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BBQ Research–East Texas Edition

Eastern Texas barbecue is a sub-regional style that truly deserves more attention. It’s an interesting blend of Creole influences and traditional Texas barbecue. It’s most distinctive elements are beef link sausage and boudin sausage (interestingly spelled “boudain” in many instances). The latter is sausage stuffed with seasoned meat and boiled rice. I really appreciate Houston Chronicle columnist J.C. Reid for joining me. I learned a lot during the half-day that we spent together. Here are the joints that I visited:

Gerard’s Bar-B-Que

My first stop in Beaumont. I had a great time talking to George Gerard about a wide range of topics. Fortunately for me, his mom was helping out that morning, so I chatted with her as well. I ordered the beef link, sliced beef brisket, chicken, smoked pork neck bones, pork spareribs, chili beans, potato salad, and rice dressing. Of these, the beef link and the chicken were very tasty! I loved that our food was served on one of those school cafeteria trays. That sure did bring back some memories. Read a nice article on Gerard’s here.

Patillo’s Bar-B-Q

Founded in 1912, this is one of the oldest barbecue restaurants in the country. It’s a great spot with good ambience and food. I ordered the beef link, the chopped beef sandwich, a boudin, and some dirty rice. The sandwich was a revelation–tender, chopped beef in a deep chocolate-colored gravy. I wanted to inhale the entire sandwich, but I chilled. That’s right, I chilled because I knew I had a lot more food in my near future.

Broussard’s Links + Ribs

This well-known takeout place was pretty on the Saturday morning while I visited. I ordered a beef link, boudain, chicken and pork spareribs. I loved the boudain the most. It was well-seasoned and it paired up well with the saltine crackers.

Charlie’s Bar-B-Que and Catering

The cool thing about hanging out with a local barbecue expert is that he or she can point out places to visit that may not have been on your radar screen. Charlie’s is one of those gems. So many great and interesting things on the menu here. I ordered beef link, boudain, pork neck bones, oxtails, pork spareribs, cracklins (impressed to even see that fried, rendered pork fat would even be an option), potato salad, and rice dressing. The beef link and spareribs were very good, but the neck bones and the oxtails were next-level. Both were a little chewy, spicy, and very flavorful. Unusual for a barbecue place, but a welcome menu option. Fantastically, Charlie’s was picked as a “Best new BBQ restaurant” by Texas Monthly.

Jaws Bar-B-Que II in Port Arthur

Not too far from Beaumont in Port Arthur which had some places of note, but unfortunately, one of them had permanently closed. Jaws was open though. This place has a limited menu, so I got a beef link and saltine cracks with a combination of barbecue sauce and mustard as condiments. It was a filling snack, but nothing outstanding.

Bonus Coverage: Leon’s World Finest In and Out Bar-B-Que, Galveston, TX


I’ve read a lot about Leon’s, and I’ve always wanted to visit Galveston because of the Juneteenth story. I had a packed schedule, but Leon’s was open on Sunday. It made for a nice excursion to get some church in at Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church (established in 1848!), and then head for lunch at Leon’s.

I ordered “Leon’s cut” (beef clod), chicken (called “yard bird” on the menu), pork spareribs, turnip greens, mac ‘n’ cheese, potato salad, and a slice of rum cake. All of the food was really good, but I’m still dreaming about the incredibly tender and flavorful beef clod meat and the earthy and velvety turnip greens.

American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame Announces 2019 Semi-Finalists

Will Gregory
American Royal Public Relations

Kansas City, MO., May 24, 2019The American Royal is pleased to announce the Barbecue Hall of Fame® 2019 Top 9 Semi-finalists from this year’s nominees.

  • John “Big Daddy” Bishop, Tuscaloosa, LA
  • Aaron Franklin, Austin, TX
  • Meathead Goldwyn, Chicago, IL
  • Michael Ray Higgins, Mesquite, TX
  • James Lemons, Chicago, IL
  • C.B. Stubblefield, Lubbock, TX & Austin, TX
  • Wayne Monk, Lexington, NC
  • Jim Quessenberry, Memphis, TN
  • Desiree Robinson, Memphis, TN

Each year, the Barbecue Hall of Fame has the pristine honor of inducting three individuals that have impacted the world of BBQ. For a full calendar year, nominations for this honor are sent in from individuals throughout the world and this year, we received over 50 nominations.

At the close of the nomination period, each individual nominated is reviewed by the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee and the list is reduced to the top nine. The nine semi-finalists are then reviewed and voted on by Hall of Fame voting members. Voting members include the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee and all living Hall of Fame Inductees.

The three 2019 Hall of Fame Inductees will be announced on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. Barbecue Hall of Fame Induction ceremony and events will take place during the 40th American Royal World Series of Barbecue® held at the Kansas Speedway, September 13 – 15, 2019.

About the American Royal Association
Woven through the history of Kansas City since 1899, the American Royal provides opportunities for youth and adults from around the country to compete in our Livestock Show, ProRodeo, Horse Shows, and the World Series of Barbecue®. These events allow the American Royal, a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization, to give over $1 million annually for youth scholarships and support agriculture education programs. In 2018, over 101,000 attendees attended American Royal events generating over $60 million of economic impact. To learn more about the American Royal visit AmericanRoyal.com.


BBQ Research–Northern Florida (Limited) Edition

This is always a welcome sign when I roll up to a barbecue joint, and this greeted me at Gilbert’s Social on Amelia Island, Florida.

Gilbert’s Social is owned and operated by Chef Kenny Gilbert. I was eager to try this place because I was impressed with Chef Gilbert’s run on Top Chef (Season 7 in Washington, DC). I was intrigued when I read that he was developing a “North Florida regional barbecue style.” I had to try it!

Gilbert’s Social is a fun space and the décor gives the vibe that you’re chilling in someone’s home. Though barbecue is a key part of the restaurant’s menu, there are additional creative southern dishes served. Chef Gilbert warmly greeted me and graciously spent some time talking barbecue with me. 

Chef Gilbert then gave me the full tour of my northern Florida barbecue special:

I’m not going to give my typical rundown because I’m writing about this experience in my book. I will highly recommend the alligator ribs, the jerk chicken, pork spareribs, and pulled turkey drumsticks. The side dishes are quite good with the field peas and the potato salad being quite spectacular. I finished this meal with a decadent, warm chocolate bourbon pecan pie with some ice cream.

Warm chocolate bourbon pecan pie


Later that night, I went to a Jacksonville, Florida favorite–Jenkins Quality Barbecue. I was too stuffed to get a full meal, so I just got a slab of ribs. At Jenkins, ribs are laid upon several pieces of white bread and drenched in a mustard-spiked sauce. Man, what it tasty. I think this video says it all:




BBQ Research–Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Charleston, SC


I’ve long been a fan of Rodney Scott since I learned about him more than a decade ago through the Southern Foodways Alliance. I’ve been to his family’s restaurant in Hemingway, South Carolina a few times. When I decided to write Black Smoke, I knew that he was a “must get” interview.

Chef Scott was so giving of his time during an extremely busy period of his life. He was keeping things humming at his Charleston, South Carolina restaurant, and he was in the process of opening up a second location in Birmingham, Alabama. He was so great to get insight into where he’s been and where he plans to go. Sorry, y’all, but I’m not going to give too much detail in this post because I’m saving most of it for me book. I will give you a rundown of my meal. 

Barbecue tray

Pork spareribs–thin cut, incredibly smoky, with a slightly sweet finish.

Chicken–great flavor, I think due to the spice rub.

Pulled pork–just what you’d expect from a whole hog cooking specialist–great flavor, vinegary (but not overpowering) with a nice kick of red pepper.

Collard greens–soft, with nice shreds of smoked meat mixed in. 

Other side dishes–the beans, coleslaw,  macaroni and cheese and potato salad were solid options. 

Drink–I don’t get Nehi soda in Denver, so I was grateful to swig it.

Nehi grape soda

BBQ Research–North Carolina Edition

After doing my The President’s Kitchen Cabinet event at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina, I took a couple of days to visit some select African American-owned barbecue joints in North Carolina.

Keaton’s Barbecue, Cleveland, NC

Keaton’s Barbecue, Cleveland, NC

My first stop was Keaton’s Barbecue in Cleveland, NC. This place has been open since the 1950s, and it specializes in something called “dipped chicken.” Dipped chicken is fried chicken that is drowned in a thin, spicy barbecue sauce. I first heard about dipped chicken in this Garden & Gun article written by Jed Portman. Portman describes dipped chicken as: “North Carolina’s answer to Nashville hot chicken.” Here’s a recipe if you’d like to make some at home.

Dipped chicken meal, Keaton’s Barbecue

In addition to the dipped chicken, I got green beans, a barbecue sauce-infused coleslaw, hamburger buns as bread, and some Sun Drop soda (something I don’t get in Denver). The dipped chicken was good, but it didn’t “wow” me. Everything else was pretty standard. I’m glad I tried dipped chicken, and I will try to make it at home.

Backyard BBQ  Pit, Durham, NC

Backyard BBQ Pit, Durham, NC

My next stop was Backyard BBQ Pit in Durham. This place was recommended to me by North Carolina barbecue expert John Shelton Reed. If you haven’t read his book Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecueit’s a must-read for understanding this regional style. Fortunately, John was able to join me. The interesting thing about this place, in addition to its old school vibe, is that its menu isn’t confined to the North Carolina regional style. For example, there are beef options on the menu. Yet, it does have the North Carolina standards which I did order.

The chopped pork shoulder was excellent: delicate amount of smoke, light vinegar flavor, and a nice amount of pepper. The same could be said of the chopped turkey which is also prepared in an Eastern North Carolina style. I’m seeing more turkey treated this way in African American barbecue joints. The spareribs were fatty and drenched in a wet sauce, but I like it that way. The hush puppies were spot on as well. I can see why Clay Aiken loves this place (he even signed his name on the wall).

Melvin Simmons, Backyard BBQ Pit

I really enjoyed chatting with owner Melvin “Big Paulie” Simmons. I definitely recommend this place!


Grady’s BBQ, Dudley, NC

Every once and awhile, I visit a barbecue joint that is truly superlative. Grady’s BBQ is that place. It’s a true temple of Eastern North Carolina Style Barbecue.  Read more about Grady’s here

I really loved this meal. Everything was well-seasoned and satisfying. The chopped pork was succulent, and all of the sides hit the right notes, especially the lima beans seasoned with pork. Here’s my video:

Steve and Gerri Grady are a wonderful couple, and I’m not sure how much longer they’re going to be operating this restaurant. If you’re in the Raleigh area, and you’ve got some time, you need to roll though. Just make sure you call before heading over since they have limited hours. This place is definitely on my top ten list for best barbecue in the U.S.

BBQ Research–Houston, Texas Edition

Let me first write this: Houston is a serious eating town. If you have a diverse palate, you need to book  a trip to this city and stay several days. I was focused on African American barbecue joints, but I did sample some other cuisines. The food (Himalayan fried chicken, Vietnamese crawfish boil, and Palestinian fried chicken) was amazing. Whew! OK, on to the barbecue:

Lenox Bar-B-Q and Catering


This was my first stop. It’s a takeout place, so I ate the barbecue on the hood of my rental car. I ordered beef brisket, chicken, spareribs, macaroni salad and coleslaw. Pretty standard stuff here. Of all that I ordered, I liked the spareribs the most.

Ray’s BBQ Shack

For a mid-afternoon on a Friday, this place was JUMPIN’! Much more crowded than I expected. I can see why.

The food is pretty fantastic. I ordered beef brisket, chicken, pork spareribs, turkey breast, hot links, barbecue beans, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and banana pudding for dessert. Of these, the chicken, spareribs and turkey were the best. I highly recommend this place.

Pizzitola’s Bar-B-Cue

Pizzitola’s has a very interesting backstory. It first started in the 1950s as “Shepherd Drive BBQ” run by an African American couple named John and Lela Davis. It is now run by others outside of the family. I had beef brisket, pork spareribs, a Czech-style sausage, coleslaw, and potato salad. Of these, the sausage was the best. Everything else was pretty standard.

Triple J’s Smokehouse

I rolled to this place and a Friday night, and I thought I was in a club. Old school funk was blaring with a group assembled on the patio, and there was a steady flow of to-go orders. I wasn’t too hungry, but fortunately some other people joined me. I ordered beef brisket, boudain (a Creole sausage made of seasoned pork and rice. It’s usually spelled “boudin.”), chicken, hot links, pork spareribs, barbecued beans, dirty rice, green beans, and potato salad. The best of these were the boudain (nice texture, peppery), the hot links (coarse grind and spicy), and the pork spareribs (thin cut, and great flavor).

Gatlin’s BBQ

Such a great dining experience. Gatlin’s does so many things right. I ordered beef brisket, chicken,  hot links, pulled pork, venison sausage, turkey, coleslaw, collard greens, dirty rice, fried okra, macaroni and cheese, and potato salad. The real standouts were the brisket, ribs and venison. I was surprised by the pulled pork . . . it was made in North Carolina style with a healthy dose of vinegar and red pepper. I liked it, but I wonder how Houstonians feel about it. The collards and mac ‘n’ cheese were great sides.

Burns Original BBQ


When the late Anthony Bourdain made one of his filming trips in Houston, he made a stop at this joint. His research staff served him well. Of a trip full of spectacular barbecue, this took the slight edge as my favorite place. I ordered beef brisket, chicken, hot links, pork spareribs, baked beans, dirty rice, green beans, mac ‘n’ cheese, and potato salad. The spareribs were amazing . . . a slight char on the outside, a little chewy, and well-seasoned. The chicken had nice skin on the outside, and moist on the inside. The brisket was flavorful, and the hot links had the right amount of spice. I highly recommend this place!

Seattle BBQ Research Trip: Jones Original Barbeque


Jones Original Barbeque

This was my fourth and final stop in Seattle, West Seattle specifically, and it was a great one!

Here’s my rundown:

Beef brisket–not very smoky, tasted like roast beef.
Chicken–excellent! Smoky and flavorful, but still moist.
Hot links–this is what I’m talking about! Spicy and coarsely ground sausage.
Pork spareribs–very good flavor with great texture.
Greens–pretty standard.
Mac ‘n’ cheese–very cheesy with good flavor.
Macaroni salad–I was excited to order this. My late mother made this salad, and I don’t see it very often on menus. This one was pretty bland, but still evoked great memories.

The meat here is pretty good, and the guy below’s facial expression pretty sums up how I felt about the chicken, hot links and ribs. You definitely need to hit this place.

Staffer at Jones BBQ with a very “This is what’s up!” look.

Seattle BBQ Research Trip: Willie’s Taste of Soul


Willie’s Taste of Soul Bar-B-Que

This was my third spot. Willie’s is a combination barbecue, Creole food and soul food joint. I had mixed reviews about the food, but mainly because everything was drowned in sauce. I never ask for the sauce on the side because I want to experience the barbecue as the owner would normally serve it. 

Here’s my rundown:

Beef brisket–pretty standard, not a lot of smoke flavor though.
Chicken–very good, bone-in chicken.
Hot links–very good spice and a coarser grind.
Pork chop sandwich–excellent! A thin pork chop, perfectly fried and seasoned.
Pork spareribs–pretty standard.
Baked beans–pretty standard.
Greens–pretty standard.
Potato salad–very good texture.
7-Up–very good, but not super moist as others that I’ve had. This was more like a great sour cream pound cake.

The barbecue here is pretty average, but I would return to Willie’s to try the Creole and soul food options.



Seattle BBQ Research Trip–Lil Red Takeout and Catering

Lil Red Takeout and Catering

I took advantage of an unexpected trip to Seattle to so some barbecue research. Ahead of my trip, I reviewed some recent “Best BBQ” lists by Eater Seattle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and people on social media. 

This was my first stop, and it was pretty next-level. It’s a combination of barbecue, Caribbean and soul. The Caribbean influence comes because Red’s wife is Jamaican.  Even though there’s plenty of seating, this is a takeout place. Everything is served in to-go containers. No misfires at all on what I ordered.

Here’s my rundown:

Beef brisket–great smoky flavor.
Jerk pork spareribs–transcendent, mainly because Red doesn’t use a heavy hand with the jerk spice. Very tender ribs, but still has a little chew. These were by far the best ribs that I had in Seattle.
Pulled pork–bursting with flavor and great texture.
Fried plantains–nice carmelization, tender and sweet.
Greens–pretty standard.
Lumpia–a Filipino-style spring roll filled with cabbage and chicken–tasty.
Banana pudding–a great dessert! The pudding has Jamaican accents with a rum-like finish.
Jamaican rum cake–just opening the container, I wondered if I would fail a breathalyzer test. Very moist and flavorful cake, but you have to be a fan of rum cake (which I am).

Loved the fact that Lil’ Red’s also serves sorrel (a hibiscus drink) and red drink! Love to see these related drinks on a menu side-by-side.

I highly recommend this place!

Meet My Collegiate BBQ Research Assistants!!


Miles Francisco is a third-year student at the University of Oklahoma studying Political Science and African and African American Studies with minors in International Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Miles is passionate about social justice and creating a more just world for all. Miles believes strongly in the power of people when they are given an opportunity to speak for themselves and knows that there is hope in the future.

After graduating from OU, Miles plans on attending law school before starting a career in the political arena. Miles is an avid reader and staunch believer in the “goatness” of one LeBron James.

Miles will help me explore the Native American roots of barbecue, and how African Americans accessed this culinary knowledge before the 20th Century.


Clarke Jackson is a senior at Spelman College who is majoring in Anthropology and Sociology, and minoring in French and Food Studies. She was born in North Carolina and grew up in Maryland.  Clarke have a passion for traveling internationally and learning languages, and have had the opportunity to study abroad in France, England and Cameroon. Clarke’s been eating a plant based diet since 2016 and I am very interested in black veganism as a form of resistance and liberation.

Clarke will help me explore the evolution of African American barbecue in the Atlanta area, and vegan interpretations of barbecue happening around the country. The latter should prove very interesting!