursion. No doubt we will be at it again soon.

- Scott

Kreuz Market - Bryan, 768 N Earl Rudder Fwy., Bryan, TX 77802, (979) 704-6147.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10:30 am to 8:00 pm. Closed Sundays.

Blue Moon BBQ, 18746 E OSR, Hearne, TX 77859 (Corner of OSR and Macey Rd.),
(979) 549-4800.

Hours: Wednesday, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Thursday through Saturday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Sunday, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Miller's Smokehouse, 208 N. Penelope St., Belton, TX 76513, (254) 939-5500.
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Friday and Saturday, 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Freedmen's, 2402 San Gabriel St., Austin, TX 78705, (512) 220-0953.
Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. Thursday through Saturday, 11:00 am to 12:00 am. Sunday, 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. Closed Mondays.

Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew, 6610 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78757, (512) 380-9199.
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Friday and Saturday, 11:00 am to
10:00 pm. Sunday 11:00 am to 8:00 pm. Closed Mondays.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Texas Q Presents "The Q Joint" - New Caney, TX

There's a new Q Joint in town.

Opening weekend for The Q Joint in New Caney was a success, despite the soggy conditions for day 2 on Sunday. All meats sold out on Saturday, their opening day, in just 3 hours, with reports of a long line and many happy customers.

Opening day at Texas Q

The Q Joint is the new retail venture of Texas Q Competition BBQ & Catering, a competitive BBQ team and catering operation from the Kingwood area. Sloan Rinaldi, owner and pitmaster, is a 4th generation BBQ cooker, and is no stranger to the BBQ way of life. Her grandfather founded Fowler's in Crockett, TX. 

Sloan got her start in competition BBQ about two years ago, with 2014 being her first full year of competing. She got the attention of many on the circuit early, placing 3rd in ribs in her first competition event last May. She's also been catering for public and private events, where Texas Q built a reputation for the quality product they were providing to people that don't normally get a chance to taste competition BBQ. She has a passion for pit-smoked meats and great sauce, and the natural next step was to make competition-quality BBQ available to the public with The Q Joint. Their homemade sauce, which Sloan is very proud of, is available online and at their new location. It's a sweet sauce, with a nice kick of spice at the finish. "Sweet with some heat," she says.

Brisket point, chopped beef and sausage from The Q Joint

Brisket close-up

Sloan says "I don't want to overpower the flavor of the meats with hickory or mesquite." Texas Q is after a finished product with a "subtle, sweet smoke". She uses a combination of dry pecan and dry apple wood, with wet cherry to fuel their custom reverse-flow, trailer-mounted pit, manufactured by East Texas Smoker Company in Tyler, TX. Their rig is outfitted with everything they need for catering or competing.

Texas Q's reverse flow pit from East Texas Smoker Company

Sliced brisket point and sausage from The Q Joint

On this visit I was able to sample brisket point, chopped brisket and sausage. The brisket was tender and moist, with good smoke penetration and a thin bark that held a hint of sweetness from the rub. "Low 'n slow with a lil' twang" her business card reads. I missed out on ribs and pulled pork for the day, giving me an excuse for a follow-up visit soon. The Q Joint is open 11 am until sold out, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There isn't much for seating; just a couple of picnic tables, so it really is a 'to-go' operation for now.

I asked Sloan what her plans are once the competition circuit starts up this year, sensing her passion for competing. "We're thinking about that right now, looking at options." They would obviously need another pit to be open at the retail location on the same weekend as a cookoff event, and a crew to manage both. Sloan has attended competition training in Memphis, and Texas Q competes at TGCBCA competitive events. Right now, the focus is bringing their competition-quality barbecue to the public at The Q Joint, something only the judges typically get to to taste.

Nice slice from the point

The Q Joint is located next to the bakery establishment Keeli's Cupcakes on Loop 494 just north of Porter, TX, run by Sloan's friend Keeli Wheeler. The Q Joint and Keeli's share the same walk-up window for placing orders. Don't miss these cupcakes! Fresh ingredients with flavor combinations that make a perfect way to finish off that order of brisket or ribs.

Sweet treats from Keeli's Cupcakes next door!

Day 1 - Sold out!

With the quality of the BBQ product Sloan and her team is turning out at The Q Joint, I doubt this will be the last time we see this 'Sold Out' sign next to the smokehouse. 

Until next time.

- Scott

The Q Joint, and Texas Q Competition BBQ & Catering, 21928 Loop 494 at Community Dr.,
New Caney, TX 77357, (832) 731-7075.

59N Eastex Freeway to FM 1314 - Porter exit, right on FM 1314, left on Loop 494, travel 1.9 miles north and Texas Q is on your left.
Hours: Friday through Sunday, 11:00 am until sold out.