Smoked Out: Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue

Three meat spread with sides at Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue
Three meat spread with sides at Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue Photo by Carlos Brandon
Scott Moore and partner Michelle Holland don't just own one of the 50 best barbecue joints in Texas (top 10 in our books). They also founded Texas' first bean-to-bar craft chocolatier. What's more, both businesses are under the same roof. Hell, they even roast their cocoa beans in a meat smoker.

In fact, it was that very stroke of genius that led Moore, a 25-year railroad man and hobbyist chocolate maker, to add barbecue to the menu of his tiny Tomball chocolate factory as a way to generate more revenue. That is how Tejas Chocolate Craftory became Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue. The rest is history.

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Fire wood for weeks
Photo by Carlos Brandon
Somewhere along the way Moore recruited his younger brother Greg Moore, former restaurant head chef and dabbler of all things barbecue and Tex-Mex, to become his pitmaster and fellow chocolate maker. It was Greg Moore's affinity for the pit, creativity in the kitchen and sheer knack for sauce making that catapulted Tejas from obscure small town chocolate shop to one of the foremost smokehouses in the state.

Smokehouse aesthetics do not get much better than a century old house in a small Texas town, a sprawling patio, stacks of firewood and the wafting aroma of smoke and rendering fat from across the street. Inside, faded wooden boards paint the walls and ceilings of a colonial-style country home. The barbecue line conveniently walks you past the chocolate counter where massive truffles dare you not to order them from across the glass partition. On smokehouse aesthetics Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue scores a perfect 10/10.

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Fatty brisket and pork belly from Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue
Photo by Carlos Brandon
While barbecue was not the original goal, it has certainly become the main attraction. It's unclear what Greg Moore's culinary specialty was during his days as a restaurant chef. What is clear is that he knew his way around a smoker before going to work for his brother. The pitmaster's contributions to the chocolate shops' offerings quickly garnered it a must try designation from barbecue lovers far and wide. Certified prime brisket is coated with a simple and classic "black and white" Texas rub. Equal parts salt and pepper plus smoke and lots of time. That's the recipe for what some consider the best brisket in Houston and one of the best in Texas.

Our serving was well marbled, fork tender and full of clean fatty flavor. While not over salted, the rub shined through; coarse black pepper flakes adding the right amount of kick. While the brisket is completely satisfying on its own, few condiments on earth pair better with smoked meat than Greg Moore's original VerdeQ sauce. A bright green concoction described as a mix of homemade verde and barbecue sauces. The tangy sauce is made from house-smoked green peppers, cilantro and a secret mix of ingredients that result in one of the best sauces to ever grace a barbecue platter.

Back to the brisket, its only downside may just come down to personal taste. For those who prefer the more exotic brisket rubs of say Ronnie Killen or Quy Hoang (Blood Bros BBQ), simple salt and pepper leaves something to be desired. On the other hand, brisket purists may prefer Moore's classic combo of salt, smoke and time. On quality of brisket Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue scores a 8.5/10.

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The original smoker still in service on the back patio
Photo by Carlos Brandon
Perhaps as a stand alone menu item, with no supporting cast of smoked delicacies, the brisket at Tejas Chocolate would not have landed it on the Texas Monthly top 50 list. That's to say nothing of its quality, but a top 50 barbecue restaurant in a state known for barbecue is required to show some versatility, some diversity. It seems Greg and Scott Moore had a little more than diversity of choice on their minds when they set out to refine their barbecue chops.

Standard smoked goods include an impossibly moist smoked turkey with a perfect ratio of salt to flavor, heavily seasoned pork belly as tender and fatty as the brisket, pork ribs, sausage by the link and more. But the real reason to visit Tejas C+B are the weekly specials. Tuesdays feature barbacoa tacos. Wednesdays are prime and beef ribs. Thursdays feature the notoriously delicious pastrami Reuben and beef ribs (we'll be returning for those). Finally, Fridays and Saturdays are for beef ribs and brisket burnt ends. The sheer choice of barbecue options is matched solely by their quality. On non-brisket proteins Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue scores another 10/10.

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The indelible carrot souffle from Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue
Photo by Carlos Brandon
By now the best smokehouses in Texas know that sides are integral to their success. Barbecue is an experience. Without the components of a quality meal, the best smoked brisket falls flat, unsupported on the palate. Executing on the classics is essential, but creativity and innovation score better in our eyes. Few sides have nailed such a feat like the airy, sweet, savory and satisfying carrot souffle at Tejas C+B. A perfectly executed fluffy souffle of carrot that pairs beautifully with any smoked protein on the menu. Our other choice was the cornbread casserole — a disappointingly bland creation that failed to live up to the exceptional nature of its tray-mate. On quality of sides Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue scores an 8/10.

While not an official category for this column, it would be unconscionable to finish this article without praising the handmade bean-to-bar chocolate. The triple espresso, raspberry dark chocolate and dark milk chocolate truffles were absolute bliss. Dense, bitter-sweet chocolate so thoroughly infused with its respective flavor packs a head-spinning punch of pure cocoa flavor with hints of butter and sugar that linger on the palate. Truly this place delivers the best of both worlds.
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Houston Press contributor Carlos Brandon is a freelance writer, blogger, and self proclaimed Houston hip hop historian. He contributes to various publications and can usually be found haggling with food truck cooks or talking politics on the METRO Rail.
Contact: Carlos Brandon