Notwithstanding the name, we have limited experience with the barbecue at this long-time north Houston restaurant. This is a family run place that we doubt has changed much over its 60+ years of existence. The brightly lit booths are vinyl and the waitresses call you honey. The bread service is crackers and white sandwich bread. But, once this place started receiving national attention for its fried chicken, we had to try it. And it’s really good. Probably the best we’ve had in Houston, although we concede some could question our Houston foodie cred for not having made it to Frenchy’s. Don’t go to Barbecue Inn for the sides (with the possible exception of the homemade thousand island dressing that you might want to just eat with a spoon rather than on top of the iceburg lettuce chunks). Even though folks talk highly about the fried shrimp (yes, we tried it and it was very good), we’ve gone back just for the fried chicken. They also do a very credible version of barbecue ribs, although we’d skip the insipid sauce. And likely the chicken fried steak is pretty good. A friend suggested that you can do BYOB, which we can’t really picture (we take that back, we did see a guy arriving with a wine carrier, best to bring your own corkscrew). Perhaps better to stick with beer or iced tea. And, depending on the time of day, you may encounter a wait. At 5:30 on a recent Saturday evening, we waited 30 minutes standing up in a rather crowded, warm area. There’s counter space used by diners, so no bar area. This restaurant isn’t in the best part of town, but there are large parking lots immediately adjacent, and a security guard has been in attendance both times we’ve been.116 West Crosstimbers Road 713/695-8112 http://www.thebarbecueinn.com/index.html
We had resisted trying Beaver’s as we had read mixed reviews and barbeque isn’t our favorite. But we’d heard about the new chef — Jonathan Jones (formerly of Max’s Wine Dive) — so we thought we should head to the Heights to check it out. With two friends in tow, we ventured to Beaver’s on a recent Sunday evening. We wanted to go in the evening as the smoker items are only available at dinner. There were a few tables filled but the place was by no means busy.
As befitting a BBQ restaurant owned by Monica Pope, the atmosphere is contemporary rustic. The tables are picnic style, with an upholstered banquette along one seating side and backless wooden benches on the other side of the tables. The latter, although contributing to the country spirit, were not comfortable. There’s an extensive cocktail list with interesting, reasonably priced Texas style twists on traditional cocktails. We enjoyed the salt and pepper margarita, a southern gimlet, and a pecan old fashioned. There’s a limited list of wines by the glass, and the house red was just fine for BBQ.
For appetizers, we tried the “Bar Bar” (chopped brisket with BBQ sauce served with tortilla chips) and the Beaver Wings. The former was tasty enough, but the wings were better. We moved on to the Smoker Sampler and the Ribs ‘n’ Grits. The Smoker Sampler was a winner — wonderfully smoked, moist pork ribs, fatty flavorful brisket, juicy pulled pork, and delicious link sausage. The ribs were a particular standout. The Ribs ‘n’ Grits featured the boneless meat from the aforementioned pork ribs, served on what was more of a cheese grit cake than traditional style grits. The side of greens had a great bacony flavor. The mac & cheese was a disappointment, floury tasting and mushy. And is it really necessary to top pasta with croutons? We had hoped for better as the chef’s version of this dish at Max’s Wine Dive was fabulous.
One of the criticisms of Beaver’s has been that the servings are small and the prices high for BBQ. We didn’t find that to be the case. The Smoker Sampler was $15 and the Ribs ‘n’ Grits were $18. If you want mass produced BBQ, there are any number of chain places. But for high quality ingredients, made on the premises, and uniquely served, we thought the pricing was fair. And we had plenty to eat.
Our waitress was friendly and attentive until about 8:45 when it was clear the staff wanted to clean up and get out of there, although the restaurant doesn’t close until 10. Once our meals were delivered, we got no water refills. Seconds on margaritas were not available as the restaurant had run out of the the lime pepper mix. The bill was presented to us right after our plates were cleared, with no offer of dessert or coffee. When we inquired about dessert, the waitress brought the menu but told us “it’s not a good night for desserts.” She was right as, by 9:15, the deep fat fryer needed for the namesake “beaver balls” had been shut down. We declined the bread pudding special, figuring we could get that anywhere whereas deep fried brownie balls are not widely available. They were sweeping up as they swept us out the door.
Will we return to Beaver’s? Perhaps if we were in the neighborhood and really wanted barbeque. Maybe with Yankee visitors. But our experience with the service put a mar on what was otherwise great food.
2310 Decatur Street