Pinkerton’s Barbecue, Houston, Texas

After our extraordinary breakfast at Valentina’s Tex Mex, Nancy and I headed back to Houston to see Anne Rain, Hunter, and Isabelle. Along the way, Nancy and I stopped and had a walk in Stephen F. Austin State Park. The modest admission was waived for Veterans Day Weekend (you’re quite welcome for my service, such as it was), the weather was beautiful, and the trails were wooded and level. The park hugs the Brazos River bottom land near San Felipe, the capital of the Republic of Texas.

Once in Houston we rejoined the Browns, saw their very cool home, and entertained and were entertained by Isabelle. We were primed for a very early dinner, as Nancy and I hadn’t eaten lunch after Valentina’s, and our pre-dawn flight the next morning paired well with Isabelle’s schedule. Off we all went to Pinkerton’s for some barbecue.

Pinkerton’s is another Texas Monthly Top 50 barbecue places, and when you eat there you quickly see why. It’s on the edge of the Heights neighborhood, not far from Spanish Flowers, where I had a number of late night meetings while doing voting rights work in Texas. Some folks have to do real work, so day meetings are out of the question. I remember one with Congressman Mike Honda of California and he jumped all over their menudo. Respect. In addition to their restaurant business, Pinkerton’s provides meats to kolache places for brisket and other savory kolaches.

Pinkerton’s has a very Texas hunting theme, starting with their entry, just dressed for Christmas that day. The riff on Molon Labe tickled me.

(Since then I’ve learned that it reflects a similar challenge to Santa Anna’s troops who demanded a cannon held by Texas colonists. The response, Come and Take It, adorned the first flag of the Republic of Texas.)

The Texas hunting theme continues with the stone and wood treatment and the trophies in the dining room

and in the bar.

After carefully consulting everyone with the possible exception of Isabelle, who was focused on being preternaturally cute, Hunter and I stepped up to order … let me see if I have this right. A heavy half pound or so of brisket ($30/pound), a quarter pound of turkey ($19/pound), a bunch of pork ribs ($21/pound), and a regular sausage (they were out of boudin, worse luck), a jalapeño sausage,

and some South Texas beans, potato salad, jalapeño cheese rice, and slaw. Pickles, onions, and jalapeños came with it. We all dug in.

Nancy was very enthusiastic about the turkey and its moistness and definite smoke flavor, happier with it than I can remember. You could tell, she said, that it had really been barbecued. I started in on the sausage, which was delicious, beefy, and well seasoned, and with that rough grind. Texas is a great place for beef sausage, which they do better than anyone. Pinkerton’s definitely cooks Top 50 brisket, moist, tender, smoky, and with a beautiful peppery crust. Nancy, impressed by its relative leanness, declared it the best brisket of the trip. While I wouldn’t go that far, being a moist end guy and much, much less put off by fat, I’ll agree that it was truly superb.

I was very pleased with the pork ribs. They were tender and, unlike the ribs at Terry Black’s, they’d been seasoned with a gentle hand, allowing that great pork flavor to shine through in all its richness. I wouldn’t have ordered any, but I’m very glad that Hunter included them. Pitmaster Grant Pinkerton knows what he’s about with each of the meats he offers, and my hat is off to him.

The South Texas beans were very tasty. I’m not a fan of the sugary, molasses-laced baked beans offered elsewhere, but I’m a big fan of Southern pinto beans and of the Texas variety.  The South Texas beans were graced with a fair amount of meat and green chiles. My notes include a well-earned thumbs up emoji. The potato salad as well was above average. It has a great texture with bits of bell pepper, and I think celery, and spring onions. Well done, Pinkerton’s.

Ah, the jalapeño cheese rice. My mother, the redoubtable Dear, used to make a similar casserole of rice, cheese, sour cream, and green chiles. She served it once to Karen, a young lady I was dating, who asked for the recipe, as if Dear ever actually followed a recipe. Dear presented Karen with a recipe sufficiently vague that Karen added two #2 cans of jalapeños instead of two small cans of green chiles. She had to quadruple the rest of the recipe before it was edible by humans.

Pinkerton’s jalapeño cheese rice was eminently edible. It was very tasty indeed, with the creaminess of the cheese a nice contrast to the rice, and the jalapeños added some heat. The dish was a treat.

All that delicious food and a chance to meet Isabelle! Oh, and to see Anne Rain and Hunter again. It’s so nice to see them all doing so well. I can’t wait until they can come to DC and meet Ella and Lily. I can see some family traits, mainly that preternatural cuteness. And Pinkerton’s, like the Rainbow Lodge, was such a great venue for the get-together. We’ll have a tough time matching those when they do come to Washington. The Steak N Egg Diner? The Blue and White? So many choices.

For a date night or a pop-the-question night, you can’t do better than the Rainbow Lodge, but for excellent barbecue of all stripes, including for what could be the best ribs in Texas, go to Pinkerton’s.


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3 thoughts on “Pinkerton’s Barbecue, Houston, Texas

  1. Hey, Mr.Tanner,
    Envious of your Texas travels. First on my list to try, when I’m next in Austin, is Valentina’s.
    Did you stop at a buc-ee’s? Haha

    Regards the riff on Molon Labe, you might be interested to know that Texas had it’s own iteration during the Texas Revolution (and occurred in Gonzales, Texas) just a hundred miles or so from the restaurant.

    Best to you
    Happy Thanksgiving 🦃

    Liked by 1 person

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