The city's barbecue fans were seriously displeased when pitmaster Greg Gatlin was forced to close his namesake restaurant in 19th Street earlier this year. Though the space was small (and we mean small; the dining room was only 700 square feet), the Heights restaurant was known statewide as one of the best places for brisket in the greater Houston area, and fans were known to line up outside the little barbecue shack mailman-style: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of humidity stayed those 'cue hounds from the single-minded completion of their appointed rounds. And though the closure was necessitated by the loss of his lease at the little joint, it proved fruitful for Gatlin. Between selling his barbecue from a Gatlin's-branded food truck, he partnered with Reef chef/owner Bryan Caswell to open the acclaimed Jackson Street BBQ downtown earlier this year while awaiting the construction of a new Gatlin's Barbecue in Oak Forest.
That new Gatlin's Barbecue finally opened at 3510 Ella Blvd. in mid-September, and crowds have been rushing back to Gatlin's welcoming arms—this time, arms that are even more welcoming now that they can accommodate 130 diners in the 4,200 square-foot space. The food, happily, has remained the same, with plenty of Gatlin's signature brisket, dirty rice and peach cobbler on offer, though new items have also been added. Look for St. Louis-style spare ribs, sliders, salads and a whole section of baked potatoes topped with every kind of barbecue imaginable.
Elsewhere, pitmaster Wes Jurena has moved into a long-awaited bricks-and-mortar space of his own. The beloved Pappa Charlie's trailer that brought high-quality smoked meats to the Heights and Montrose now has permanent location in EaDo. Pappa Charlie's Barbecue opened this week at 2012 Rusk, practically in the shadow of the BBVA Compass Stadium and Warehouse Live.
A partnership with Cameron, Texas-based 44 Farms supplies Jurena with all of Pappa Charlie's beef, from his famous masala-rubbed tri-tip to the peppery brisket that's known for being cooked high-and-hot as opposed to the more standard low-and-slow more common in Texas. You'll also find Jurena's terrific pork ribs as well as new offerings like turkey tacos and a version of the pulled pork sundae first made famous at rodeos and state fairs across the country. The restaurant even includes a stage, where Jurena plans to host local bands against a backdrop of a the Lone Star flag.