Our eyes widened at the sight of three full corncobs, slathered with a mixture of cotija cheese, lime crema, smoked poblano and fresh cilantro, delivered to our table. Did she mistakenly think we’d asked for three orders of the elote?
Nope, there was no error. At $5, the Mexican street corn (elote) was a real steal. The corn was cooked to a perfect texture, with grill marks charring the outer kernels here and there. The creamy, tangy smokiness of the seasoning in each bite mingled with the sweetness of the corn and left our party wondering if we had indeed made the mistake of asking for only one order.
Bacon Bros. Public House originated in Greenville, South Carolina, in 2013. After spending a lot of time and eating a lot of meals at the restaurant in South Carolina, restaurateur and native Houstonian Travis Cook wanted to bring the pork-centric, chef-driven gastropub to Houston. The local outpost opened earlier this year in March in Sugar Land’s Town Square.
A trail of green-painted hooves lines the cobblestone sidewalk from the parking garage to the Texas-size doors of Bacon Bros. Parking is complimentary and connects the Marriott to surrounding retail shops and eateries within Town Square.
The sight of meat in the window literally stopped us in our tracks. Diners are treated to a full view of the cure room, situated at the forefront of the restaurant and featuring hanging slabs of ham, bacon and sausage in all its meaty glory.
We started with one of the most buzzed-about items, the bacon caramel popcorn. We wanted to love this mason jar of happiness, but found it was hit-or-miss with each popped kernel. The salty caramel pooled into clusters of the popcorn, making for an overwhelmingly salty bite.
The Devil’s Dust egg was a mustardy mixture of egg yolk and barbecue spices, topped with a limp, thin slice of tasso covering a small mound of pickled mustard seeds. There needs to be a better balance of ingredients, and the dish would have been improved by a crispy piece of bacon instead of the sad slice of ham. It’s important to note that this Devil’s Dust egg did not look anything like the perfectly coifed egg displayed on the BBPH site, on which the tasso appears to be a crispy flag of deliciousness, the pickled mustard seed pleasantly resting atop the creamy, smooth mixture of yolk and finished with fresh dill and dusted with spices.
At lunchtime, the daily specials menu is divided into two categories: Lunch Express and Quick Fixe. Both are great options for in-a-hurry folks looking for a fast sit-down meal. At $12 and $10 respectively, the daily specials are different each day but repeat each week. On our Thursday lunch visit, shrimp and grits was offered as the Lunch Express, and the fatty melt sandwich was the Quick Fixe option.
Half of a bacon-wrapped meat loaf patty was smothered in Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and brown mustard in between lightly toasted sourdough rye. This was presented with a cup of the soup of the day, which was a cold cucumber dill, and thinly sliced, fresh-fried potato chips and a small side salad. All this for $10.
The meat loaf was moist and had a sweet, tangy, barbecue flavor. The house-made chips were lightly seasoned with BBPH barbecue spices, and the salad was light and fresh. There was a tad too much dill in the cucumber soup for my taste, but we could not get over the incredible value of this lunch deal.
I was super-stoked to try the meat board after seeing and hearing that the restaurant cures all its own meats. Lonzino, coppa, country ham, rillettes, country pâté and grilled sausage are listed on the menu, but the server explained that not all those selections were currently available. They were options on the menu when BBPH first opened. No matter; I spotted some great cuts in the window, and the price was more than generous at $18 for five meats and a few accompaniments.
Because there were only five meats being served that day, my selection was easy. The meat board arrived with bresaola, tasso, pork rillettes, coppa and head cheese, as well as pickled okra spears, olives, pickled mustard seed, a couple of cheddar bacon biscuits and a few pieces of toast. The coppa and bresaola were fine, and the rillettes were made with a lighter version of the house barbecue spices. But the tasso was bland and didn’t have that spicy-Cajun punch that is usually associated with tasso ham.
The head cheese was a complete disappointment. In its texture and appearance, it resembled a soft, mushy version of country pâté, and the taste was unrecognizable. A traditional head cheese is a terrine or meat jelly made with flesh from the head of a cow or pig. It’s not a dish for the squeamish, but a good head cheese is gelatinous, firm and flavorful, with portions of the meat still visible in each cut.
The fluffy cheddar bacon biscuits, pickled okra and mustard seed spread were the most enjoyable components on the board.
We thought we’d give the barbecue a try. Again, we found the prices were very fair. A barbecue sampler plate is $27 per person and includes St. Louis ribs, pulled pork shoulder, sausage, salt and pepper beef brisket, and two sides.
A generous portion of each meat was crammed into a shallow pasta-bowl plate along with bacon mac ’n’ cheese and the Carolina rice and hash, our two choices for sides. The brisket was lean, dry and tasteless. The pork shoulder was tender, but lacked flavor and smokiness. The sausage was spicy, and any time I can tell that sausage is house-made, the experience is heightened for me. It was delicious. The pork ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender, and the spices definitely came through.
Sadly, the bacon was missing from the dry, overly heated mac ’n’ cheese, and the shredded barbecue meat atop the Carolina rice was strangely sweet and unappetizing.
The fried quail was a hit along with the Southern succotash it rested on, but the accompanying “crispy” pork belly was more caramelized than crispy. The fat on the pork belly needed a slower braising, but the cornmeal crust on the bird was light and the quail presented a taste that was so much more interesting than a simple chicken preparation. The succotash was full of bursts of freshness from the corn and tomatoes, and the buttery finish of the beans and the okra, which were mixed with some of BBPH’s stewed bacon, made for a sublime bite.
Desserts are nowhere to be found on the menu, but the server was happy to give us the short list, which included a brownie, banana pudding and pecan pie. The pie was chock-full of caramelized pecans and was served alongside a scoop of heavenly maple bacon ice cream. No, the kitchen doesn’t make the ice cream, but I wish the server had been able to recall where Bacon Bros. gets it.
The bar area is fetching, with a brightly lit wall of spirits and a nice collection of fairly priced whiskey, bourbon and Scotch. We were surprised to find an Oban 14 for a mere $14 a pour when elsewhere in the city, a glass of this stuff could run at least $20. The most expensive bourbons on the menu were upwards of $32 a glass.
We ordered the Older Fashioned, crafted with barrel-aged bourbon, orange bitters, maple syrup, brandied cherries and orange. Interestingly, both the cherries and the orange peel were missing in our cocktail. The ice in the glass was half-melted by the time the drink made its way to the table, and it looked like a drink handed over midway through its delivery preparation.
My gin shrub fizz, made with gin, a fruit shrub and sparkling wine, was delightful and refreshing. The bar creates a batch of shrub every few weeks, and for the summer, peach is on the menu.
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The space was decorated with different grades of wood beams and boards, leather-cushioned booths that lined the perimeter of the dining room and four-tops that easily moved into place for larger communal seating. The interior walls were minimally decorated, with only a few Southern and pork-inspired prints and baubles dispersed throughout the restaurant. Service was attentive and knowledgeable, and the menu was straightforward and full of Southern choices that were not particularly pork-inspired.
The lunch specials are a great option. The Mexican corn, cheddar bacon biscuits and succotash were outstanding, and fried quail is a great alternative to actual fried chicken, but how can a place called Bacon Bros. do meat so poorly? With just a little more effort, this could be an all-around strong addition to the area’s dining scene, but for now we’ll have to pick our spots to recommend.
Bacon Bros. Public House
2110 Town Square Place, 832-532-0342, baconbrospublichouse.com. Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.