Pizzitola’s Bar B Cue – Houston

Me and a couple of my barbecue buddies recently headed to a seriously old-school barbecue joint in The Heights area of Houston called Pizzitola’s Bar B Cue. The sign out front says “Serious Bar B Cue Since 1935” (oddly, the sign on the side of the building says “since 1934” – not sure which is correct. But either way, that is a long time). Any place that has been open that long has to be doing something right, so we had to try them. Entering the building, the first thing we noticed was how truly old-school the place is. It definitely looks and feels like it has been around for a long time. Another thing that is different from most BBQ joints I’ve been to was that they had table service – they actually seated us and gave us menus. Very interesting, and definitely not like so many Hill Country meat market-style joints.

The other sign out front, but directly on the building, says “Houston’s Home for Spareribs”. So naturally I had to give them a try. And since this is a Texas BBQ joint, I had to try brisket as well. The waitress came and took our orders, and strongly recommended the beans as a star side dish. So I ordered both the beans and potato salad.

The brisket – I was very happy to have gotten some lean and some moist. It was hard to judge the bark, given the way it had been sliced in the back and plated (I always prefer to see the meat being sliced). Even so, the smoky flavor was excellent, and the fat was well-rendered. Given how challenging it is for them to cook briskets on their ancient pits, I was impressed. You see, the fire in these pits is right at the edge, not off in a firebox separated from the cooking chamber, like so many modern offset pits. The heat nearest the fire is way too hot for the cooking a brisket low-n-slow. So all throughout the cook, the pit men and women have to rotate the briskets back and forth from the near end to the far end in order to not cook them too quickly or dry them out. Pizzitola’s pits are Houston’s last remaining “grandfathered in” open brick pits from a bygone era.

The pork spareribs – in a word, they were sublime. The simple salt & pepper rub was all they needed to be delicious (from what I saw/tasted, they don’t mop them). The meat was so tender and flavorful, with perfectly-rendered fat. Bite after bite pulled away from the bone cleanly, but did not just fall off like happens with oversteamed ribs.

The beans, as recommended by our waitress, really were very tasty, with plenty of salty flavor and some good chunks of meat. The potato salad was fine – nothing to write home about, but certainly nothing to complain about either.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to try Pizzitola’s, they are definitely worth the drive to experience this unique old-school barbecue joint from another era. They’re not even hard to get to – less than a quarter mile south of I-10 on Shepherd.

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