Welcome to a weekly series at Gastronaut called Sorry I'm Late!. The premise: Our dining editor, Timothy Malcolm, is new to Houston. So much is happening here, so while he's reporting on and eating all the new stuff, he's also digging back into the past to get a better sense of how we got here. Each week he'll write about another restaurant, giving a brief review of his experience.
This week: Pinkerton's BBQ
The line at Pinkerton's Barbecue wasn't very long on this weekday afternoon, and even if it was, the action is fast enough that you'll get your mound of meat within 10 minutes, tops. That's impressive for a place that, since my arrival in July, has been atop most people's lists of recommended food destinations.
We know the story of the Airline Drive spot: Grant Pinkerton, a young pitmaster with no formal training, had a dream to smoke brisket and ribs, and his output was so tender and dreamy that it turned him into a local culinary star. His restaurant is mostly wood tables (country-kitchen-style inside by the line, picnic-style outside on the patio) and one modest bar serving beer, wine, and cocktails. Barbecue can get fancy, apparently.
The slightly more upscale (for a barbecue restaurant, that is) environment makes Pinkerton's feel like the kind of winter lodge begging for your escape. You'll spend hours there if you could, and considering the heft and taste of the grub, you may have to find a way.
Falling apart and leaving the right amount of fat against an impressive smoke ring, the brisket is irresistible. It went well with my sides: jalapeño cheese rice that offered just a small kick while having the creaminess of risotto, and the tangy, mustard-laced potato salad.
But I didn't end my afternoon there. Before leaving the line I noticed that Pinkerton's still had some beef ribs available. Because I'm a sucker for going big or going home, I nabbed one of the ribs.
This thing just slides off. The rub wasn't too overpowering—though the rib was a little saltier than I would've liked—and the meat just melts in your mouth, giving way to a touch of oak. I'm no barbecue expert, but I know this beef rib is one of my favorite single menu items in Houston.
Weekday afternoons aren't the best for barbecue, unless you have the day off and considerable time to take in the sights, sounds, and space inside your stomach. Pinkerton's demands some quality time, which of course means the weekend, which of course means lines. But there's a bar here. The vibe is cordial. It's clean and smells amazing and the food is worth it. Get in line. Give yourself time.