Up in Smoke

First Bite: Midtown BBQ

Is the new 'cue joint on Bagby just the first in a long line?

By Alice Levitt May 26, 2016

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Meats offered at Midtown BBQ include beef, chicken and tyrannosaurus. 

Image: Alice Levitt

Brett Jackson fondly remembers his days in apprenticeship at Taylor's Louie Mueller Barbecue, a pit known to have provided inspiration for famed pitmaster Aaron Franklin, who in turn cut his teeth at John Mueller BBQ in Austin. Over lunch, Jackson dreamily muses on "the walls painted with smoke" back in his Taylor days.

Most recently chef at EaDo's, Jackson is finally living his dream of not only owning his own barbecue restaurant, but doing it with chef Eric Aldis, with whom he grew up in Katy. Aldis, also chef at River Oaks' Corner Table, has big dreams for their own Midtown BBQ, hoping to eventually make it a national chain. 

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Eric Aldis and Brett Jackson.

But first, there's much work to be done. The meat hook-inspired lights are yet to be hung. A custom-made door is coming soon. But there's time. The restaurant at 2708 Bagby St. had its grand opening just last week.

The bar program, right now focused on craft beers and wine, though liquor is available, will soon expand to specialty cocktails including an Old Fashioned made with bourbon aged in barbecue-smoked barrels. A Moscow Mule, made with local ginger beer will be on tap.

And Jackson's plans for his pit are no less ambitious. As he puts it, diners should expect "very fun things in the near future." Those include whole smoked fish, salmon, osso bucco and octopus all prepared in the pit. Diners only have to wait until the weekend for a special of Black Hill Ranch pork ribs butchered so pieces of belly are still attached.

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A little bit of nearly everything.

Image: Alice Levitt

But there's no lack of options on the opening menu. Particularly noteworthy are the moist, ideally ringed brisket and spare ribs whose flesh pull from bone as cleanly as peeling the back Scotch tape from Christmas wrapping paper. Chicken, from supplier D'Artagnan Foods, is brined in honey and ancho chiles for a sweet, delicately spicy finish.

Aldis is in charge of sides and puts an uncommon (but welcome) focus on vegetables. Yes, there are pinto beans and mac-and-cheese, but each plate is stacked with a rainbow of pickles with varying heat levels. Slaw is made with red cabbage that dyes even the onions and carrots it's mixed with a pleasing purple. Beer-braised greens come from the chef's garden.

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This is not a drill.

Image: Alice Levitt

But one of Midtown's greatest pleasures has no pretensions of health. That would be a bread pudding that tastes powerfully of the Shipley Donuts from which it's made, along with caramel and a wash of white chocolate. We were planning on having just a bite, but were powerless against eating the entire dessert.


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