In 2013, 1,300 people came out in the chilly windy weather to stuff themselves silly with brisket, sausage, turkey and more at the inaugural Houston Barbecue Festival. And this year, we're doing it all over again.
"This year, my partner, Michael Fulmer, and I are expanding the definition of Houston BBQ," explains co-founder J.C. Reid. "Last year every place was a brick-and-mortar, mom-and-pop shop. This year there are a few bbq trailers, and on the other end of the spectrum, we have one large chain, Spring Creek Barbecue."
In addition to Spring City Barbecue, the festival will feature 17 Houston-area barbecue joints, as well as Louie Mueller Barbecue, from Taylor, Texas, and Morgan's Texas Barbecue from Brooklyn. Last year's event featured 15 barbecue joints, but because this year's will be bigger, more tickets will be sold as well.
Don't expect to see any awards or honors given out at this event, though. That's not what it's about.
"This is a celebration," Reid says. "It's not a cook-off. Houston has a lot of cook-offs. The rodeo is the biggest example. If you're in this circuit, there are cook-offs every weekend. But it's not a competition. It's truly a celebration to let these mom-and-pop joints be rock stars for a day."
Reid and his co-founder Fulmer are clearly very passionate about barbecue, but the two Houstonians have a soft spot for local barbecue in particular.
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"We used to drive around the state looking for the best barbecue," Reid says. "We did that for a couple of years and found lots of good barbecue at the usual places. At one point, we were driving around the road in the middle of the night thinking, 'Why are we driving all over Texas, when there's good barbecue in Houston?' So we started driving around Houston, and we found a good 20 or so barbecue joints that could match up with anyone in the state."
The two men want to bring to Houston the kind of recognition that Austin and Central Texas get for having great barbecue. Reid admits that Houston barbecue is "under-recognized" and "underrated," but he hopes that by highlighting the great food this city has to offer, that perception will change.
"So far, it's worked out great," he says. "Doing this festival is so much work, and there are so many ups and downs, but when we talk to the barbecue joints and see how excited they are, that's when our spirits are lifted, and that's what really makes it worth it."
General admission tickets are $50 and include entry and unlimited sample portions from each participating barbecue joint. VIP tickets are $90 and include entry into the festival at noon (an hour early!), unlimited sample portions from each barbecue joint, a T-shirt and one drink ticket. Beer and wine will be sold separately.