Sunday, October 18, 2015

No Surprise, Pappa Charlies Barbeque Shines in New EaDo Venue

Daniel Vaughn of Texas Monthly reportedly said recently "A food truck cannot contain the brilliance of Wesley Jurena. That is why his new restaurant opens soon."

Prophecy fulfilled (thankfully), and after months of anticipation, the new iteration of Wes Jurena's "Pappa Charlies Barbeque" is up and running in an EaDo strip center nestled between the George R. Brown Convention Center and Lucky's Pub, near the BBVA Compass Stadium.

The launch has been well-received, and business so far has been steady, exceeding Jurena's anticipated volume for both the lunch and evening service. Their regular clientele found them quickly, and new customers are beginning to discover this gem as well. For the downtown workers, it's close enough to walk, but complicated a bit by all the construction on the west side of the GRB. There is protected sidewalk access through the construction area though, so if you head down McKinney towards the GRB, you can navigate around the north end and then down Rusk St. to the other side of 59 without much difficulty. Pappa Charlies will be on your right, facing Rusk, between Chartres and St. Emmanuel (see map link below).

The new location is comfortable and spacious, with enough of a rustic feel for you to know it's still a BBQ joint. The reclaimed wood tables are a good fit, as well as the Texas flag projection screen and stage. Concrete floors were left in their natural state, with a little stain and polish added. The painted animal silhouettes on the floor with meat cuts identified are a clever, whimsical touch. Order your meats and sides and pay at the left end of the counter, meats are sliced fresh and selected sides placed on your tray, and you're on your way to your table in 5 minutes or less. Local craft beers on tap will be featured and available soon, once the pesky details of the TABC process are completed. 

Pappa Charlies, 2012 Rusk St.

Plenty of screens for sports, with a big projection screen on the Texas flag stage

Interior, ordering on the left

The BBQ offerings at Pappa Charlies are much the same offering as the trailer space, but with more room to cook and prepare, there is a bigger selection on the daily lunch menu. Jurena's popular black-peppered smoked turkey is available, as well as his fan-favorite pork spareribs with the slightly sweet and spicy glazed finish. Brisket is of course featured prominently, and is as memorable as ever, one of the best brisket offerings you'll find in the Houston-area. It's no wonder that J.C. Reid of the Houston Chronicle says Jurena's BBQ is "some of the best Central Texas-style barbecue in Houston." The kitchen area features two Pitmaker Vault smokers (wood-fueled, insulated vertical cabinet pits), doubling the capacity he had at the trailer. Notable, in a unique and exclusive arrangement for Texas BBQ purveyors, Pappa Charlies and 44 Farms have teamed up and all beef sold in the restaurant will be provided by 44 Farms, the premium Black Angus ranchers and quality meat suppliers from Cameron, Texas. 

Returning customers will be thrilled to know that your favorite mac & cheese is on the menu, as a side or served "loaded" as an entree, topped with board-chopped brisket (or turkey). The smoked collard greens they were just getting into at the end of their time at the trailer are regularly present, along with homemade pinto beans seasoned with onion, peppers and tomatoes; an excellent alternative to the typical syrupy-sweet molasses-soaked baked beans found at most BBQ places. Potato salad has made an appearance, with a good mix of skin-on potato chunks, chopped pickle, mayo, and a hint of sour cream. Boneless beef rib is smoked, cubed, sauced, smoked again, and served as burnt ends, available on their own, on a sandwich, or chopped in a taco with a cider sriracha-infused slaw. You'll also find their delicious chopped brisket taco here, topped with homemade pico de gallo and delivered on a corn tortilla. Specials roll out from time-to-time and on weekends, including big beef ribs, chile-lime-rubbed tri-tip or lamb, prime rib, and brisket enchiladas.

The evening menu is a little more casual (if that's possible for a BBQ joint), and being refined and developed constantly. They've brought out Frito pie made with chopped beef rib and 8th Wonder Brewery Rocket Fuel, Dome Faux'm dogs (with 44 Farms all-beef hot dogs), tri-tip tacos, and pork tenderloin sliders. Inventive minds are at work here; every effort and intent is being made to develop dishes using locally-sourced components in creative ways (like the use of 8th Wonder brews). Jurena is definitely not afraid to try out new things. "If if tastes good, and people buy it, I'll keep doing it," he says.

Admittedly, I have become a huge fan in the past year, thanks in part to my friends @BBQBryan and @HoustonFed who convinced me long ago this was not to miss. (Check out Bryan's thorough and informative review and interview at Texas BBQ Treasure Hunt.) It's the style, texture, flavor and menu creativity that keep me coming back (almost weekly), and Pappa Charlies is without a doubt my #1 recommendation for the best Houston BBQ inside the Loop. The new location is easily accessed, with plenty of room to grow and expand, both their menu and their following. Not surprisingly, the press has taken notice as well--just this past week Daniel Vaughn of Texas Monthly included Pappa Charlies as one of four Houston-area BBQ joints in his TMBBQ Top 50 interim report of "The Top 25 New and Improved BBQ Joints in Texas." With the quality of product Jurena consistently turns out, they will most certainly find themselves high in the list of the coveted TMBBQ Top 50 when next published in 2017.

Great BBQ and brews, sports on every screen, music--what more can you ask for? Pappa Charlies is a welcome new addition to the Houston casual dining scene.

Open daily. So go feed yourselves, you BBQ hounds.

 - Scott

And now for those food pics we know you so love to see!

Homemade pinto beans, potato salad, smoked collards join a perfect smoked turkey sandwich

Pork spareribs, homemade pinto beans, and moist brisket

Heavenly burnt ends from Pappa Charlies

Frito Pie with shredded beef rib chili, photo by Jim Buchanan

Burnt end street taco w/ cider sriracha slaw, baby back ribs, mac & cheese

Pork spareribs, mac & cheese, brisket street taco

Legendary mac & cheese, spareribs, and peppery moist brisket

The brisket street taco up close

Click image for Google map to Pappa Charlies

Links to other Pappa Charlies reviews and reports:

   TMBBQ 2015 Review
   TMBBQ Top 25 New and Improved BBQ Joints in Texas
   J.C. Reid, Houston Chronicle
   Eric Sandler, CultureMap Houston
   Texas BBQ Treasure Hunt
   Houstonia Magazine, Where to Eat the Best Houston BBQ Right Now

Pappa Charlies Barbeque, 2102 Rusk St., Houston, TX 77003, (832) 940-1719.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11:30 am to 8:00 pm. Sunday, 11:30 am to 6:00 pm. 
Hours subject to change in conjunction with special events or neighborhood activities.
Cash and credit cards accepted. Dine in, take out, or call for to-go orders.

Pappa Charlies Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato