Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Road Trip: Burns Bar BQ and Pierson &Company

I'm prefacing my post with "Road Trip" after I realized that I clearly gone past "The Heights." The drive isn't far (6.4 miles from the center of "Greater Heights" according to Google Maps), and if you haven't explored the areas just north of the Heights on Shepherd, you're really missing out. This drive will put you right past B&W Meat Market on North Shepherd, which is always a great stop for those looking for every cut of a cow imaginable, although I wouldn't go there looking for a well marbled ribeye.

Only 6.4 miles!

Houston really should have a better selection of barbecue restaurants. The Heights is actually lucky in that we have Pizzitola's nearby (much better than average), but I've been disappointed by the others in the area. Burns and Pierson are the class of Houston, and we're blessed to have them so close to the Heights.

At Burns (8307 De Priest St, 77088), the ribs and brisket are the class of the meats. Both are moderately seasoned with an aggressive smoke flavor. The brisket is extremely tender and flavorful; it’s probably the only brisket in Houston that can compete with some of the most hallowed barbecue purveyors in Central Texas. The pork spare ribs are just as exemplary as the brisket; flavorful, with a slight chew.

The hand-drawn and smoke-stained menus at Burns

At Pierson & Company (5110 T C Jester Blvd, 77091), the brisket is the best of the meat offerings. All of the meats are smoked with mesquite, and the brisket benefits the most from this treatment. Tender, smoky, and with a nice seasoned crust, the brisket is some of the best in town. The ribs aren’t quite as solid as the brisket, but are above average.

Both restaurants have above the same style sauce, with Burns having more bite and acidity. The sauce served at Pierson is too sweet for my tastes. I would probably recommend getting it on the side at both places as they tend to drown the meats with the stuff. Both establishments serve the same style of sausage links that have a processed flavor and texture.

I think Burns is the stronger of the two, but that's not a knock on Pierson & Company. Burns consistently serves great barbecue and, in my opinion, is the best barbecue restaurant in Houston. The last time I ate at Pierson, the brisket was roughly sliced and excessively fatty. Half of our ribs were surprisingly undercooked. In the place of an attractive smoked crust was a sludge of rub seasoning that made the ribs inedible.

The one area where Pierson wins is with service. Clarence Pierson and his staff are eager to engage in conversation. Newcomers are always treated to a sampling of brisket. Nice touch. A trip to Burns always takes longer than it should, and the convoluted hand-drawn menu doesn't help. Our first trip early last summer resulted in an hour wait after we ordered, only to discover they were out of brisket. On another trip last July, the owner was on vacation and his fill in staff substituted their own menu, hand-drawn on a torn paper grocery bag. Burns is also only open Weds - Sat and is cash only. Pierson is my pick when I have a wild hare and want barbecue NOW. Burns takes some planning as I'm looking to go at a less busy time, usually early lunch on Weds -Fri.


  1. Are you blogging at work? :-)

  2. I concur on your analysis of the comparative merits of Burns and Pierson's. If people want to try Burns they should call ahead. They often run out of meat fairly early. ONce it's gone, you need a plan B. I still miss Williams's which burned down a year or two ago.