Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review: Gatlin's BBQ, One of Houston's Gems

I live in the Houston area and I have known for years that Houston is not known as a Mecca for BBQ in the Lone Star State.  Houston very much falls into the East Texas style of BBQ.  Couple of slices of brisket slathered in sauce with Potato salad and pinto beans is the standard fare.  Houston BBQ was known for its large chains like the former Luther's, Pappas, Good Company, and now the awful Spring Creek BBQ (I do like the rolls at Spring Creek, I have to admit).  However, Houston has had a renaissance of sorts in the last few years that has seen some really good spots pop up.  Corkscrew, previously reviewed here on this blog is one of these but Gatlin's in the heights is a great experience. 

Located on 19th street in the western Heights neighborhood in Houston, Gatlin's is what all East Texas Style BBQ should aspire too.  Gatlin's is in the top 3 of my favorites in East Texas.  I have been there several times in the last couple of years and on this review I had the Turkey and a couple of ribs.  But let me give you some background on what they do really well.

The pulled pork here is smoky with bits of crust and fat mixed in.  This is flavorful and moist but not mushy.  This could be the best pulled pork in the state.  They have two kinds of sausage, the standard smoked sausage that you would find, well smoked with good snap and color.  However, the real treat here is the East Texas Hot Link.  This is sausage that is generally found from the Tyler area down to Crockett.  The East Texas Hot Link is a sausage that tends to be shorter in length with a finer grind on the meat in the casing.  It has chunks of pepper in it with a decent kick but will not have you asking for a glass of milk to cool down.  This link is not pretty, it's grey in color, has good snap and with the smoke that Gatlin's puts on it, out of this world.  East Texas links are different from their Central Texas counter parts but are well worth it and should be tried while at Gatlin's.

I have been to Gatlin's several times over the last couple of years and have never had bad brisket there until today.  My wife and daughter ordered brisket.  They asked for moist with burnt ends and got neither.  The slices were from the flat and were dry.  You could pick up a slice and it would just fall apart from being overcooked.  The flavor was very good but this brisket was so dry that it needed sauce just to keep it from drying all the saliva in your mouth.  I am going to consider this an aberration since they have had such a great track record in the past.  However, this meat should not have made the plate.

One last thing, before I get on to the Turkey.  Momma at the counter makes visiting Gatlin's worth it.  If you are in a bad mood after waiting in line, she will no doubt cheer you up.  She makes the trip to Gatlin's worth it even if the food wasn't all that good.

I ordered the two meat plate, getting turkey, pork ribs, dirty rice, and green beans.  I also got pickles and onions on the side.  These ribs are fantastic.  The meat is tender, juicy, with a great smoky taste.  There is nice rub and a touch of sweetness in the glaze.  This is one fine pork rib.  In fact, it is by far my favorite in Houston and maybe the whole Lone Start State.  The turkey is smoky, moist, and full of flavor.  Absolutely top notch.  This is real turkey breast, not mashed up turkey product.  The sides are the best from any BBQ joint I have ever had, anywhere.  Hands down, the dirty rice is the best I have ever had.  The green beans are as good as they get.  I don't know how else to put it but they have soul.  A sign in the shack where you order says the secret ingredient is love.  They doubled up on the love on the sides.  The sides are worth the trip to this joint alone.  My wife gets collard greens and corn pone (Water bath corn bread) every chance she gets.  Y'all, this is destination BBQ.  Also, you need to be careful to watch your plate or this might happen....
There are only a couple of  tables inside and just a few picnic tables outside so you will likely share a table with someone else.  I like this as it gives you a chance to meet and talk with others.  Bottom line I love this place.  It is probably my favorite in Houston by a nose. 
Gatlin's BBQ
1221 W 19th Street
 Houston, TX 77008
Next week? Brisket on a stick with friends.

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