Houston Barbecue Festival 2017

Fans enter the 5th annual Houston Barbecue Festival

Fans enter the 5th annual Houston Barbecue Festival

Innovative Barbecue that nearly jumped the shark

Houston has long celebrated its multicultural influence with a wide variety of dining options throughout town. Houston barbecue has never been solely identified by the Central Texas style that permeates Austin, but the huge growth in that format led to it being the predominant style featured at more recent restaurant openings. Less than two years ago the HouBBQ team really began to open minds when they launched their first Barbecue Throwdown, a contest that encouraged Houston barbecue restaurants to push the boundaries of smoked meats. At the same time, a handful of marketing savvy pit masters began cooking more exotic options at the Houston Barbecue Festival. While not purely a marketing gimmick, a whole hog or alligator still won that day’s social media posts.

For 2017 this trend kicked into overdrive, with a huge variety of meat options offered up for sample. Not all of them were successful in my opinion, but it was refreshing to try the variety available and for once I didn’t get brisket palate fatigue.

The Pit Room brought a custom trailer rigged for asado style goat and suckling pigs

The Pit Room brought a custom trailer rigged for asado style cooked goat and suckling pigs. The rig also featured multiple rotisseries

Snapper, duck, lamb, goat, beef shank, turducken sausage, prime rib, and flank steak were all featured among the more common cuts of meats at the 5th annual Houston Barbecue Festival this year. There was a seeming invasion of pork, too. Pork belly was everywhere it seemed, both Feges and Gatlins cooked whole hog onsite, and The Pit Room cooked suckling pigs on rotisseries. Boudin was well represented at multiple booths along with pastrami and the obligatory brisket and ribs.

I had a great time and the crowd appeared to as well, trays were loaded deep with pounds of samples. Lines grew during the general admission time and the entire event was over in a flash, leaving daydreams of exotic meats and smoky memories until next year.

There were many great meats served up but I will whittle them down to my favorite bites of the event:

Favorite Bites

Tejas Chocolate – An entire mini-meal in one sample, with each item great on its own. The carrot soufflé and spicy chocolate panna cotta dessert complemented a complex suite of flavors including meat trio of brisket, beef cheek, and pork belly

Tejas Chocolate (and barbecue) served up brisket, beef cheek, and pork belly with carrot soufflé and spicy chocolate panna cotta

Tejas Chocolate (and barbecue) served up brisket, beef cheek, and pork belly with carrot soufflé and spicy chocolate panna cotta

Killen’s Pork Belly Burnt End – smoked, fried, and glazed these were the definition of the overused term “meat candy”

Killen's Barbecue cranked out an amazing pork belly "burnt end"

Killen’s Barbecue cranked out an amazing pork belly “burnt end”

Pappa Charlies pork belly bite with collard greens on a sweet potato chip – A bomb of succulent flavor, just the right amounts of salty, meat, and sweet.

Pork belly bite with collard greens on a slice of sweet potato

Pork belly bite with collard greens on a slice of sweet potato

Feges BBQ hog with mustard sauce and slaw – Patrick keeps improving his craft and while I have had the benefit of eating this dish from him at Southern Goods, the tangy mustard sauce and topping of creamy cole slaw was a great treat in the middle of the day

Feges BBQ whole hog with mustard sauce topped with coleslaw and turducken sausage

Feges BBQ whole hog with mustard sauce topped with coleslaw and turducken sausage

Corkscrew BBQ prime rib – I venture to Vegas often and have had enough bad prime rib to last several lifetimes. Corkscrew smoked up some 1855 prime rib to delectable results, resetting my expectations on this cut of meat.

Prime Rib from Corkscrew BBQ

Prime Rib from Corkscrew BBQ

Yes, only one of my favorite bites included brisket. But there was a lot of great brisket and other items at the fest. It is hard to only pick five, and there were lots of memorable bites from plenty of others but those really stood out for me.

Other great bites

Roegels Barbecue Co pastrami beef rib – great flavors and executed very well. I’ve had it multiple times so I knew how good it was, but it definitely blew the mind of many first timers. (The beef rib pastrami was only available during VIP hour, but the brisket pastrami through the rest of the day was great as well)

Roegels Barbecue Co brought their popular pastrami, a weekly feature on Thursdays

Roegels Barbecue Co brought their popular pastrami, a weekly feature on Thursdays

Blood Brothers spicy pulled beef sliders – their unique and spicy SWAT sauce and caramelized onions topped a pulled chuck roll for a tasty flavor that lingered on your tongue

Blood Bros crew brought a "pulled beef" sandwich dressed with their spicy SWAT sauce

Blood Bros crew brought a “pulled beef” sandwich dressed with their spicy SWAT sauce

The Brisket House chipotle glazed baby back ribs – Thickly coated with a sweet and mildly spicy glaze, I really enjoyed these

A tasty rack of chipotle glazed baby back ribs from The Brisket House

A tasty rack of chipotle glazed baby back ribs from The Brisket House

Louie Mueller Barbecue beef rib in a Fluff Bake Bar croissant – a warm flakey hug around their legendary beef rib

Mini croissant from Fluff Bake Bar sandwiches a bite of beef rib from Louie Mueller Barbecue

Mini croissant from Fluff Bake Bar sandwiches a bite of beef rib from Louie Mueller Barbecue

Southern Q Boudin – Their boudin is authentic and a great bite. The offal flavor is strong and that’s one of many things about their boudin that makes this a stand out.

El Burro and the Bull Sausage and boudin – Left me hankering for more

El Burro and the Bull's brisket, sausage, and boudin

El Burro and the Bull’s brisket, sausage, and boudin

Tin Roof Barbecue beef shank barbacoa tacos – Something I’d like to see pop up on their menu as a specialty

Tin Roof Barbecue wagyu meatball, pork belly, and beef shank barbacoa style taco

Tin Roof Barbecue wagyu meatball, pork belly, and beef shank barbacoa style taco

Southside Market original sausage and sausage slammers – Not only are these some of my perennial favorites, but they were handing out coupons for a free 4 pack at retail!

Southside Market's sausage slammer (pan sausage wrapped around a cheese-stuffed jalapeno), original and jalapeno cheese sausages, and brisket

Southside Market’s sausage slammer (pan sausage wrapped around a cheese-stuffed jalapeno), original and jalapeno cheese sausages, and brisket

Spring Creek jalapeno poppers – Another item that has become a tradition at HOUBBQ, with their friendly crew passing them out throughout the festival grounds you didn’t even have to wait in line

 

Jalapeno poppers from Spring Creek Barbecue

Jalapeno poppers from Spring Creek Barbecue

 

The crew at Ray's Real Pit Barbecue prepping with a mop sauce

The crew at Ray’s Real Pit Barbecue prepping with a mop sauce

Lamb pop from Louie Mueller Barbecue

Lamb pop from Louie Mueller Barbecue

Red Snapper taco from Gatlin's Barbecue

Red Snapper taco from Gatlin’s Barbecue

Pinkerton's Barbecue offered different items throughout the day

Pinkerton’s Barbecue offered different items throughout the day

Having a good time at the 2017 Houston Barbecue Festival

Having a good time at the 2017 Houston Barbecue Festival

See ya next year!

See ya next year!

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