How Pinkerton's Barbecue Was Able to Serve Lines Out the Door During Harvey

Grant Pinkerton in his pit room.
Grant Pinkerton in his pit room. Photo by Jamie Alvear
For Grant Pinkerton, closing his eponymous barbecue operation, Pinkerton's Barbecue, for Hurricane Harvey was never a question. Not even on Saturday night, when water was creeping up to the door and a family found itself stranded in a car in his parking lot. He invited them inside and they stayed until 4:30 in the morning. In fact, over the weekend, Pinkerton's Barbecue, which fortunately did not end up flooding, became an escape for many in the Houston Heights.

A line formed out the door on Saturday and Sunday. Folks on Facebook were describing it as a zoo, but, Pinkerton says, despite a line that started to zigzag across the restaurant, morale remained high. Pinkerton told the Press, "People in line were all talking to each other and having a good time. I think they'd been staring at the news for three days and just needed a break."

And some good barbecue and cold ones, though "we had two people come in looking for bread. That's the only thing we don't have left."

Pinkerton was able to run the restaurant with just his girlfriend, who shares the apartment above the restaurant with him, and four employees who live close by, one within walking distance. Typically he'd have up to 14 people on for weekend service. With a backup generator ready and waiting, walk-ins fully stocked and even cots on standby, the well-prepared skeleton crew got to work.

"I cook on offset pits, so I don't need electricity or gas. We just burn wood, and the last few days we just worked on cutting and stacking wood. I knew we'd get by."

It was like a typical night, except "we'd go into the kitchen if there was a tornado warning." But Pinkerton's BBQ was able to remain open and bring a smile to many residents' faces during one of the most unprecedented natural disasters the country has ever seen. While many restaurants opened on Saturday, with many closing early, hardly any in the city remained opened on Sunday as well.

Pinkerton also invited all first responders, high-water rescue personnel and fire stations to come eat barbecue via the restaurant's Facebook page. And that family that got stuck in the parking lot and spent the night? They returned the next day to eat as well.

"Brisket and sausage," Pinkerton said, seemed to be the most popular orders of the weekend. It also sounds like one of the best gifts a Texan can offer during hard times.

Pinkerton's Barbecue plans to open with normal operating hours this week, closed Monday and Tuesday. Open Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Pinkerton's Barbecue
1504 Airline, 713-802-2000, pinkertonsbarbecue.com

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Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.