Mr. Botello Comes to Washington

Acclaimed Brenham barbecue joint picks prime Houston location

Acclaimed Brenham barbecue joint picks prime Houston location

Truth BBQ Leonard Botello IV
Leonard Botello IV is bringing his offset smoker to Washington Avenue. Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma
J Black's Truth BBQ Houston exterior
Truth Houston will open in the former J. Black's space. Photo by Eric Sandler
Truth BBQ barbecue tray
Truth's barbecue earned it 10th place on Texas Monthly's list. Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma
Truth BBQ barbecue sandwich
A bigger kitchen should mean a faster line. Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma
Truth BBQ brisket on paper
But a faster line won't mean decreased quality. Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma
Truth BBQ Leonard Botello IV
J Black's Truth BBQ Houston exterior
Truth BBQ barbecue tray
Truth BBQ barbecue sandwich
Truth BBQ brisket on paper

Truth Barbeque, the Brenham restaurant ranked 10th in the state by Texas Monthly, has picked where it will open its eagerly anticipated Houston location. Only a month after announcing plans to open in the Bayou City, pitmaster-owner Leonard Botello IV tells CultureMap that the rumors are true; he and business partner Johnny Carrabba have signed a lease to open Truth Houston in the former J. Black’s space on Washington Avenue.

“We’ve actually been sitting on it for about six months or so now,” Botello says. “From a business standpoint, with the development going up across the street, I just think it would be a great place to make a footprint in Houston.”

Botello refers to the Buffalo Heights development, a mixed-used complex from CityCentre developer Midway that will include a new H-E-B. Although it will be located along one of Houston's busiest streets, Botello says he plans to preserve as much of the original’s atmosphere as possible.

“We’re going to try to hit it home doing the same thing we did there,” Botello says. “I want people to have the same experience, same music, same vibe. I love the area. I think we’ll be able to knock it out of the park with that place.”

In addition to the building's brief history as a barbecue joint called Phil's BBQ in 2010 and 2011, the space’s size also helped make it the right place to be Truth’s second location. Botello says he’s looking forward to working in a full-size kitchen that will allow him to make the restaurant’s signature sides more efficiently, and he’s working with kitchen architects to create a flow that will help the line move as quickly as possible.

Prioritizing speed will help ensure the restaurant’s lunch business is strong, but Botello says quality comes first. In order to serve meats that match the standard set by the original location, Truth Houston will utilize the same style of offset smokers that Brenham does.

“The last pit I brought here as a prototype for Houston,” Botello says. “I designed that. I tweaked some stuff. I wanted to see what I needed to fix on there so that they’d be fine-tuned machines before we got to Houston.”

Botello wouldn’t say when he thinks the restaurant might open, but he did acknowledge the space shouldn’t require major renovations. Hopefully that speeds the process along. As good as barbecue in Houston has become, the city still has room for a place as committed to quality as Truth.

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