Smoking the good stuff

Rising star pitmaster fires up Houston's newest destination barbecue joint

Rising star pitmaster fires up Houston's newest destination BBQ joint

Reveille barbecue Wade Elkins
Elkins will help the restaurant expand its hours of operation. Photo by Shawn Chippendale
Reveille barbecue Michael Michna Wade Elkins James McFarland
James McFarland, Wade Elkins, and Michael Michna of Reveille Barbecue Co. Photo by Eric Sandler
Reveille barbecue tray
Brisket, ribs, taco sausage, and Tex-lotes. Photo by Eric Sandler
Reveille barbecue pit room
The restaurant uses a smoker made by Evie Mae’s near Lubbock. Courtesy photo
Reveille barbecue exterior
Reveille will celebrate Elkins' arrival with a pig roast. Courtesy photo
Reveille barbecue Wade Elkins
Reveille barbecue Michael Michna Wade Elkins James McFarland
Reveille barbecue tray
Reveille barbecue pit room
Reveille barbecue exterior

Barbecue enthusiasts need no introduction to Reveille Barbecue Co, but the rest of Houston may not have noticed the slightly under-the-radar Magnolia joint.

Open since May, James McFarland and Michael Michna have attracted some serious buzz for their Tex-Mex-influenced menu, which is sort of stunning consider they’re operating the restaurant on the weekends while working full time jobs during the week: McFarland in the oil and gas industry and Michna as a Houston firefighter.

The success isn’t a huge surprise; the two friends were already veterans of barbecue competitions. McFarland honed his chops while working at both The Pit Room and Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue. 

To take things to the next level, they’ve hired a pitmaster who can devote himself to making Reveille Houston’s next destination barbecue joint.

Wade Elkins comes to Reveille after spending the last year as the assistant pitmaster at Feges BBQ. Elkins tells CultureMap that his plan all along had been to open his own barbecue joint, but, having grown up in Magnolia, he couldn’t say no when McFarland and Michna offered him both a job and an ownership stake.

“They just don’t have a pitmaster or somebody there to be the face of the business,” Elkins says. ”That’s where I can step in, and we can kick some ass. Maybe open up a few more days during the week and start making Reveille a serious competitor. They already have the brand. Now’s the time for us to put the pedal to the metal.”

In the short term, he plans to focus on perfecting the existing menu and refining his techniques. Ultimately, he’d like to add dinner service on Thursday and Friday to take advantage of commuters who are heading home on SH 249.

"We want him to expand the menu, because this guy can cook," McFarland says. "The whole thing is going to be his playground. He can do whatever he wants."

Beyond those immediate goals, the partners see Reveille’s two-acre property as having serious potential. Currently, it only has a smokehouse, a serving trailer, and a covered patio with some picnic tables, but the long term plan is to transform it into a complete restaurant and beer garden that ranks among the best barbecue joints period.

“Our long-term goal is to be a serious contender in the Texas barbecue game and a piece of that history in the long run,” McFarland says. “That’s what we’re going to do. We will be a destination spot in southeast Texas for craft barbecue, from where we’re at going to College Station. The only good barbecue you’ll have will be us and Tejas.”

Elkins will spend the next month or so taking a little time off and working on a couple of large catering jobs, but he’s already thinking about new menu items that can be a draw for Reveille in the same way that chile relleno sausage has become an important part of Tejas’ identity. Already known for a riff on elotes and a taco sausage, Elkins sees the potential for more Tex-Mex influenced dishes. 

“An idea I want to work on is carnitas,” Elkins says. “Basically, smoke a pork shoulder and confit it in brisket fat and do carnitas tacos. Offer a different pork dish that ties into our Tex-Mex heritage.”   

To celebrate Elkins’ arrival, the restaurant will host a party on March 2 with specials that include whole hog, smoked alligator, and a crawfish boil. Elkins has already smoked a couple of whole hogs at Reveille, and he’s eager to make it a monthly tradition.

Despite being something between a hobby and an avocation, Reveille has already generated plenty of positive attention for its barbecue. With an experienced hand working the pit every day, the restaurant’s potential seems virtually unlimited.

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