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One of the most iconic names in Texas barbecue has closed its Houston-area location. Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que ceased operations on Monday, November 21.

A sign posted at the door read as follows: “We are sad to inform you this location is permanently closed, and we are sorry for any inconvenience.” A call to the restaurant’s listed phone number went unanswered, and its social media pages on Instagram and Facebook are offline.

CultureMap has contacted the restaurant for comment about the closure and will update this article when it responds.

Opened in late 2019, the Katy location of Cooper’s replicated part of the experience of visiting the company’s iconic location in Llano, Texas. For example, the restaurant cooked some its proteins over direct heat, which is also known as “cowboy style.” Available meats include standard items such as brisket, pork ribs, and sausage as well as prime rib and Cooper’s signature “Big Chop,” a 2-inch thick, bone-in pork chop Diners ordered their selections by-the-pound from a serving pit before ordering sides separately.

Whether it was poor timing due to the COVID-19 pandemic or other factors, the restaurant didn’t seem to catch on with locals. It had a low 3.5-stars on Google and a disappointing 2.5-star rating on Yelp. Members of Katy/Fort Bend Foodies, a Facebook group with over 50,000 people, shared reactions that ranged from disappointment about the closure to complaints about pricing and food quality.

Opening in Katy had been part of the company’s plans to expand across Texas. Its other expansion locations in Austin, New Braunfels, Fort Worth, and College Station remain open.

Those looking for barbecue in Katy have a number of options to consider. Briargrove favorite Roegels Barbecue opened a Katy location earlier this year. Brett’s Barbecue Shop, ranked among the state’s top 50 barbecue restaurants by Texas Monthly, will soon open its new location near Katy Mills Mall.

5th Annual Butcher's Ball

The Butcher's Ball brings together Texas' most talented chefs, butchers, ranchers, and culinary leaders for a weekend of demonstrations, discussions, tastings, live music, drinks, and competition. The event raises funds for nonprofit partner, Urban Harvest.

Photo by Jenn Duncan

Guy Fieri-approved Montrose barbecue joint fires up hot new Memorial location

the pit room expands

A popular Montrose barbecue joint is heading west. The Pit Room will open a second location in the Memorial City area in the third quarter of 2023.

Located in MetroNational's Benignus Plaza, the new restaurant will occupy approximately 6,200-square-feet just west of the Gateway Memorial City development (10301-A Katy Freeway). Considerably larger than the Montrose original, the new restaurant will combine both the Pit Room and its adjacent bar the Patio at the Pit Room into one space. The new restaurant will feature seating for 100 inside, 25 at an indoor-outdoor bar, and 80 on a covered, 2,600-square-foot patio. A dedicated to-go counter will allow customers to purchase barbecue, sausages, sauces, and more.

“We are excited to grow the Pit Room concept and serve a new area of Houston,” owner Michael Sambrooks said in a statement. “The Pit Room is our original concept, really our baby, and we look forward to serving the residents in Memorial and on the West Side.”

Opened in 2016, the Pit Room serves Central Texas-style barbecue prepared in offset barrel smokers. It has drawn a devoted following, including an appearance on a 2021 episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

In addition to the usual meats such as brisket, pork ribs, and three kinds of housemade sausage, the restaurant has built a devoted following for its Mexican and Tex-Mex-influenced sides such as chips and queso, elotes, and charro beans. Three kinds of tacos, served on housemade tortillas made with brisket fat, are always popular with regulars. Texas Monthly taco editor José Ralat hails the smoked chicken taco with garlic cloves as "the magic order" at the Pit Room.

The new location will bring the Pit Room's full menu to Memorial. A larger kitchen will allow it to serve a bar menu for game watchers, a "specialty grill menu," and more desserts.

“We are pleased to announce the arrival of the Pit Room’s legendary Central-Texas barbecue to Memorial City,” MetroNational vice president of retail leasing Danna Diamond said. “This hometown favorite reinforces our commitment to provide special dining experiences for our community.”

Courtesy of BioBQ

Texas startup developing lab-grown brisket earns national spotlight

Futuristic food

Brisket, a barbecue staple in Texas, is as synonymous with the Lone Star State as the Alamo and oil wells. An Austin company recently recognized as the state’s most innovative startup wants to elevate this barbecue staple to a new high-tech level.

BioBQ is working on technology to bring its lab-created, cell-cultured brisket to the market in 2023. The company made the Bloomberg news service’s new list of the 50 startups to watch in the U.S. — one startup for each state.

The co-founders of BioBQ are Austin native Katie Kam, a vegan with five college degrees (four from the University of Texas and one from Texas A&M University), and Janet Zoldan, a “hardcore carnivore” who’s a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. Kam is the CEO, and Zoldan is the chief science officer.

This kind of meat is genuine animal meat that’s produced by cultivating animal cells in a lab, according to the Good Food Institute.

“This production method eliminates the need to raise and farm animals for food. Cultivated meat is made of the same cell types arranged in the same or similar structure as animal tissues, thus replicating the sensory and nutritional profiles of conventional meat,” the institute says.

It turns that before becoming a vegan, Kam worked at the now-closed BB’s Smokehouse in Northwest Austin as a high school student. She’d chow down on sauce-slathered brisket and banana pudding during on-the-job breaks.

“But then over time, as I learned more about factory farming and could no longer make the distinction between my dogs and cats I loved and the animals that were on my plate, I decided to become vegan,” Kam writes on the BioBQ website.

Hearing about the 2013 rollout of the first cell-cultured hamburger set Kam off on her path toward starting BioBQ in 2018. Zoldan joined the startup as co-founder the following year.

Now, BioBQ aims to be the first company in the world to sell brisket and other barbecue meats, such as jerky, made from cultured cells rather than slaughtered animals.

According to BioBQ’s profile on the Crunchbase website, the startup relies on proprietary technology to efficiently produce meat products in weeks rather than the year or more it takes to raise and slaughter cattle. This process “allows control of meat content and taste, reduces environmental impacts of meat production, and takes BBQ to the next tasty, sustainable level consumers want,” the profile says.

In 2020, Texas Monthly writer Daniel Vaughn questioned BioBQ’s premise.

He wrote that “there is something about the idea of lab-grown brisket that keeps bothering me, and it has nothing to do with science fiction. If you could design any cut of beef from scratch, why choose one that’s so difficult to make delicious? Why not a whole steer’s worth of ribeyes?”

Kam offered a very entrepreneur-like response.

“I’m from Austin, and I know that brisket’s kind of a big deal here,” Kam told Vaughn. “It seemed like a great, challenging meat to demonstrate this technology working.”

Meanwhile, Zoldan came up with a more marketing-slanted reaction to Vaughn’s bewilderment.

“I don’t think cell-based meats will take over the market, but I think there’s a place for it on the market,” Zoldan she told Vaughn.

Photo by Vanessa Chavez

Top-ranked Houston BBQ joint fires up dinner service for customers who can't wait out the lunch rush

the whole truth

It’s a little easier to eat at one of Houston’s best barbecue restaurants. Truth Barbeque has quietly launched dinner service.

Available Thursday through Saturday from 5-9 pm (or sold out), the current menu consists of Truth’s familiar menu of barbecue meats, sides, and desserts. That includes smoked brisket, three kinds of house made sausage, pork ribs, tater tot casserole, corn pudding, and the Mama Truth’s sky high layer cakes.

Truth pitmaster-owner Leonard Botello IV tells CultureMap that he added evening hours after visiting restaurants such as Hometown Bar-B-Que in Brooklyn and Lewis Barbecue in Charleston that have thriving dinner services. Locally, restaurants such as Pinkerton’s Barbecue and Feges BBQ have drawn diners for dinner. He also realized not everyone can visit his restaurants for lunch.

“You start to realize, where do I eat for lunch? I don’t go anywhere. I’m a dinner person, because I don’t have time enduring the day,” Botello says.

“You’re really taking this experience away from people. People have kids, they’re older and don’t want to stand in line. It’s having more of an open mind about how we can keep the quality and reach more guests.”

Maintaining Truth’s reputation for quality is important. After all, Texas Monthly ranked the restaurant as the state’s third best barbecue joint in 2021. In order to achieve that goal, Botello says the restaurant will cook its dinner meats separately to ensure they’re just as hot and fresh tasting as those cooked for the lunch crowd.

In addition, he plans to introduce bar bites such as smoked fried oysters, smoked fish dip, and collard green and hot guts egg rolls. They’ll serve as an alternative for those who want something smaller and give the restaurant something to offer as the evening meats sell out.

Dinner will also provide Truth with an opportunity to feature its new bar and cocktail menu. Developed by veteran bartender Matt Tanner, proprietor of the eagerly anticipated EZ’s Liquor Lounge, the cocktails include classics like the Old Fashioned, paloma, and ranch water. Other offerings nod to Botello’s friends in the barbecue world, such as a glass of champagne named for Billy Durney and a peach mule named for Atlanta pitmaster Bryan Furman.

“I like whiskey. We have a lot of friends in the barbecue community who like whiskey,” Botello says about the decision to replace Truth’s private dining room with a bar. Adding cocktails has another benefit as well. “With private events, so many people want cocktails. We really had a lot of people asking. We leaned into it.”

Botello does see one other benefit to being open at night. ”When we dim the lights, it’s very pretty in here.”

Courtesy of Kroger

Beloved BBQ favorite fires up third Houston-area bistro at Katy Kroger

burns bbq on the move

Acres Homes staple Burns Original BBQ is conquering Houston one Kroger at a time. The barbecue joint will celebrate the grand opening of its third Bistro location this Saturday, September 3 at the Kroger location at 2700 W Grand Pkwy N.

Burns already has similar locations in Pearland and Humble’s Summerwood neighborhood. Co-owner Cory Crawford tells CultureMap that the restaurant selected these locations based on sales data and customer feedback from a pop-up tour the restaurant did in 2020.

By parking a food truck in the grocery store’s parking lot, the new location is able to serve an identical menu to the restaurant, which means diners can expect their favorite stuffed baked potatoes, ribs, and other Burns classics.

“We love the brand. We love taking it from Acres Homes — next year will be 50 years,” Crawford says. “This has been the time to spread our wings and let more areas of the city know about Burns Original BBQ.”

The original location has earned considerable acclaim. Author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain featured it on a 2016 episode of his CNN series Parts Unknown. Crawford says the restaurant still sees a steady stream of customers who saw it on the show.

Opening the new Bistro location deepens Burns' ties to Kroger. Two years ago, the grocery store provided the restaurant with an venue to sell its dishes when restaurants were closed for dine-in due to the pandemic. Subsequently, the store started carrying the restaurant's barbecue sauce, which is now available in more than 20 stores. Expect more Burns Bistros in the future.

“We don’t have a specific target, but we’ve had some conversations with Kroger. The partnership has been amazing. They’re pretty much telling us as much as we can scale they’ll scale with us,” Crawford says.

“We’re having those internal meetings. This is the last one for 2022, but in 2023 I can say they’ll definitely be more.”

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Iconic Austin blues club brings the show to fans with new indie livestreaming platform

Live on Live

If legendary Austin blues club Antone’s is your vibe, but the drive to Capital City isn't, you’re in luck. Antone’s Nightclub launched a new service for livestreaming its shows in November.

Kicking off with New Orleans-based funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk, for their special “Phunksgiving” show last month with Michael Hale Trio, the full lineup is delineated on the Antone’s website. Specifics were still loose before the launch, allowing the famous blues club to call the shots. The partner agency that created the streaming service, 3rd + Lamar, created the system to give Antone’s as much freedom as possible.

"Partnering with Antone's to build their livestreaming platform and produce each of their shows is an incredible opportunity for 3rd + Lamar," said the agency’s co-founder Nick Schenck in a press release. "The amazing talent that performs at Antone's – and their fans worldwide – deserve best-in-class live production quality, and we're thrilled to play a part in this operation."

Not that Antone’s needed to stand out more in the music industry (the nearly 50-year-old venue has always been one of the best places to see both local and national talent), but this achievement places it among relatively few venues across the country, especially those that operate their system independently.

The intimate Antone's shows are filmed by four Blackmagic 4K cinema cameras on tracks overhead, which ensure that the whole space is easily visible without having camera operators amid the audience.

“We did over 430 individually ticketed shows in 2019 and we felt like we were bursting at the seams,” said Antone’s owner Will Bridges. “Then when livestreams became more prominent during the pandemic we realized, this is our opportunity to take Antone’s outside of our four walls. … [W]e see people in the comment threads all the time saying ‘If I could only be teleported to Antone’s!’ Well now they can.”

The release emphasizes that the system means Antone’s “fully retain[s] ownership of their content, which can then be utilized at their discretion.” It also calls the service “an add-on option for all artists performing at Antone’s,” positioning the service as not just an audience luxury but a performer’s low-cost marketing tool. Suddenly, artists playing at Antone’s are afforded a choice without needing to be invited to record or pay an independent video team, while reaching even more viewers with no extra time spent advertising.

“Our ultimate goal is to make these amazing musical experiences accessible to everyone. Life is busy, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to participate no matter where they are or what they have going on,” said Bridges. “We want to make livestreams from Antone’s totally commonplace. When we announce our upcoming shows, fans have two options: watch it at the club our watch it at home.”

Livestreams are at antonesnightclub.com, and links also appear with each applicable event across the site. Prices are listed on the website, and livestreams start 10-20 minutes before each show.

Alt-rock legends Red Hot Chili Peppers heading to Houston for 2023 North American tour

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most pioneering and enduring acts is headed to Houston to close out a highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25, 2023 as part of a North American trek that kicks off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29.

Houston lands the honor of the closeout city for the North American tour (the band will also play a slew of dates in Europe). Effortlessly hip, celeb-fave modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers, along with the talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale this week at 10 am Friday, December 9 online.

Houston fans who can't get enough can also catch the Chili Peppers when they hit The Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday, May 17 — the only other Texas date.

Aside from The Strokes and Thundercat, supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have been played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with major names such as Notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Fan-favorite, wood-fired Houston pizzeria quietly opens in the Heights

enough (pizza) to love

A popular Houston pizzeria has opened its second location in the Heights. The Gypsy Poet has begun a quiet soft opening in the former Fegen’s space at 1050 Studewood St.

Since its 2019 debut in Midtown, the Gypsy Poet has earned a devoted following for its wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant’s personal-sized, 13-inch pizzas exist somewhere on the spectrum between traditional Neapolitan and classic New York — too crispy for the Italians but not quite foldable like an East Coast slice. Options include a classic Margherita and the signature Fancy Backpacker, which is topped with prosciutto, truffle oil, and arugula.

Part of the restaurant’s appeal stems from its friendly service and easy going atmosphere. It regularly hosts informal musical performances and other artistic happenings.

Taken together, Gypsy Poet has earned legions on fans. Yelp users ranked it as Texas’s second best restaurant in 2021. More recently, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy awarded it a high 7.8 rating during a pizza review.

The restaurant opens at a time of transition for pizzerias in the Heights. Dallas-based Neapolitan restaurant Cane Rosso closed last year, and suburban favorite Crust Pizza Co. opened this summer in the former Mellow Mushroom space at N. Shepherd and 20th.

The Heights location of Gypsy Poet will be open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm; Friday from 12-2 pm and 5-10 pm; Saturday 2-10 pm; and Sunday 2-9 pm.