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On a subsequent visit, I got some smoked pork butt and some more sausage. They didn't have any smoked chickens left, or I would have tried one of those, too. The pork looked overcooked and dried out, but once again appearances were deceiving. The pork butt fell off the bone as the counterman carved it. It made an awesome sandwich with pickles and onions.

Everybody who sampled Midway's barbecue at my house was wildly enthusiastic about the meats. But nobody liked the sides, including me.

The potato salad was made of uniformly cubed-shaped and slightly watery potato chunks in sweet yellow mayo with pickle relish. Did it come out of a plastic bucket? Or was it made with frozen potatoes? The sweet beans resembled baked beans out of a can. The toothache-sweet barbecue sauce didn't have any meat drippings or meat flavor to it — it also tasted like unadulterated commercial stuff.

Midway BBQ has dibs on the meat at Midway Food Market.
Troy Fields
Midway BBQ has dibs on the meat at Midway Food Market.

Location Info

Map

Midway Market BBQ

5901 Highway 90
Katy, TX 77494

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Outside Houston

Details

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.

Rack of ribs $16.95

Sausage link $3.50

Brisket $9.95 per lb

Pork $8.95 per lb.

Whole chicken $7.50

5901 Highway 90, Katy, 281-391-3101.

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Maybe we are getting spoiled. Sit-down barbecue restaurants in big cities, like Goode Company or Pizzitola's, generally have very good sides. A few weeks ago, I reported on Pierson & Company Bar-B-Que, an African-American barbecue joint on T.C. Jester with wonderfully spicy beans, decent mashed potato salad and a couple of passable desserts. But authentic Central Texas-style meat market barbecue joints seldom have very good sides. Some don't serve any at all. It's just not part of their history.

The meat market barbecue tradition started when itinerant cotton pickers who weren't welcome in small-town cafes started eating smoked sausages and meats right off of the butcher paper at meat markets or outside in their parking lots. The sides were bottles of pickles and boxes of crackers from the markets' shelves. And there wasn't any barbecue sauce.

I highly recommend Midway BBQ in Katy. Tell them to cut your brisket from the fatty end and don't miss the pork. You can't go wrong with a couple of ribs or a brisket sandwich there. But if you want to make a fancy meal out of these fabulous smoked meats, I suggest you do something else for sides. This can be as simple as buying some quality potato salad and other interesting stuff at the prepared-foods case at Central Market or Whole Foods. Or you can get creative.

I visited a lot of old meat markets while I was writing Legends of Texas Barbecue, and I interviewed people about how the locals ate their smoked meats. A woman of Czech descent at Smolik's in Cuero told me her grandmother used to buy smoked sausage and smoked pork loin at the meat market and serve it at home with German dishes like sauerkraut or red cabbage. The story inspired me to try serving Texas meat market pork and sausage with sweet-and-sour red cabbage. I thought the combination was inspired, and I included the recipe in my cookbook.

Smoked pork, sausage and ribs work equally well with lots of other ethnic foods. I like them stir-fried with Chinese cabbage or as a topping on Vietnamese mi. They taste terrific with Cuban black beans and fried plantains on the side. Think of the lackluster sides at meat market barbecue joints like Midway as an opportunity to do something cool. Hell, if you can find some poi, you can have a luau.

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