Monday, April 15, 2019

7th annual Houston BBQ Festival, 4/14/19

I am seven for seven at this great festival and I plan on being eight for eight next year.  This show seems to improve almost every year and the food seems to get better, too.  For 2019 they were up to 30 BBQ joints, which is the most I have seen at any festival.
The weather on Sunday was beautiful.  It was a bit windy at times, but nothing like it was back at the first fest in 2013 when rolls of paper towels were blowing off the table and you had to hold down your BBQ to prevent it from sailing away, too.  We arrived a little after 11 am and found they had a slightly different set up from last year.  This time you were met at a little gate where they scanned your ticket, then, just inside the gate, you got your bag and shirt.  After cueing up, we were told there really was not a line as it kind of blocked the entry gate.  They had everyone move over into a holding area around the entry gate to await all the meaty goodness to come.  It turned into kind of a big blob.
The folks from Tin Roof BBQ came out and passed out samples of beef rib burnt ends to get our juices flowing.  It was outstanding.  We hadn't even gotten into the festival yet and we were already eating some great BBQ.
The gates opened right on time and off we went to the VIP "golden hour".  All the joints were set up outside this year, with 15 lined up in two groups on each side.  We started in the far corner and worked our way up, filling our BBQ boxes as we went.  Every vendor was up and serving and there were no delays.  We found a table inside the event center, out of the wind and sun, and staked out our eating area.  Here's our bounty from the first pass.
That's just half of our samples, above!  Here's the second half, below.
Good thing I had fasted for the previous 36 hours.  Maybe I should have fasted for a week!  So much good BBQ!!  With so much to sample, we stuck to a bite or two from each vendor.  We were still stuffed at the end.
As always, the samples varied greatly from vendor to vendor.  Some would pass out a small piece of brisket and a bite of sausage.  Others would give you a whole boat full of food.  Ray's BBQ Shack has always been very generous with their samples and they passed out almost a full meal to every visitor.  I passed on the sides this year.
There were a lot of highlights.  In fact I only had one bad piece of under cooked brisket all day.  Brisket highlights included Killen's, Daddy Duncan's, Buck's, Brett's, Reveille, and Tejas Chocolate & BBQ.
There were not a lot of ribs in evidence, but The Rusty Buckle raised the bar with bacon wrapped baby backs.  Oh my!  Gatlin's, Tejas Chocolate & BBQ, The Pit Room, and Lennox had some nice rib bites, too.
There was a lot of good sausage.  I didn't have a bad bite of sausage all day.  Southside market offered several types including an extra cheesy jalapeno cheese.  There were some nice experiments including creole sausage, green onion, and whiskey fennel.  It would be interesting to have a whole festival dedicated just to sausage.  There's a lot of good sausage ideas floating around in Houston.
Beef ribs were a thing again this year and were on offer from many of the vendors.  We didn't have a bad sample, but Louie Mueller's beef rib slider and the beef rib burnt ends from Tin Roof stood out.
There were a lot of tasty ideas in the "other" category, too.  Killen's had some great fried chicken.  It's not BBQ, but I happily ate it anyway.  Add a little spice and they could give Gus's a run for their money.  Southern Q had some spicy wings that were very good.  Creole meatballs, pastrami beef tongue, meatloaf with bourbon bacon jam, and bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers were just a few of the "other" highlights.  There were also a bunch of different pulled pork samples as little taco or cracker concoctions.

There seemed to be more desserts at the fest this year.  We saved them up for last and they were a great finish to a wonderful meal.  Even if we could only hold a bite of each.  Tejas Chocolate and BBQ had their marvelous dark chocolate mousse again.  Yummy.  All the other cookies, cakes, and puddings were tasty, too.
This festival has always been one of our favorite events but I think after this year we have to push it up to #1.  Getting tickets is really easy.  They even give previous attendees a jump on public ticket sales (I actually bought my VIP tickets in November 2018).  The Humble venue is outstanding and coming from the North I appreciate not having to go through the traffic mess inside 610.  There is plenty of FREE parking (much better than the old Reliant stadium location which cost an extra $10).   The check-in is well organized and efficient, there are plenty of seats for everyone, nice indoor restrooms, water fountains (if you're driving and can't have too much beer), and lots of really great BBQ.  I don't know how they are going to top this year's event next year, but I am going to be there to find out!

More photos from the event in posts below.  Click on any photo for a larger view.

7th Annual Houston BBQ Festival photos part 1

7th annual Houston BBQ Festival pictures part 2