John Avila grew up with cows. "We would spend the summer with the cows and take care of the cows, feed the cows and then eat the cows," recalls the Bryan native. In other words, he understands meat, from its source. Barbecue fans have had a taste of that with his restaurant El Burro & the Bull, in downtown's Conservatory. But by the first day of 2018, they'll be able to see (and taste) Avila's oeuvre at its barest of bones.
That's when he and wife, Veronica, plan to open Henderson & Kane General Store, a grocery at 715 Henderson Street in the Sixth Ward. The Franklin Barbecue alum says he first scoped out the space six years ago, but ended up taking a job as the pitmaster at the Morgan in Brooklyn instead. He brings his barbecue cred to Henderson & Kane, too. Offerings in two deli coolers will include his signature jalapeño-cheddar sausages, as well as beef links and boudin made fresh. Avila will cut home-made pastrami, smoked brisket and "just about anything else that comes along." He has had discussions with local farms about partnerships (including finishing pigs on pumpkins for extra flavor), but hasn't inked any deals yet. And to go with the meat? Homemade pickles, tortillas, tamales and seasoning salts and sauces will be on offer.
A steam table will allow neighborhood folks to stop in for Avila's brisket and pulled pork at an approachable cost. In fact, he says that his priority is to keep prices low. "Houston is a blue collar town," he says. "We want this to be something people enjoy on a regular basis."
Though the store is still under construction, he can't wait to welcome the neighborhood in. On Sunday, November 5, the Avilas welcome locals from noon until 6 p.m. for a holiday market pop-up, featuring the works of artisan friends, and their own cuisine. Whole smoked meats include Berkshire pork shoulder, racks of ribs, wild turkey breast and prime Angus brisket. It will be time to pre-order holiday tamales, too (or taste some right there), as well as pies, including cherry, pecan and pumpkin, and chocolate-hazelnut tart.
Salivating? Luckily the preview splits up the wait a bit. And until H&K opens, there's always Conservatory.