Houston’s barbecue boom shows no signs of slowing down. Even as relative newcomers like The Pit Room and Pinkerton’s Barbecue land spots on Texas Monthly’s coveted list of the 50 best barbecue joints in Texas — cementing the city's status as a legitimate barbecue destination — other pitmasters see the city’s potential for more growth.
Local chefs and restaurateurs are making their own plans to open new barbecue joints. Cherry Pie Hospitality (State Fare, Star Fish, etc) recently hired a pitmaster and launched a pop-up for Ellis Brothers BBQ that's designed to lead to a restaurant. Pitmaster Patrick Feges, a CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Rising Star Chef of the Year winner whose resume includes stints at Underbelly, Brennan’s, and Killen’s Barbecue, recently left his position as sous chef at Southern Goods to begin working on opening a barbecue restaurant with his wife, trained chef, sommelier, and Chopped champion Erin Smith Feges (Plonk, Main Kitchen, Camerata).
But wait, there's more.
One of the city’s most popular barbecue pop-ups is taking the plunge and opening a brick and mortar restaurant. Blood Bros. BBQ, a project that unites Glitter Karaoke owners Terry and Robin Wong with their friend and pitmaster Quy Hoang, has signed a lease to open a restaurant in the Bellaire triangle. The partners announced the move a couple of weeks ago but only now are ready to discuss their plans in more depth.
“Terry and I never wanted to just do Glitter. We were either going to do another bar, or another Glitter, or another something,” Robin Wong tells CultureMap. “It just seemed like the natural thing to do Blood Bros., because people have been bugging us about it for over a year.”
That people want more frequent access to Hoang’s food comes as no surprise. In addition to a fairly classic, Central Texas-style take on the “Texas trinity” of brisket, pork ribs, and sausage, the Blood Bros. have always experimented with Asian flavors by serving up dishes like gochujang beef belly and togarashi pulled beef.
Moving to a brick and mortar will allow them to further experiment with more over-the-top sandwiches (one recent pop-up featured a brisket and pulled pork banh mi) as well as specials like quail and prime rib that aren’t viable in a pop-up environment. Their plans also call for a wider variation of sides, including some that pay a nod to seasonal vegetables.
“The sides are definitely as important as the meats,” Terry Wong says. “So are the desserts.”
“If we’re going to do anything, we want it to taste good to us, and we have pretty high expectations. People appreciate that,” Robin Wong quickly adds.
For Hoang, opening a restaurant means leaving behind his day job selling fish and aquarium supplies, but he says that three plus years of pop-ups have prepared him to make the leap. He says he feels that his experience with his Pitmaker cabinet smokers has finally become consistent enough to serve every day.
Like Truth, which has tapped legendary Houston restaurateur Johnny Carrabba as an investor and advisor, the Blood Bros. have enlisted the help of a couple of restaurant industry vets to provide them with the institutional knowledge necessary to run a restaurant successfully: Felix Florez, the owner of Black Hill Meats and a partner in casual steakhouse Ritual, and Ryan Echiverri, a real estate investor and nightclub owner whose projects include Henke & Pillot and the recently opened Nett Bar.
Florez, who says he’s spent his “entire life” in the restaurant business and has known the Wong brothers for 20 years, will lend his expertise to all aspects of the restaurant’s operations. His experience as a sommelier at Brennan’s and Ritual will help ensure Blood Bros. offers a selection of wines that are well-matched to the barbecue’s bold flavors.
While the cooking may blend both traditional and more adventurous fare, the decor will be fairly traditional. Robin Wong says he expects the walls to feature at least some wood panelling, nods to local craft breweries, and other classic barbecue joint elements. The lease provides for the front door to be set back 20 feet, which will allow the space to contain a covered patio to preserve at least some of the outdoor feel from the pop-ups.
An architect is finalizing the plans now. Wong estimates the project will take roughly eight months to come to fruition, but he hopes it will happen even more quickly. Regardless of the exact timing, the city’s barbecue fans won’t have to wait too much longer for Blood Bros. to open.
“I think the whole situation couldn’t be any better,” Florez says. “Aside from the fact that it was a heavily anticipated move, it’s in Bellaire. All I ever hear is, ‘man, we need something in Bellaire.’ Perfect spot. Perfect concept.”