Chances are you may not know a lot about Harris County General Store Barbecue Co., and honestly, we wouldn't blame you. For one, the pit—run almost completely by Daniel Hinojosa—rested just under a Navigation Boulevard railroad overpass. For two, it had been open about a year, not very long for a pitmaster to gain a reputation for consistency.
But in that year, Harris County did get a rep. Garnering a host of a five-star Yelp reviews, it was one of the more under-the-radar spots in the city.
You may notice I'm using the past tense when describing Harris County General Store Barbecue Co., and that's because the place is closed for regular business, shutting its doors at the end of 2018. But Hinojosa has big plans for 2019, including a reopening of his eatery in a new, larger building nearby.
"The original vision of Harris County General Store was based on Gruene Hall," he said. "It's just a good place to come, have a plate of barbecue and socialize. Bring your family, bring your date, and just enjoy yourself."
Hinojosa is close to finalizing a space, and he hopes it'll be up and running this year. He also plans on hiring a full staff to "get some of the weight of my shoulders," plus expanding to six days a week (he previously was open Wednesday to Friday). In the meantime, he's cooking up other ideas, like four festivals and a weekly pop-up event smack in the middle of Navigation.
First, the festivals. On April 28 he'll present the H-Town Barbecue Bonanza, which will feature a variety of pitmasters on Navigation. Just a week later on May 4, he'll throw at Cinco De Mayo festival at Guadalupe Plaza Park. In September it's Taco World, which will include both restaurants and amateurs, plus live music, and its location is to be determined. And finally in December is the annual Tamale Festival he's been running at Guadalupe Plaza Park. For these festivals Hinojosa plans on charging patrons a base price for entry, letting them pay for food in an a la carte way, instead of offering a one-time purchase with a wristband.
"I grew up in Denver Harbor/East End area, so it's really important for me to just keep the neighborhood alive with culture," Hinojosa said.
Beyond the festivals, Hinojosa will be serving up Harris County General Store grub during residencies at the Friday and Saturday East End Street Market on the Navigation Esplanade, starting February 15. You can also expect some guests to show up, from other cooks to breweries. Those residencies will start at 11 a.m. and run through the early evening.
So there's still a way to get Hinojosa's brisket, ribs, and sausage. He's also keeping his catering business alive during the interim, so get those party orders in now. Moreover, he's close to packaging his barbecue sauces, an original savory sauce called Buffalo Bayou Swamp Sauce, and a hot one called Lockwood Special, a nod to the old Lockwood Inn that Hinojosa frequented as a kid.
"Growing up, just going to Lockwood Inn, that's where all the magic happened," he said.
With such a big year ahead for Hinojosa, there may be plenty of magic left in the air.