Almeda's New Playhouse

Bar-B-Que Blues on Almeda is bringing back a combination that Houston made famous.

After the Vietnamese family went out of business, the Luther's barbecue chain took over the Almeda location for awhile and destroyed the cinder block pit there too. Both Drexler's and the Almeda location of Luther's used stainless steel gas-powered barbecue units. Both are out of business.

The relationship between barbecue and the blues in Houston will be the subject of a paper John Lomax will deliver to the annual symposium of the Southern Foodways Alliance in Oxford, Mississippi this October. Lomax recalls the days when Shady's Playhouse, a combination barbecue joint, music venue and flophouse in the Third Ward, provided a place where such stars as Johnny Clyde Copeland, Albert Collins and Johnny Guitar Watson lived, ate barbecue and played the blues. Years later when he achieved success in New York, Copeland wrote a song called "Houston" that mentioned Shady's twice. The refrain was, "Houston won't you let me come home."

While some of the greatest blues players of all time came from Houston, if you want to hear the music, you are better off in Austin and Memphis. The city was also once the center of African-Texan barbecue, but since desegregation most of the famous barbecue restaurants have gone out of business and the style has all but disappeared. So when a place like Bar-B-Que Blues comes along, Houston blues and barbecue fans take notice. It looks like a seat-of-the-pants operation, but just imagine what it could turn into.

Neil Wilkins is making some excellent barbecue — especially the ribs.
Troy Fields
Neil Wilkins is making some excellent barbecue — especially the ribs.

Location Info


Bar-B-Que Blues

5404 Almeda
Houston, TX 77004

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Third Ward


Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

Three-meat plate: $11.75

Ribs: $12.50 per pound

Two-meat plate: $10.39

Brisket sandwich: $5

Rib sandwich: $5

5404 Almeda, 713-533-1230.

When Sam's Barbecue in Austin burned down some years ago, the community there rallied to help the Mays family rebuild the place. Bar-B-Que Blues has just opened, but the food is so good, and the idea of a blues venue in Green's old joint on Almeda is so enticing, that I find myself wanting to organize a rally to get this place off the ground. But that's not exactly part of the job description of a restaurant critic.

So along with my recommendation that you go eat some ribs there, I'll confine myself to one modest request: Will somebody please help Neil Wilkins find a bigger smoker?

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