Restaurant News

Feeding the Soul: Houston Black Bloggers and Fainmous Barbecue

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
A bourbon-filled cocktail gets the party started.

Houston Hosts Black Bloggers held its inaugural event over the weekend. Highlights included a lunch at Mico's Hot Chicken October 22 and a media preview at Fainmous Barbecue October 23. In addition to local Black bloggers like KeAndre' Jordan from My Southern Brand, there was a select group of Black bloggers attending from cities like New York,  Chicago, Washington D.C. and Dallas.
click to enlarge Karen and James Fain stand with Vicky V. of Houston Hosts. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Karen and James Fain stand with Vicky V. of Houston Hosts.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Houston Hosts Black Bloggers was created by Vicky V., also known as "The Queen of Yum." Vicky V. has a professional history with food from being a chef to working as a food stylist. Prior to the event, Vicky V. appeared on Good Morning with Misti. B, along with blogger Grundy Wiley of Bless Tha Belly, to discuss the new event meant to showcase the the best of Houston's Black business, dining and cultural experiences to other Black tastemakers and social media entrepreneurs. Vicky V. told the host, Misti Buard, that the first ever Houston Hosts Black Bloggers was private this year and by invitation.

The event was in coordination with Black Restaurant Week and one of its co-founders, Falayn Ferrell,  was on hand for the media event at Fainmous Barbecue to emphasize the importance of supporting the Black restaurant community, especially in the time of the pandemic. Black Restaurant Week is a multi-city culinary event throughout the country that celebrates the flavors of African, African-American and Caribbean cuisines. The organization recently established the Feed the Soul Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to offer aid to marginalized entrepreneurs in the culinary industry. The assistance consists of development resources to help foster sustainable business growth. Its Restaurant Business Development Fund offers financial aid with business development scholarships and emergency funding.
click to enlarge A mural copied from a hand-drawn sketch covers the wall at Fainmous Barbecue. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
A mural copied from a hand-drawn sketch covers the wall at Fainmous Barbecue.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
To date, it has awarded $250,000 in grants and business development to 25 businesses across the nation and $13,000 in emergency funds for businesses affected by natural disasters and accidents. Locally, the non-profit gifted $15,000 to the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College for scholarships for two minority students to attend a three-week summer program at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. 

One of the recipients of the grants was Fainmous Barbecue, owned by James and Karen Fain, which received $10,000. The restaurant held a media preview to debut some of its new menu items and to highlight the work of Black Restaurant Week and its Feed the Soul Foundation. In addition, special thanks, and flowers, were given to Vicky V. for her efforts in organizing the restaurant showcase. In a speech to the crowd, Karen Fain said that the support of Black Restaurant Week had been the barbecue restaurant's saving grace.

click to enlarge Bourbon and barbecue are a natural fit. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Bourbon and barbecue are a natural fit.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Sponsors for the event also included H-E-B and Maker's Mark Bourbon. Guests were treated to cocktails made with its bourbon and enhanced by autumnal flavors like cinnamon, for a sweet accompaniment to the barbecue. The Fains also provided guests with their popular non-alcoholic Pineapple Tea and seasonal Tennessee Spice Tea, made with cinnamon, cloves, apple and orange juices.

The Fains, a married couple who have known each other since sixth grade, mingled with the crowd and related stories of their restaurant's beginnings and its relocation from Meyerland to Sawyer Yards.  Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, the couple first brought their style of barbecue to Houston in 2011. When the opportunity arose to open at Sawyer Yards, the Fains closed the Meyerland location in January 2020, preparing to open the new location soon after. Unfortunately, when the Sawyer Yards spot was near completion, the city's restaurant scene shut down due to the pandemic. Through all the trials and tribulations, their business made it through.
click to enlarge I like sauce on my barbecue and I don't care who knows it. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
I like sauce on my barbecue and I don't care who knows it.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
After speeches were made, attendees were treated to a plate of barbecue sliders and sides. There was a vegetarian option and a sausage slider, but I chose the T-N-T with pulled pork and a slice of brisket on top. With a choice of sauces, I went for spicy. The signature spicy sauce at Fainmous is a perfect balance of heat and sweet. While some Texas barbecue snobs get a fit of the vapors when sauce is anywhere near a slab of meat, there are those, of which this writer is one, who love the tang of vinegar and the taste of brown sugar mixed with peppery heat. As a kid, I even made sandwiches with just barbecue sauce. The spicy version at Fainmous made me dream of doing so again.
click to enlarge The restaurant's Pineapple Tea cozies up to the event-only Fainmous Tea. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The restaurant's Pineapple Tea cozies up to the event-only Fainmous Tea.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The meat, however, can stand on its own. Both the pulled pork and the brisket were fork-tender and the meat was well-seasoned by the dry rub that James Fain uses. There was a spoonful of coleslaw to cut through the spicy sauce, though it wasn't overly hot. Just a tingle.

The accompanying macaroni and cheese was a blend of cream and cheddar cheese with a sauciness that is not normally found on this comfort food standard. Others would do well to follow the Fains' example and go with a saucier macaroni. I missed out on the chickpea salad but it seemed to get rave reviews from those who were smart enough to grab a scoop.
click to enlarge Taste makers and tastees enjoy the food at Fainmous Barbecue. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Taste makers and tastees enjoy the food at Fainmous Barbecue.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
While I didn't get a chance to visit with any of the bloggers from out of town, I did enjoy the company of two young Instagram mavens and a lapsed blogger from Chicago more my age. Owner James Fain was inspired by his conversation with the transplanted Chicago native and a couple of days later, he created a dish of rib tips and sausage over French fries. In the Facebook post, the restaurant stated "You ask, you shall receive."

Fainmous Barbecue was able to receive a grant to continue its success and survive the pandemic. There are many other Black-owned culinary businesses that still need a little help. Feed the Soul could use more helping hands from those who are able to do so.