There’s no arguing that Texas is a meat-eater’s paradise, so here’s a cross-section of some places where we had some brilliant BBQ meals.
1. Goode Co. Texas Bar-BQ
For Texas BBQ, you must go to Goode Co. Emphasis on must. It’s easy to find; just look out for a giant barn on Kirby Drive, right next to the place with the giant armadillo out front.
Ordering is simple; grab a plate, cafeteria style, choose your meat/s (pork, ribs, brisket, duck, chicken, sausage, ham) and add some sides (beans, potato salad, baked spuds, slaw, rice, jalapeno bread). You can even get a “po-boy” if you’ve got a hankering for a sandwich. Then grab a beer and head outside to one of the communal tables or stay inside to check out the old-school smokehouse decor.
The spicy pork BBQ dinner was great value for money – a generous serving of unbelievably tender, smokey, spiced pork with spicy sauce, fresh slaw with a tangy dressing, jambalaya and soft, sweet jalapeno bread. The boys all ordered brisket sandwiches, filled with a mountain of brisket, BBQ sauce and pickles, and were more than happy, probably because there were 2 slices of that awesome jalapeno bread
> Spicy pork BBQ, slaw, jambalaya, jalapeno bread
2. Fogo de Chao Churrascaria
You can’t go past Fogo de Chao for an upmarket take on Brazilian BBQ. My only advice is to make sure you’re hungry when you get there. For $50, you get all-you-can-eat meat, salad and your pick of a never-ending stream of side dishes.
Service is rather quirky, but efficient. Each diner is given a coaster, green on one side (‘Yes, I’m hungry’) and red on the other (‘Nope, taking a break’). Gaucho chefs walk around the tables continuously, serving up a selection of 15 different cuts of pork, beef, lamb and chicken, fresh off the spit, if your coaster is green. The meat is grilled over an open fire in the Gaucho (southern Brazilian cowboy) tradition. In particular, I’d recommend fraldinha (beef – very tender and beautifully seasoned, cut from the bottom sirloin), beef ancho (prime part of the rib-eye) and cordiero (lamb sliced off the bone). Unfortunately, we weren’t able to try picanha, the prime part of the sirloin, seasoned with sea salt.
The impressive salad bar and tasty side dishes are most definitely designed to fill you up so that you eat less meat. The sides in particular were quite interesting; grilled banana (surprisingly addictive), creamy mash, polenta cakes and delicious cheese filled, bite-sized bread rolls.
Incredibly, we still had room for dessert. Fogo de Chao’s signature papaya cream was the winner; light and refreshing, served with a blueberry liqueur, a nice finish to a big meal. Those up for a challenge can try the decadent chocolate mousse cake or Tres Leches.
> Papaya cream with blueberry liqueur
> Chocolate mousse cake
> Tres Leches
3. Chili’s for Baby Back Ribs
‘OMG, really?’, was the incredulous reaction to my harmless comment, ‘We went to Chili’s for ribs and it was nice’. OK, so Chili’s is not exactly what you’d go out of your way to try in Houston but it’s not bad if all you’re after is a cheap dinner and a taste of the local food. And a bit of random trivia for you – the welcome sign at each Chili’s restaurant is drawn by a local.
Normally, a menu that mixes Tex-Mex, deli food and BBQ sets off alarm bells in my mind but I was assured by my guide to all things Houston that baby back ribs were the way to go, so that’s what we ordered. $35 got us dinner for two, including two margaritas, a shared appetizer, two entrees and a shared dessert – awesome value The ribs were pretty good; quite a bit of meat, cooked until it was falling off the bone, covered in sweet, sticky BBQ sauce.
> Blackberry and mango margaritas
> Texas cheese fries
> Half rack baby back ribs with corn, towelette included
> Honey chipotle chicken crispers with corn and homestyle fries
> Molten Oreo chocolate cake