I had to be in Houston on Friday, and while Houston is nowhere close to Baylor, I naturally stopped in for a couple of Barbecue meals and thought they were deserving of review. Since my reviews thus far have eluded the Houston area, I wanted to include them on the blog should you find yourself in the area with an appetite for some barbecue. This was the second joint I hit.
Also known as the “Church of the Holy Smoke”, New Zion Baptist BBQ has earned a famous reputation among Texas barbecue joints given its unique combination of dishing out both religion and smoked meats. Located about an hour north of Houston on I-45 in Huntsville, Texas, the church raises money for their parish by serving BBQ from Thursday through Sunday. Though I had heard mixed reviews about the sheer quality of the cue’, given the compelling story behind the place, I had to pull in for a first hand tasting.
Initially, New Zion Baptist Barbecue held considerable promise. As I approached the ramshackle outbuilding, I was encouraged by a heavy waft of smoke in the air. The black iron barrel smoker is proudly displayed in front of the entrance, with coals visibly glowing away in the fire box. The approach certainly wets the appetite, and I strolled across the creaky floors of the shack eager for a smoky surprise.
Unfortunately, after placing my order and minutes later hearing an audible *DING* from a microwave prior to being served my meal, my expectations quickly dropped. I still don’t know which meat came from the microwave, but it didn’t really matter because they all proved mediocre. The ribs were undercooked and a bit on the chewy side, while the sausage was standard grocery store variety. Neither had the slightest hint of smoke. The brisket was lifeless and gray, and similarly lacked any smokiness that you would have expected from the barrel smoker outside. I was starting to think the smoker was mere ornament, and I was glad to have filled up at Virgie’s and hour earlier.
In the end, you want to love a place like New Zion Baptist. It’s a great story, and certainly one of the more unique venues you could hope to frequent for BBQ. I also salute them as a church for earning income by serving something other than boring spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts. As heartwarming as the story is, however, the quality of barbecue is decidedly underwhelming. If you want to pull off the highway, support the church, and enjoy some barbecue in a unique environment, by all means stop in. But temper your expectations for the quality of the meal accordingly.
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