Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Midway, Burns, Pierson & Co.

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2009/02/01 02:15:14 (permalink)

Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Midway, Burns, Pierson & Co.

I’ve really had a craving for barbecue lately for some reason.  I’ve got a copy of the Legends of Texas Barbecue by local food writer and have been following his recommendations in the Houston Press.  I’ve done a little tour of Houston barbecue joints that have either never been mentioned or received only brief comments here on Roadfood.  Others are welcome to chime in with reviews of other Houston barbecue places and comments on these.

Midway BBQ, 5901 Highway Blvd., Katy, TX
- the name on the hand-out menu is Midway Country Style Smoked Meats; the Midway Meat Market is next door.

Highway Blvd is US 90 through old downtown Katy, a booming suburb on Houston’s west side, along I-10 W.  Look for the US 90 exit off I-10 at the Katy Mills Mall.

They use pecan wood for smoking.  I was raised on oak-smoked barbecue and I like it best but pecan can be real good; it adds a little sweetness.  It also makes for a very dark exterior but doesn’t impart bitterness.

According to the reviews I read you can skip the sides and there are limited accommodations for dining-in so I got my order to go.  They guy pulled a brisket flat out of the holding pan and I asked for some fatty brisket; he had to go in the back to get a piece, which was uncut.  I should have pulled out my camera and got a shot as it was beautiful to behold, blackened all over.  It looked awesome when sliced although all the visible fat was gone.  This was unceremoniously dumped in a plastic tub.  I also got a full link (they make their own sausage and sell several varieties at the meat market next door) and some ribs, which were just as blackened as the brisket.  The ribs and link were stuffed in a foil-lined bag.  I don’t know what a plate looks like if you get it to dine-in but this place is not about presentation.  I got the sauce on the side.

I burned rubber all the way home so I could sample this stuff.

The brisket was a little on the dry side but not too bad.  I like the slight sweetness of pecan smoked beef.  I’d rate the brisket at a B +; it would deserve a little better grade if it weren’t overcooked.  The ribs were a little more overdone, so well done it was impossible to get them out of the hot bag without falling apart (they stayed very warm in the bag).  There wasn’t enough resistance to pulling the meat off the bones; these literally were falling off the bone and even drier than the brisket.  Still, I thought they were pretty good, probably worth a B or B-. 

I wasn’t impressed with the sausage.  Coarsely ground and with a natural casing, it  was under-seasoned.  Compared to some of the great sausages you can find at bbq joints all over Central and SE Texas (the areas I’m familiar with) I’d only give it a C; it was hardly any better than the big supermarket brands.

I’d been to this place once before, last summer after it was first mentioned in the Press, but it was a very hectic day and I never got around to making any notes.  All I remember is that I wasn’t impressed with the sausage then but I did have a more positive impression of the brisket on that visit - it wasn’t as dry.  I didn’t try the ribs that time, or the sides.

The food you see pictured (plus a little more rib meat in the bag) came to $11.31 including tax.
Here's a blog post from the Press that first mentioned the meat market, with more pictures.

Here's  the Robb Walsh review of the bbq.

Both these articles are a little higher on this place than I am.  It’s open M-S 10-7, Sun 11-7.
post edited by dexmat - 2009/02/01 02:17:28

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    Re:Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Midway, Burns, Pierson & Co. 2009/02/01 02:23:01 (permalink)
    Burns BBQ, 8307 De Priest, off I-45 N at the Shepherd/W. Little York exit

    This is my first visit to this place on the far north side, a part of town I seldom get to.  It gets a lot of good comments on local discussion boards and has been rated best in the city in past years by the Press, even when the late Williams Smokehouse was still in business.  The neighborhood is not within the city limits, I think; Acres Homes has some areas that are considered really dangerous but this is not one of them.  Still, the streets are narrow and winding, like paths through the woods, and I noted unleashed dogs roaming the streets, something you don’t see in most neighborhoods.  They’re open 11am to 7 pm Wednesday through Saturday, only.

    The place is a real dive inside.  There’s a big parking lot out back and the place was packed.  My order was taken immediately but it was about 15 minutes before it was ready.  The girl at the counter was very friendly and courteous and asked if I wanted the sauce on the side or not.  It was a chilly day and I was parked way in the back so I just took a picture in the car and sampled a few bites since it would take me about 35 minutes to get home.  It smelled fabulous.  I didn’t do a good job of arranging the food for the shot; the brisket slices included both lean and fatty; some pieces had deeper smoke rings than you see in the picture; the ribs were huge. 

    I really liked the ribs; I thought they needed a little salt or more rub and were a little too attached to the bone from what I like but they were very good.  The brisket was less impressive; none of the pieces had much smoke flavor and they too could have benefitted from some more rub or salt.  The potato salad looked great to me but was very bland.  I don’t know how they got that yellow color as there was very little taste of mustard.  The beans were a mystery, kind of like ranch style beans with some sugar added and scraps of sausage.  There was too much going on in there in the way of diverse seasonings that didn’t work for me; beans should be more simply prepared and seasoned.

    I didn’t even open the sauce until later and I didn’t care for the smell of it at all, nor the taste which was much too strong for the meats.  The smell brought up thoughts of bathroom cleaner.  Ugh.  I’m not that familiar with bbq sauces as I’m used to bbq without it so I can’t begin to imagine what was in there.  I’d read good comments on it though so to each his own.

    A one or two meat plate is $9; potato salad and beans are the only 2 sides mentioned on the menu.  A three meat plate is $10, rib tips are $12 and an all grissle (sic) plate is $10 .  A rib rack is $25, an order of ribs $17, a 16 oz jar of the sauce $2.75.  There were some home made cakes listed at $1.75 per serving but due to the crush of customers I never got over to get a look at them; they include Rocky Road and Sock-it-to-me cake, whatever that is.

    I’d give the ribs an A-, the brisket only a B or B- but this is a first visit.  I wouldn’t hesitate to order the ribs again.
    post edited by dexmat - 2009/02/02 04:21:57
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    Re:Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Midway, Burns, Pierson & Co. 2009/02/01 02:33:56 (permalink)
    Pierson & Company Bar B Que, 5110 W. T.C. Jester Blvd, off of N. Loop 610

    This is the hot new place in town.  It opened about the time Williams Smokehouse burned down in the same part of town and was ‘discovered’ last summer.  I’ve been once and really liked it.  I didn’t make any notes and don’t have any pictures but plan to go back soon and will post more of a review then.  I have found several online reviews with pictures so I will include links. 

    The Pierson’s are really nice folks.  They’ve been offering free samples and are very generous with the portions.  Clarence Pierson uses mesquite wood exclusively, which is a problem for some but so far I have not been bothered by any bitterness.  He’s been very nice about taking people through a tour of his kitchen, too.  I’ve been and seen the big Klose smoker that he uses; everybody I know or have read about has been given a tour, too.  He makes some very good cue with that big smoker. 

    I like the brisket, ribs and sausage about equally.  I haven’t sampled the pork, ham, chicken or turkey.  I really like the ‘chili’ beans.  That’s not what they’re called on the menu but they have so much meat in them it’s an apt name.  They’re like baked beans with meat added and that combination works better for me than the beans offered at Burns.   The potato salad is too sweet and there’s brown sugar in the sauce and rub, I think.  The home-made peach cobbler is excellent.  I think other things may have been added to the menu since I’ve been. 

    Here's  a thread on eGullet where I first read about it last summer, with some pictures.
    Here's  a review in the Press; the Press writer, Robb Walsh, is the author of the Legends of Texas Barbecue book that is considered the Bible on Texas barbecue.  One thing Walsh brought out in his interview was that Clarence Pierson uses cellophane to wrap the meat and let it rest instead of foil.  It’s an interesting discussion of the problems of holding barbecue for serving as they have to do at barbecue restaurants.

    Pierson’s is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 11am to about 7pm.

    The other place I plan to report on in this thread is Luling City Market but there is already a lot on that on Roadfood and I haven’t been in a couple of months and have no pictures of that either so will post on that when I get around to going again.  I really like that one, too; it’s the closest to the Central Texas style experience, anyway, because the que is served on butcher paper.
    post edited by dexmat - 2009/02/01 02:36:33
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Midway, Burns, Pierson & Co. 2009/02/01 07:56:56 (permalink)
    Keep going! Luling next ! I'm ready for more already!
    It's too bad that brisket from the Midway Market did'nt taste as good as it looked!
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
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    Re:Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Midway, Burns, Pierson & Co. 2009/02/01 08:14:04 (permalink)
    Sweet report!  Really liked that Burns place.  Next time I visit my son in Houston, we'll have to hit it up
    The Travelin Man
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    Re:Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Midway, Burns, Pierson & Co. 2009/02/01 10:45:00 (permalink)
    Always good to hear of new BBQ joints in Houston.  I have always thought the 'q scene in Houston was lacking - especially with the demise of Williams Smokehouse.  I look forward to trying one or two of these places on my next visit to town.
    carolina bob
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    Re:Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Midway, Burns, Pierson & Co. 2009/02/01 12:38:28 (permalink)
    dexmat, your photos of the food at those two places look soooooo good; too bad the quality didn't live up to your expectations. I hope to be able to make a roadtrip down to Oklahoma and Texas next year, and I'm looking forward to some great Q ( gotta get to Louie Mueller's! )
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    Re:Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Midway, Burns, Pierson & Co. 2009/02/02 04:30:47 (permalink)
    Thanks for the comments.  Ellen it was just the dryness of the meats at Midway that was disappointing, I liked the brisket and ribs otherwise.

    nocarolina - ha! I never expected compliments on my photography!  Understand that we Texans can be mighty picky about our bbq.

    I should have mentioned in the Burns review that there's no place to eat on premises inside, only at the picnic tables outside and it was a little too chilly and I had only a light jacket.  I had planned to eat there.
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    Re:Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Added: Galvan's Sausage House 2009/03/10 17:58:55 (permalink)
    Galvan’s Sausage House, 1924 Hwy 90A at Pitts Road, Richmond, TX

    I had stopped at this place a couple of years ago when I was in Richmond but don’t remember being very moved one way or the other.  Recently there’s been some buzz about it on a local board and since I was out that way I decided to stop in again.  It’s on the eastern outskirts of Richmond and easy to miss since the sign was apparently blown down by Ike and is leaning up against the building.  It’s a pretty small place.

    I witnessed the ribs being cut for an order ahead of mine and they looked awesome.  I ordered some of the fatty brisket and ribs and started drooling as she cut the brisket - it was falling apart under the knife.  I know some may not like that but I do!  Unfortunately my ribs came from another slab and were nowhere near as impressive as the ones I had seen.

    The owner had seen me taking a picture and came over to talk.  He said his long-time pitmaster had quit just a few months earlier and he was still in the learning curve on doing it himself.  I assured him his brisket was awesome.  I hadn’t gotten in to the ribs yet or I would have had to be less kind.  The brisket was mildly smoked, moist and wonderfully fatty.  I guessed he used oak with a little pecan.  Some people would probably downgrade it for the less intense smoke but I sometimes have a reaction to heavily smoked meats and I like them like this.  The owner said he used mainly pecan with a little oak.

    The ribs, obviously from a huge rack not the three and a half pound or less that is more desirable, were not very good.  While tasty, they lacked seasoning and were a little underdone and not tender enough.  I used no salt or sauce on the brisket but had to add both to the ribs; it helped a little but not enough.  Mainly they just needed some more time in the smoker.

    The potato salad was probably a store-bought product and mediocre, the beans were very bland.  I think maybe someone forgot to taste them before declaring them ready to be served.

    On my previous visit I had a brisket and a link sandwich.  They make their own sausage (7 varieties, including a beef, beef and pork, beef and pork with jalapeno, tur-chicken, and two styles of boudin and one other I can’t remember); from my earlier visit I remembered an all beef sausage made with finely ground meats and a little black and red pepper, not much else, in a synthetic casing.  It was okay but nothing special.

    A sign says they charge extra for sauce, bread, pickles and onions so I passed on them but there was barbecue sauce (and Trappey’s Hot Sauce) on the table so maybe the sign applies only to orders to go by the pound? 

    I wouldn’t hesitate to get some brisket here again, maybe to-go, but would be leery of the ribs and sausage, although I do want to try their boudin sometime.

    There was a big semi parked in front and I couldn’t get a decent picture of the exterior without standing closer to the roadway than my religion allows.
    post edited by dexmat - 2009/03/10 18:01:45
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    Re:Mini-tour, Houston BBQ joints - Added: Galvan's Sausage House 2009/03/11 06:36:44 (permalink)
    Great tour and pics.  You're making me HUNGRY for some 'que!
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