Baker's Ribs, like the Wendy's-turned-carwash-turned-abandoned-dry-cleaner it neighbors on Voss just north of Westheimer, looks like it should have gone out of business long ago. The crowd is sparse even at peak mealtimes, and rarely does anyone stay to dine at a vinyl cow print-covered table surrounded by clay molded pig figurines.
It is clear that Baker's Ribs is the dirty little secret of Tanglewood. Like the taco place on Will & Grace where all the socialites secretly snack with their Rosarios, residents opt to binge over Styrofoam in the privacy of their homes.
When barbeque is that good, you need to be able to eat it outside public view - double fisted, with slovenly abandon. Baker's brisket has the taste of a place that's survived its surroundings - years of grease and seasoning and other unmentionables have built up to create a legacy of yum. A thousand Baker's pigs perished to create just the right smoky flavor - they are now martyrs depicted in spray paint on the outer brick of the Baker's sanctuary.
The buns are soft and buttery, and the sides are better than homemade. The pickled cucumbers are still cucumbers - peppered and paired with red onions and un-yellow potato salad that lends itself to a good saucing.
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Perhaps it's the fact that a true Texan rarely owns up to the love of a St. Louis-style rib, but whether or not the dining room remains empty, secret patronage will continue to keep smoke in the chimney and cobbler on the counter at Baker's Ribs.