Houston is undeniably in the middle of a barbecue renaissance. Places like CorkScrew BBQ in Spring and Killen's Barbecue in Pearland can hold their own with the best pitmasters in Texas.
The only problem is that the best option inside the Loop is severely limited. Gatlin's BBQ in the Heights is so small that it's constantly overwhelmed.
If only Gatlin's had a bigger space that was slightly more centrally located. Like in downtown. And what if maybe it could serve burgers, salads and even seafood to satisfy people who don't want meat with a side of meat?
Wouldn't that be great?
Reef owners Bryan Caswell and Bill Floyd certainly think so, which is why they've partnered with Greg Gatlin to launch Jackson Street Barbecue. Set to open in March, the 8,000 square foot restaurant will feature Gatlin's brisket, sausage, ribs and chicken alongside seasonally appropriate seafood from Caswell like barbecue shrimp, crab and crawfish. Burgers and salads will round out the menu. Sides will be developed by both Gatlin and Caswell, but Reef's famous fried mac and cheese will definitely be included.
B arbecue in Houston is better now than it's ever been. If Jackson Street lives up to the reputation of its partners, that will only get better.
"We are totally sold on downtown," Floyd tells CultureMap. "Now with the Super Bowl and the increase in residential property, I think downtown is going to catch on."
Floyd acknowledges that Jackson Street might be a little bit ahead of downtown's current level of development, but he sees that as a plus. "We were early in Midtown with Reef and early in Montrose with El Real, and that's worked out well for us."
The location has another benefit in that will serve as the catering kitchen for the company's stands at Minute Maid Park. "It's right behind the loading dock. It couldn't be any more perfect for us," Floyd explains. Instead of having to load up a van with a bunch of food, they'll be able to roll it across the street to the stadium.
Turning to food, Floyd cites places like Louie Mueller, Franklin's, Killen's and CorkScrew as examples. "You line them all up. They're all good. They're all super quality. The difference is personal taste," Floyd says. He sees the ability to serve seafood as a major point of differentiation between Jackson Street and those other restaurants.
"I hope we'll have the best sides in town. Sometimes, they're kind of secondary, in my opinion, and they shouldn't be," he adds.
Jackson Street will utilize a traditional line during the lunch rush but switch to a la carte counter service in the afternoon and early evening. In other words, it won't be a lunch only affair, which will allow people to pick up barbecue and take it home with them for dinner if they choose. The new restaurant will be open even later when the Houston Astros are playing at Minute Maid. The space will also feature a stage, which Floyd anticipates using for live entertainment or to host private events.
Assuming it all goes well, the partnership between Gatlin, Floyd and Caswell could expand to other ventures. "We've done so well at the airport with 3rd Bar. We'd like to expand our footprint with El Real and Jackson Street," Floyd says.
Barbecue in Houston is better now than it's ever been. If Jackson Street lives up to the reputation of its partners, that will only get better.