The tell-tale sign of a successful barbecue is how much time a pit master spends with her or his back to the folks standing in line waiting for a plateful of seasoned, smoky goodness. That bit of wisdom is courtesy of Brian Harris, whose OMG BBQ was on hand for the inaugural Great Texas BBQ Festival. We asked if the new event was a success and he gauged his response by how much time he didn’t see the hungry faces of fellow, barbecue-crazy Houstonians.
“We had a line of 50 people out here all day until about an hour and a half ago. I had my back to most of it being on the pit,” he said.
Harris drew crowds with OMG’s signatures—brisket, beef ribs, and beans—that have prompted an ode of sorts from us previously. His fellow grill masters were also hard at work Saturday and Sunday, trying to satiate the hunger of those who came to a very unique cookout.
Originally slated for mid-April at Sam Houston Park, the festival took a rain delay and postponed until last weekend. That extra time might have allowed the cravings to build; some of the teams and vendors ran out of meat during the meet. Combined with craft beers and diverse music acts, the first-year event showed its potential.
“Barbecue started with the families,” Harris said. “Traditionally, on holidays, people got together and barbecued and cooked out. That’s where it started—the backyard. So, if you make it, you better make it like the backyard.”
The risk of turning that familial fun into a festival for everyone is multi-fold. Will summertime heat affect crowds? Will people feel like they’re at a backyard cookout on the concrete parking lot at Post HTX? Will rain move in and douse the fires? A storm did ultimately barrel into the downtown area, causing the festival to scrub its last few hours. But, two of the night’s headlining music acts, The Suffers and Dawes, played a free show to fans at The Continental Club in lieu of their fest sets.
In all, the risks were handled deftly by event organizers and paled next to one of the festival’s big initiatives, which was to introduce area eaters to new culinary options. Daniel Hinojosa, of Harris County General Store Barbecue Company, was grateful to compete and feed his Houston neighbors.
“We satisfied the general public here. As you can see, we’re the last persons here still standing, still serving brisket,” said Hinojosa, who has been in competition barbecue since 2007 and opened a shop on Navigation in 2015.
“The competition? Our chicken didn’t cross the road. Our ribs didn’t leave the farm,” he sighed. “But, the brisket was so awesome it made the final table. We made final table on ribs, chicken and brisket, so we did very well. It was an excellent turnout, great event. I’m very thrilled and happy to serve you guys, meet new friends and introduce new people to our barbecue and our brand.”
Being able to boast one’s brand is only part of the thrill of grilling for others, Harris said.
“They like to see if they can take what they learned from mom and dad and grandma and everybody else and see if they can put it together and make it better,” he shared. “The competitions give you a chance to do that. I’ve done six of them. We’ve won all of them except the last one we did. It’s just a matter of taking what I got from my grandparents and my dad and making it as good as I can.”
What is it about an expertly smoked slab of meat and secret-recipe sides that drives eaters to stand in line in hundred-degree heat to taste a sample? Hinojosa had the simple, perfect answer to our query.
“This is Texas,” he said. “This is our comfort food.”