Linkdown: 12/17/14

– The Raleigh News & Observer is doing a multi-part story on a four-way crossbreed of pigs called silky pork created by two brothers in eastern North Carolina that are craved by consumers in Tokyo

The Iveys are part of a weekly race against time and circumstance to deliver the pork fresh – never frozen – from barns east of Raleigh to the world’s largest metropolis. It has become an unyielding effort to penetrate the demanding Japanese marketplace, where pork is consumed with a passion akin to North Carolinians and their barbecue.

– We don’t use the word “joint” here to describe just any restaurant, and this story is about how pitmasters consider it a badge of honor

Due to its working-class reputation and association with rowdiness, “joint” came to be applied to other establishments considered uncultured or cheap. The terms “beer joint” and “burger joint” started appearing in newspaper articles in the 1940s and ’50s. It was about this time that the word “joint” started transitioning from meaning a disreputable establishment to one that is, more accurately, inexpensive and informal.

Four Star BBQ in Wichita “focuses on Carolina-style meats that have been marinated in apple juice and rubbed with brown sugar”…hmmm

– Virgie’s Bar-B-Que, which Rudy visited a few months back, gets a write-up on its nearly 50-year history

– Billy’s Bar-B-Q in Gaston County was damaged by a fire in April and is now planning to reopen for lunch and dinner in January

– The reviews from the latter part of the barbecue circumnavigation by Marie, Let’s Eat!: Skylight Inn in Ayden (which he absolutely raves about), Grady’s in Dudley, Shuler’s in Latta, SC, and BBQ Barn in North Augusta, SC

– Look who stopped by Buz and Ned’s in Richmond this past weekend!

– If you need smoked meats or sides for Christmas lunch or dinner, you have until next Monday to place an order with Midwood Smokehouse

Virgie’s BBQ – Houston, TX

Name: Virgie’s BBQ
Date: 7/17/2014
Address: 5535 North Gessner, Houston, TX 77041
Order: Order of brisket and ribs (link to menu)
Price: $13.15

Rudy: Historically, Houston has not been known for having many places to get great barbecue. There are some recent places that are getting more pub, but for the size of the city, it has been traditionally lacking. The Rudy family was driving through Houston, so I knew I wanted to see if there was any truth to the stereotype. Virgie’s opened in 2005 and has been on Texas Monthly’s Top 50 list the last few years, so I figured that would be a great place to try. I was wrong.

Virgie’s is a free-standing building in the middle of an industrial park, so not the best location for atmosphere, but it did draw a decent sized lunch crowd from the local businesses.  Inside, there are bare minimum decorations, but it does have the mom & pop barbecue feel.

I should have known I was in trouble when I walked up to the counter and ordered. I wanted to try a few different meats, so I ordered a half pound of ribs, half pound of brisket, and a sausage link. The man at the counter looked at me like I had two heads. He said he had never heard of anyone ordering by the weight (which is how they do it at every other barbecue restaurant I’ve been to in Texas) and suggested that I order the “order” with ribs and brisket. I took his advice, but had no idea of how much food I was actually getting. I thought it was a bit silly how they had just a generic listing for an “order” of something on the menu.

I tried the ribs first, and they were not very good. They had a hard crust on the top, were not meaty, and were only slightly seasoned (if at all). I was hoping for something more tender and with more meat on the bone. They were ok, but nothing great. Texas Monthly had said that the ribs were the highlight of Virgie’s, so I was pretty disappointed.

The brisket was next, and it was the same as the ribs, just ok. I wanted more flavor, either from seasoning or smoke, than I got. While it was tender, it was pretty bland and unmemorable.

Monk: From what I’ve read, it sounds like you maybe should have tried Killen’s Barbecue in nearby Pearland just north of town, though not sure how far out of the way it would have been for you.

Rudy: Yes, that was my initial thought, and one that I hope to get to soon. It’s getting great reviews and is trying to turn around the Houston barbecue reputation. But I was on a road trip, and it would have taken me about 45 minutes (each way) out of where I was going. There were two others that I thought about, but one had mixed reviews and the other one was known for having long lines, so I opted for Virgie’s.

This was my first attempt at finding barbecue in Houston, and it wasn’t too successful. The food was ok, but nothing to write home about or warrant a return trip. I will say the people at Virgie’s were incredibly nice and the service was great, unfortunately, the meat was not.

Atmosphere – 2.5 Hogs
Brisket – 1.5 Hogs
Ribs – 2 Hogs
Overall – 2 Hogs
Virgie's BBQ on Urbanspoon
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