The hottest summer tour around just might be one featuring a young pit smoker, several pounds of brisket, sausage, and ribs, and midweek lines outside a random Kroger.

Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue of Tomball has been bringing out the fans for the past few weeks with Ethyl's 2020 Summer Hump Day Kroger Tour, a series of Wednesday afternoon pop-ups in front of Kroger markets across the Houston area. Each of the midday spectacles has seen sellouts as folks have clamored for what's arguably the area's top 'cue.

"People seem to really appreciate that we're getting closer to their local residence," Tejas co-owner Scott Moore says. "They get barbecue then go grocery shopping, or they go grocery shopping and get some barbecue to take home."

Tejas struck up a relationship with Kroger through a mutual friend, and so far Moore and his team have served their meats at a market close to their home base in Tomball, plus Cypress, Kingwood, and Shepherd Drive in the Heights. The next pop-up is planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Kroger at 9125 W Sam Houston Pkwy N near Jersey Village.

The meat is cooked ahead of time in Tomball, then the Tejas team brings it to the pop-up site in hot boxes before it's finished in Ethyl, their year-old pit smoker. Tejas serves chopped brisket sandwiches; sausage; half and full racks of pork ribs; and the smokehouse burger it features at Tejas Burger Joint, just a few blocks from the barbecue spot. No slouch when compared to the meat, Tejas's famous side dish of carrot soufflé is also on offer, along with chips and drinks.

Moore says the pop-ups have opened a new avenue for the business. While Tejas has hung around during the COVID-19 pandemic when compared to other restaurants (the co-owner says profit is down about 25 percent from this point last year), this new option has introduced new customers to the smokehouse. It also may have busted open some retail doors for Tejas, as Moore says he and Kroger are discussing a more permanent space in one area store.

"What's happened during all this is we've learned how to make dining in and online ordering coexist; so by doing online ordering and curbside pickup locally, we've opened ourselves up to a customer base that just doesn't do barbecue lines," says Moore. "We've broadened our footprint a great deal."

Moore says the team has roughly planned the next several pop-ups with locations like Katy, Spring, and Conroe on deck. In the Loop and missed the first local go-round? Chances are Tejas will be back as Moore says he hopes the tour continues, maybe past the summer. Rock on.

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