28 February 2007

The Lowdown on H-Town

This is part one of a series. Part two can be found here.

It occurred to me that my own end of the month deadline for the Carnival of Dining Out is rapidly approaching, and I hadn't written a single thing this month worthy of a spot at my own dance. One of the reasons that my posts were a little light there for awhile was because I took a long weekend to attend the annual gathering of the West Tennessee Glee Club and BBQ Appreciation Society, held Presidents' Day weekend (this year) in central Texas.

I flew into Houston and met up with a buddy of mine for our first meal at my favorite barbecue joint in H-town, Williams Smokehouse. Williams is pretty well known, especially in BBQ circles, but most others consider the more well-known barbecue houses in town (Goode & Co. and Otto's come to mind) to be the best. Heck, President Bush eats his barbecue at Otto's when he's in town, so it must be good, right? I found this list on Citysearch from 2005 that doesn't even list Williams Smokehouse in the Top 10 BBQ restaurants in all of Houston (this is the voice of the people - should be able to rely on that, no?).

I will only say this about that - if you don't think that Williams has the best BBQ in Houston, it is probably because you have never been there. Folks that have been, will generally agree with my assessment. I have spoken to many friends and acquaintances who live in and around Houston, and many of them have never been to Williams. Why? Well, for one thing, it is in a horrible part of town. Most every time I have been there, I have been the only white person in the whole place. It is also in a pretty inconvenient part of town - it is not near the Galleria, for instance, so tourists aren't going to seek it out, and employees aren't going to pack the place around lunch time.

Most Texas BBQ is about the beef. Williams makes a fine brisket, and their sauce has just enough bite to let you know that you are IN Texas. But, the star of the show at this place is the ribs. These are not tender baby backs - rather, these long spare ribs have good amount of meat that needs a good tug to come off the bone. Williams gets it - the meat on ribs shouldn't be "falling off the bone" as many people describe. Ribs that are made as such, are probably overcooked. Not only are the ribs excellent, but at $8.50 for the pictured plate, they are a true bargain. If I didn't have my heart set on the ribs, I would have jumped on the daily special - a sliced beef sandwich, small fries and a drink for $4.95.

Williams is on the northwest side of town, and it is usually my first stop whenever I fly into IAH, as it is somewhat convenient to the airport.

After leaving Williams, we decided to drive down to Galveston for the afternoon. Information on that part of the trip will be below the fold.

Galveston is just 45 quick minutes south of Houston, but for all the times I have been to H-town, I have never made the drive down to the beach. I was surprised at what we found. The city of Galveston is much nicer than what I had envisioned. The water was nice - not completely clear, but not nasty. I understand that there are some issues with seaweed infestation during different times of the year, but this was not evident during our trip. It was a chilly day, so spending time at the beach was not something to spend a lot of time on.

We made way towards the downtown "Strand" district and found LaKing's - a place for homemade confections - candy and ice cream, coffee, etc. I am a sucker for homemade ice cream (I am a sucker for homemade chocolates and fudge, too - just ask the girl who sold me all this stuff!), and LaKing's didn't disappoint. They make small batches of some relatively unique flavors. Some of the flavors that they offered were apple and pumpkin pie, strawberry cheesecake, Banana Walnut, and Amaretto Almond. The young gentleman at the counter encouraged me to try most every flavor they had under glass. I went with the apple pie, and it did not disappoint. Unfortunately, the picture didn't come out too well. The picture of the largest jawbreakers I have ever seen, however, photographed quite well. This will be part of a series of photos that I will call "Everything Really Is Bigger in Texas!"

By the time we were done at LaKing's, it was about time to head back up to Houston. We had dinner plans on tap. I will cover dinner and breakfast the following day in the next post.

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