A friend's family flew in from Detroit for the weekend and demanded a statewide Texas barbecue crawl. But time was short, so we stole four hours between work shifts last weekend and set off on a Houston barbecue sprint.
One in our party dubbed the tour MEAT (Men Eating Animals Together), and we traveled in the guests' rented Chevy Suburban, a suitable vehicle for such a wanton, carnivorous outing. Each of our five diners scored the dishes 1-to-10 as we went (see charts).
We started at Goode Company to get a baseline reading, and because it was nearby. The ribs had a good flavor, but the texture was far too tough. The brisket was smoky and fatty but, again, tough. Some of our group found the sausage unnecessarily spicy, but didn't necessarily complain about the flavor. The sauce was derided as being too tomato-based, practically a marinara.
Luling City Market has been panned on these pages before, but the place scored well on our sprint. Perhaps the kitchen had a good day, or perhaps it was because all three meats were far more tender than those at Goode Company. It was hard to score the sausage, which had a good flavor but a sub-par consistency (greasy, not cohesive). The more vinegar-heavy sauce started sweet and finished spicy, and was generally well-liked.
Baker's Ribs was mediocre. The ribs were the best offering, but rightly finished the day in third place. The brisket was puzzling, thick and dry, like a pot roast, not a barbecued brisket. The sausage was too reminiscent of bologna to score highly, though the sauce was good, if predictable.
The biggest disappointment of the afternoon came when we arrived at Pierson & Company Bar-B-Q and found they had run out of ribs and brisket. We kicked ourselves for not sprinting fast enough. We settled for scoring the sausage (a dense beef link made by one of the owner's friends off-site) and sauce. From previous visits we feel comfortable estimating that Pierson's would have scored highest of the five. Regardless, the flavorful sausage and sneakily spicy sauce notched high averages (see charts).
After passing two groups on horseback, we arrived at Burns Bar BQ. Though some patrons were concerned the deceased proprietor's children would not match his culinary standards, we found the meats to our liking (though the restaurant also had run out of brisket by the time we arrived). Full disclosure: at this point, several in our party were complaining of stomach pain, perhaps skewing the numbers. But we agreed the ribs had a good flavor, and most liked the fatty, tender sausage. The sauce, runny but heavy with molasses, scored particularly high.
In retrospect, we would have traded out at least one of the restaurants for Thelma's Barbecue, and would have started no later than noon to prevent the letdown at Pierson's.
Feel free to nominate other stops in the comments. Here's the breakdown of our scores:
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