If the “Tortoise and the Hare” taught us anything, it’s that slow and steady wins the race. And at Tony's Barbecue & Steak House, slow and steady cooking has ordinary dinners beat with pork ribs and brisket that spend a good 12 hours sizzling over South Texas hickory. The barbecue meals are joined by hearty steaks, smoked ham and turkey plates, and quail dinners. Many of the menu items are cooked with one of founder Antonio Ruiz's secret recipes for dirty rice, barbecue sauce, and pork and brisket rubs. Before opening the first Tony’s Barbecue in Baytown, Ruiz spent 15 years developing his craft at a local barbecue restaurant in Houston.
Brothers Kevin and Ric Kiersh opened Red River BBQ & Grill as a catering company back in the '90s, and though it still outfits parties with heaps of classic southern comfort food (including a mashed potato bar), customers can now get their barbecue fix at two restaurant locations. Diners can stop in anytime for barbecue spuds and sandwiches, or visit on Monday night to enjoy all-you-can-eat fried chicken and stirring speeches delivered by ribs on the campaign trail. If customers don't opt for brisket, spicy sausage, and pork ribs still sizzling from their stay in the wood-fired pits, they can order steaks and fried shrimp. Sides include potato salad and beer-battered onion rings.
When husband-and-wife team Otto and Annie Sofka first founded Otto's Barbecue and Hamburgers in 1950, they never dreamed barbecue would become the meat and potatoes of the family's livelihood. The small corner grocery store specialized in canned and boxed goods—that is until Annie started cooking up hamburgers at the request of hungry regulars. As the popularity of Annie’s burgers grew, the store’s shelves were cleared out to make room for tables and chairs to accommodate the growing lines of customers. Within two years, the Sofkas were officially in the burger business. By the ’60s, they were ready to add old family barbecue recipes to the menu, and Otto’s has been a favorite pit stop for Houston barbecue lovers ever since.
Three generations have now manned the kitchen at Otto’s, satisfying customers as varied as George Bush Sr., Liberace, and George Foreman with barbecue that has been smoked in a hickory grill for 18 hours. Chefs pair seven meat choices, including beef brisket, slow-smoked pork ribs, and sausage links, with a range of homestyle sides and giant stuffed potatoes, creating full meals that showcase the flavors of the South better than an art installation built from chicken-fried steaks. The chefs at Otto’s also serve up their own line of bottled sodas, ensuring enough frothy root beer, orange soda, and cream soda to wash down the saucy eats.
Demeris Bar-B-Q slathers meats and fingers with a plethora of tasty barbecue-sauce-laden menu items. Serve a family or a family of squirrels with the barbecue dinner, which pairs one, two, or three sauce-smothered servings of beef, sausage, chicken, ribs, chicken breast, or jalapeño sausage with a choice of two sides ($10.25+). A half-pound patty naps between comfy layers of cheddar cheese, bacon, an onion ring, and a sourdough bun inside the Hoffy burger ($6.95–$8.45, at the Shepherd Drive and Northwest Mall locations only), and butter, sour cream, cheese, and chives shower a hearty baked potato ($4.45). Escort a saucy selection with a side of jalapeño corn, barbecue baked beans, or seasoned green beans ($1.70 each). The mississippi-mud ice-cream pie helps patrons cool down their spice-slathered taste buds without sky diving with their mouths open ($4.60).
You can tell a good barbecue joint when one of its menu sections is simply titled "Meats." These meats slay the bland and defend the savory. Smoked for hours in a solid brick pit (originally built in 1934), Pizzitola's spareribs leap off the bone and onto your plate ($9 a half pound) or into your car with a Grab a Slab takeout special ($17.85), while the chicken turns buttery soft beneath skin cracked and crisped ($8 by the half pound, on the bone). The rough-textured sausage, made as it has been for years by two Czech brothers in Cistern, sidles up well against pinto beans and mustardy potato salad ($12.45), while the chopped beef-brisket-stuffed baked potato with sour cream, butter, melted cheese, and green onions ($9) demolishes even a large to extra-large linebacker. Hydrate with an Arnold Palmer ($2) or a couple bottles of domestic suds ($3).