August 31st, 2010
Gatlin’s Barbecue: Food in the Family
I have a serious issue with desiring what we’ve been calling “the meat sweats”. You know, those feelings you get after eating a wonderful meal where a large amount of beef, chicken, pork, or lamb is involved. In Houston, a good burger or a trip to Phoenicia Deli usually satisfy my cravings, but on some days, I just need barbecue. Until a couple of weeks ago, there were only a few options for fulfilling my need for beef in barbecue form. I found another place to add to that list when I stepped into Gatlin’s Barbecue.
Situated in the building that used to house Jazzie Cafe, Gatlin’s is unassuming from the outside. In fact, I almost completely missed it, even though I knew exactly where it was. I opened the door and was immediately welcomed in by an older woman who was working the counter. Her attitude and kindness were unbelievable. My mind switched to “I’m home” as she made me feel like I was completely welcome in her establishment. There are only two tables inside and four outside. My guess is that they do not expect a lot of people to stay and eat and while I was there, a lot of folks ordered, then took it to go.
Ordering was simple, I chose a combo plate and let her know what sides I wanted with it. There are a large number of meat choices, including brisket, ribs, sausage, turkey, pulled pork, and baby back ribs. Being in the mood for beef, I chose the brisket and mixed it up with a little bit of pulled pork. My sides were the potato salad and ranch style beans. Ten minutes later, my food was delivered in a styrofoam container. Sure, it isn’t butcher paper like you will find at some of the central Texas barbecue joints, but it makes packing up your leftovers much easier.
I took the first bite of brisket and was hooked. Juicy, moist, and melt in your mouth are all things that come to mind to describe what my mouth was experiencing. There was a fantastic layer of char, giving the meat that perfect crunchy texture with a wonderful smoky flavor. Gatlin’s tops their barbecue with a little bit of sauce, but not so much as to cover up the flavor of the meat. The sauce also has a hint of heat to it, which of course gets a thumbs up from me.
The pulled pork was just as good as the brisket. It was moist but kept its texture well and, in my mind, was what I would love to have on a sandwich. The ultimate comfort food. I had pretty much finished up both meats before I even realized I had not tasted the sides. Yes, I was so distracted by how good the meats were that I did not even notice anything else on my plate.
In terms of potato salad, what Gatlin’s served was not what I expected. That does not mean I did not like what I tasted. It was a mix between mashed potatoes and potato salad, served cold. Delicious. That’s all I’m gonna say. The ranch style beans were my least favorite part of the meal, though they were not bad, they were just not a bright flashing light that hit my mouth upside the head like the brisket and pork.
During the meal, the same woman who took my order asked me how I was liking it and if she could bring me anything else. She also started conversations with me and just about anyone else who walked in. What a breath of fresh air. I felt like family. And, right before I left one of the guys working in the kitchen walked out and asked how I liked everything and thanked me for coming.
Gatlin’s has sealed its place on my list of favorite eateries in Houston and I cannot wait until fall when it will be bearable to sit on the patio and eat some very well done barbecue. The Heights is lucky to have such a place so close! Are you craving barbecue? Do you like being treated like family? Then get your butt to Gatlin’s Barbecue.