OTL Drama

A barbecue restaurant feud heats up: Charges of food truck bias, inspector games and denials

A barbecue restaurant feud heats up: Charges of food truck bias, inspector games and denials

barbecue fight, pigs, Pit Master, Corkscrew
Let the BBQ games begin . . . Keep the dirty stuff to a minimum. Photo illustration by Jan-Pieter Zuiderveen

A local BBQ battle is taking an ugly turn up in Spring, where a celebrated barbecue trailer claims a nearby competitor is attempting to shut it down with the help of county government.

It appears to be something of a David-vs.-Goliath scenario in which the brick-and-mortar Pit Master BBQ tries to stave off new barbecue arrival Corkscrew, a food truck-style outpost that recently received rave reviews from critic Alison Cook.

Corkscrew says they're is "going permanent" after Pit Master complained to country commissioners about t he BBQ outpost not having properly-approved structures.

The H-Town Chow Down blog of Albert Nurick first noticed a recent Facebook post by Corkscrew co-owner Nichole Buckman, who says that her food trailer is "going permanent" after Pit Master complained to country commissioners about the BBQ joint not having approved structures.

"They did this kind of stuff when we first opened," Buckman tells CultureMap, saying that a unnamed municipal employee told her that Pit Master has been behind several health department visits made to Corkscrew.

In spite of operating as by-the-book as possible, Buckman says that the local government regularly hounds Corkscrew as well as another BBQ trailer by another nearby Pit Master location.

"There are about 250 people who come through here each day, so we have to make sure everything's official with inspectors," Buckman says. "But then [Pit Master] went to the county, which has slightly different regulations."

Now Corkscrew has decided to just make itself a permanent restaurant. 

From the Pit

News of the ongoing "feud" comes as a total surprise to Pit Master owner Tommie Battles, who was completely unaware of the H-Town Chow Down post when CultureMap called to interview him.

"This is the first time I've heard of any of this," he says. "I've been in the restaurant business for 40 years and I can honestly say I've never been a part of anything quite like this."

Battles, a veteran Houston restaurateur who's owned and operated Pit Master for nearly a decade, says he and several other local businesses had a meeting with county commissioners about a list of possible improvements that could be made in the neighborhood.

"I've been in the restaurant business for 40 years and I can honestly say I've never been a part of anything quite like this." 

Battles admits that the group made suggestions about area's "mobile food units" — and the fact that several rarely seemed to move despite a 48-hour time limit policy — but that the food truck issues were only one of a dozen larger complaints about trash problems in parking lots and highway underpasses.

The Pit Master owner says he's never targeted Corkscrew and wishes them the best.

"As far as there being a feud . . . I'm just not going to be a party to that," Battles says. "We feed five to six hundred people a day. I don't have time to get involved in anything like that."

Soon-to-be equals

In true Texas fashion, both the Corkscrew and Pit Master defend their barbecue to the end. Battles touts his "best BBQ" awards and his million-dollar-a-year business while Buckman claims there is virtually "no competition" for her lovingly pit-cooked meat.

Regardless of how the feud looks now, the real BBQ rivalry will get underway once Corkscrew gets its official building — as well as an accompanying beer and wine license.