I first heard about Brett’s Barbecue Shop out on Mason Road in Katy as they were preparing for their grand opening. Based on what I had seen on their social media outlets, they looked to be very legit. Well, it took me way too long to get over there and give them a try. But I could no longer resist the pull of their amazing-looking beef ribs, which they offer Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. At $24/lb, and each rib weighing in at 1.25-1.75lb, it is not a cheap choice. But I tell you what — it is totally worth it. Beef ribs are the king of Texas barbecue, in my opinion. And the one I enjoyed at Brett’s place is frankly the best beef rib I’ve had in Houston. It was very reminiscent of beef ribs at Louie Mueller BBQ in Taylor. And that is not a coincidence – Brett spent two years working for barbecue legend Wayne Mueller, the 3rd generation owner and pitmaster there. And at Louie Mueller they are legendary for their beef ribs, in addition to being known as the Cathedral of Smoke (this is a great video worth watching).
Brett’s beef ribs are supplied by Double R Ranch, an outstanding branch of Snake River Farms,. And Snake River provides all the prime briskets for Brett as well. The rib I enjoyed was moist, succulent and tender. It had a hard-core peppery bark – with a great balance between salty and peppery. The intramuscular fat was all broken down and rendered out, with the meat literally falling off the oversized brontosaurus bone. I also had to try their brisket – it just looked beautiful. So I got a 1/4 pound of the moist. Brett took good care of me and gave me a very barky piece from the end. The brisket was incredible – very smoky and flavorful. From a tour we got of the pit room, it appears that the same salt-and-pepper rub is used for both the brisket and beef ribs – with multiple sizes of cracked black pepper to really hit my peppery tastes. I am a big fan of that rub!
I ordered the potato salad, and my barbecue buddy, Craig, got the coleslaw. The potato salad was great, with a good balance of mustard and mayo. And I love that Brett uses red potatoes. The coleslaw was fantastic. He uses red cabbage, bell peppers, jalapeños and red onions. There is no mayo in this coleslaw (we learned that Brett cannot stand mayonnaise). It tasted like it had vinegar and oil instead, which gave it a nice acidic bite to counterbalance all the fatty richness of the smoked meat. White bread, pickles and onions were also available as well – and were good. But the pickled jalapeños, carrots and white onions were fantastic – and spicy.
Brett’s general manager, Jacqueline Herrera, does a great job of running a very busy front of house. Brett needs her, as it seems he is never off the cutting block. The restaurant sits in the same location that a longtime Katy BBQ joint once stood – Nonmacher’s BBQ. And the line started forming out front of the restaurant around 11am (we were second in line), about 30 minutes before they opened. They opened right at 11:30am and had a steady stream of customers as long as we were there, and even as we were leaving. They sell out pretty much every day they are open – Wednesday through Sunday. After we finished with our food, Jacqueline took us behind the scenes. I got to chat with Brett for a couple minutes, all the while he kept cutting. The space he works in is very cramped, but they make the most of it and do a great job. Then Jacqueline took us back to see “The Beast”, a truly beastly steel offset smoker in the pit room behind the restaurant. This pit was put into service roughly 39 years ago when Nonmacher’s opened. And it has been going ever since. the cooking area is roughly 14′ long (about as long as a 1000-gallon propane tank offset pit), with a 3′ firebox. However, the diameter is quite a bit wider than a typical propane tank-based pit. It was originally much shorter. But at some point during its life, John Nonmacher had a significant extension welded on. It’s also a beast due to its appetite for wood. It burns through a significant amount of oak wood to keep all those beautiful and delicious smoked meats cooking. Finally, it is a beast because of its relatively small doors. Those small doors make it very challenging to load and unload meat, and to reach to the far back area of the single shelf. Jacqueline told us they are considering adding a second shelf, which would certainly increase their cooking capacity. But given how small the access doors are, it seems like that might increase the challenge of loading and unloading. While we were talking, Rolando, Brett’s right-hand man at the pit, just about disappeared inside the pit as he was pulling out some wrapped pork ribs. Finally, The Beast sits at a very odd angle – the firebox is at the far left and sits significantly higher than the rest of the pit. So the entire cooking surface slopes downward to the right.
As a final note, parking in the little strip center where Brett’s Barbecue Shop is location is a bit challenging. But Jacqueline said there is a simple fix for that. Due north across Kingsland Blvd is a parking lot out front of a Panda Express that can be used if needed. Fortunately we got there early enough that we didn’t need to do that. But it is good to know for the next time I go there. And the time after that. And the time after that. You get the picture. Brett’s smoked meats and sides are absolutely incredible. They’re worth the drive from any part of Houston, and farther. Next time I’ve gotta go on a Saturday to try their pork belly burnt ends, or on Thursday to try their brisket enchiladas. My mouth is watering as I just think about both of those specials. And that all makes it the more difficult to try their everyday meats – the pork ribs, sausage and turkey all looked absolutely amazing as well. I guess I’ll just have to go with a very large appetite – and probably take some home with me.