There is no doubt there is something that seems to be a universal liking in Texas culture -- barbecue. It is a growing, vibrant and ever-evolving food culture that seems to be expanding in Greater Houston.
Texas Monthly just released its list of the top 50 barbecue joints in Texas. When it first released its first Top 50 list in 2013, only five Houston area spots made the cut. Those that weren't in the top 10 included Gatlin's BBQ, Virgie's Bar-B-Que, Brooks Place BBQ, CorkScrew BBQ, and Leon's World's Finest BBQ. This year is a much different story.
Seven Houston-area joints made the list, with two of them earning a spot in the top 10. Tejas Chocolate Craftory in Tomball came in at No. 6, and CorkScrew BBQ in Spring was just behind at No. 7, followed by Gatlin’s BBQ, Killen's Barbecue, Pinkertonac’s Barbecue, The Pit Room and Roegels Barbecue, which all made a spot in the top 50 list.
KPRC 2 reporter Rose-Ann Aragon explored the top two places in the Houston area, CorkScrew BBQ and Tejas Chocolate Craftory.
First stop – CorkScrew BBQ located at 26608 Keith St. in Spring. This small business started in Nichole Buckman’s backyard. Nichole and her husband, Will Buckman, grew to love making barbecue for friends and family.
“We started out of our house in 2010. Then we opened up a trailer in 2011…and then we opened up here, brick and mortar, in 2015. I think barbecue brings people together. You got to get it with your friends; whether you grill or smoke it—it’s always a good time. I think barbecue is a pastime for Texans, and we want to make it a family event. It’s Texas barbecue,” said Nichole Buckman. “We started it out of our house and we did it for friends and family. We started doing it all the time, and so I decided it was best to start charging because we were working every weekend and my husband and I had a full-time job. So we just started doing it and it just kind of went from there.”
Named after the shape of a pig’s tail, the restaurant makes anywhere between 1,000 and1500 pounds of meat day —serving hundreds of people all day, selling out most days around 4 p.m. The restaurant sells premium cuts of meat that are all natural and humanely raised.
“It makes all the difference in taste,” said Buckman.
The hands behind the food are a five to six-person team that works very quickly. Written on the wall above the kitchen, “We are a family. A dysfunctional family, but still a family."
Her husband, Will, is the pitmaster. He’s been spearheading the kitchen since the joint opened in May of 2010. Cutting meat at a hundred miles a minute, he was able to find some time to multitask and talk with KPRC about what he does.
“This brisket has got a lot of love in it. It’s cooked low and slow. It’s been trimmed well…Keeps them nice and juicy,” said Will as he held the moistened, freshly cut meat in his hand with pride. “We use a dry rub—a proprietary blend.”
He said the best cut of beef is when you cut against the grain so the meat holds together. Many people have called CorkScrew BBQ a place they visit weekly.
“It’s our first time,” said Sharon Greg, a customer who is determined to make her way around every spot on the list nearby. “I’m definitely coming back.”
Nichole recommends the brisket and the turkey for first-timers. She said she hopes that people take away a feeling of loving barbecue the same way she does.
“A love for barbecue. I want them to get real Texas barbecue,” said Nichole.
Corkscrew BBQ opened May 2010 -- @CorkscrewBBQ owner recommends the brisket & the turkey- #7 place in Texas Monthly top 50 BBQ spots in TX pic.twitter.com/1qZISDNwya — Rose-Ann Aragon KPRC (@RAragonKPRC2) May 31, 2017
Lean brisket with a fat cap @CorkscrewBBQ All meats are all natural and humanely raised --Owner says it makes a huge difference pic.twitter.com/Lr7itbORrq — Rose-Ann Aragon KPRC (@RAragonKPRC2) May 31, 2017
TEJAS CHOCOLATE CRAFTORY (& BARBECUE)
But topping the list for places here in Greater Houston is No. 6 on Texas Monthly’s list, a contender that is just making its way on the barbecue radar – Tejas Chocolate Craftory in Tomball.
“We actually started as a chocolate maker back in the kitchen at home as a hobby. We started selling chocolates at the farmer’s market and it did well, and we wanted to make that our full-time job and make it a living. But it wasn’t going to add enough revenue, so we decided to add food to it,” said Scott Moore, the man who started the business 19 months ago.
“Tejas. That’s the origins of Texas…It means friends and allies,” said Moore. “It’s the origins of Texas and the origins of cacao…Craftory is a word I made up. I put craft and factory together like one of those Boggle players that makes up words all the time. It just came out one day,” added Moore, explaining the name of the place. “I hired my brother the chef and took my backyard barbecue skills and got Michelle—She’s a great gourmet cook and decided to add a menu to the chocolate."
Moore said business has picked up since the list came out.
“It was really rather unexpected…I was surprised, thrilled, terrified…We’re still trying to absorb actually what it means to us, but it’s very rewarding to get recognized for what we do. We got a great crew. Everybody works very, very hard and to get this sort of recognition is an incredible achievement.”
The quaint restaurant doesn’t look like your typical barbecue joint – it looked like a home with a porch and chairs outside. It’s housed in the oldest building in Tomball, according to Moore. Some of the meat smokes in a repurposed old propane tank.
“You just need a torch and a welder…These will cook for 14 hours to cook a brisket the right way,” Moore said as he opened the tank. The smell of sweet smoke filled the air. “This is for lunch tomorrow.”
The secret to the taste?
“It’s simple and straightforward. It’s salt, pepper and smoke,” said Moore. “Anyone could do it.”
But this barbecue has impressed experts and customers who have found perhaps what Moore said is the “best-kept secret in Greater Houston.”
For first-timers, he recommends the Brisket & Blues Signature Sandwich, a sandwich that was as delicious as it was moist. “Red onion, blue cheese, brisket, butter on a brioche bun,” said Moore.
He also recommends the turkey sandwich – with avocado and bacon. Of course, they have chocolate.
“It’s local and it's right up the road from where I work. The carrot soufflé might as well be a dessert,” said one regular.
Moore said he hopes to see his business grow. He plans on changing the name to Tejas Chocolate and Barbecue.
“We’ll have a new logo that we’ll be rolling out. We just changed it on our Facebook page,” said Moore.
The place serves hundreds a day. Moore hopes that more people will recognize his business and check it out.
“They appreciate that we use premium cuts of meat; we take our time; we do things the right way. You can taste—It’s clean. It’s fresh. Everything is done with a lot of care,” said Moore.
Two different places with very different vibes, but both places have one thing in common their owners’ love for smoking, eating and sharing the very Texan love for barbecue.