Incredible Feasts On Buns: The Houston Area’s Best Stacked Barbecue Sandwiches
Texans like things big—big trucks, big business, big hair, and big food. There’s some evidence of our fondness for bigness in the roots of Texas barbecue, too. Large community barbecue gatherings first started around the state in the early 1800s. Long pits were dug in the ground, and a large wood fire was built in the pit and burned down to coals. A lattice of saplings was placed over the pit, and whole sheep, goats, pigs and steers were halved or quartered, then cooked over the coals while being regularly mop-basted. These were big events, often serving 1,000 people or more.
Big barbecue platters and servings is the natural evolution of those Texas feasts. With the advent of social media applications, especially Instagram, sharing photos of things people are excited about eating has become commonplace. Nothing says “Wow, you gotta see this!” more than a huge stacked sandwich. Taking one of these on might be intimidating, but finishing one is its own tasty reward.
In the Houston area, several barbecue joints have developed a stacked sandwich of their own. Some are regular items, a few are once-a-week specials, and some are ”secret menu items” only available by request. We crisscrossed the 2,500 square miles of Greater Houston to track down these seven contenders for the best stacked barbecue sandwiches in the area.
Palomo Pit BBQ, The New Potato Bar, 3519 Clinton, Houston
Jose Palomo operates a small trailer pit operation one day a week on Houston’s east side. You can find his set up at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoons at The New Potato, a bar on Clinton Drive. Jose’s regular job during the week is in the meat department at Costco, so he has easy access to the prime briskets that come through the store. Though Palomo may be a relative newcomer in the Houston barbecue scene, his brisket execution is flawless, as are his St. Louis-cut pork spareribs.
Palomo Pit BBQ’s “El Chingon” Sandwich is a fresh brioche bun stacked with two sliced links of smoked sausage from Kiolbassa Smoked Meats of San Antonio and two fat slices of prime brisket, all topped with Palomo’s homemade coleslaw. This big boy weighs about a pound, sells for $15, and is regularly offered during their popups. Keep your eye on Palomo; based on his brisket and rib skills alone he could develop enough of a following to leave his day job for a full-time barbecue business before long.
Gatlin’s BBQ, 3510 Ella, Houston
Gatlin’s “Kitchen Sink” Sandwich at $9.99 is one of the best values for a stacked sandwich in the Houston area. It features Mary Gatlin’s housemade Dirty Rice as a base for Gatlin’s signature smoky and barky brisket, customer’s choice of smoked sausage, plus grilled onions and jalapeños. It’s served on a buttered toasted bun with a splash of barbecue sauce and a crown of melted cheddar cheese.
The Kitchen Sink is a regular menu item at Gatlin’s, so you can get one any time they’re open. It brings together many of their best selections in one single item and serves as a convincing reminder of just why Gatlin’s BBQ should be in your regular Houston barbecue rotation.
Tejas Chocolate Craftory, 200 North Elm, Tomball
Tejas Chocolate Craftory (and Barbecue!) is already highly regarded for their regular menu items. Brisket, ribs, pork belly and their incredible sides, such as carrot soufflé and cornbread pudding, have generated quite a buzz in the Houston’s barbecue scene. In addition to regular barbecue sandwiches, on Wednesdays Tejas serves the coveted “Tejas Prime” Sandwich. For $16, it includes one-half pound of all-natural prime thick brisket slices covered with caramelized onions, braised mushrooms, horseradish cheddar, housemade green onion aioli, all on a toasted Kaiser roll with horseradish sauce on the side. It probably weighs about a pound when put together. For those with a more “sensible” appetite, they will build one with a quarter pound of brisket for $10.
Pappa Charlies Barbeque, 2012 Rusk, Houston
Houston native Wesley Jurena isn’t afraid to step outside of the traditional barbecue offerings, and is known for unique meat and spice combinations that reflect the diversity of our population. Vindaloo-spiced smoked lamb? He’s done it. How about a masala-spiced brisket, or beef short rib enchilada casserole? He’s done those too. At some point a social media user declared his goods to be “goofycue,” which Jurena embraced and is now part of the slogan on their t-shirts.
In honor of Houston’s year of origin, Jurena’s created the “1836 Sandwich.” The $14 creation is piled high with a pound of meat, including sliced smoked sausage, sliced brisket and pulled pork. Then, it’s finished with crisp, spicy slaw and a sweet sauce that’s different that Pappa Charlies’ regular barbecue sauce.
The “1836” is not on the menu, so how do you get one? The key is in the availability of one of the ingredients: pulled pork. Wednesdays are pulled pork days at Pappa Charlies, and that’s when diners can order the 1836 Sandwich. It’s also available on days when Pappa Charlies is serving pulled pork as a special. They will be happy to make you one if you just ask.
The Brisket House, 5775 Woodway, Houston
Wayne Kammerl now operates three Brisket House locations—the original on Woodway, plus a location in Deer Park and the newest in the Champions area on FM 1960. A few years ago he came up with a sandwich special that had brisket, jalapeño sausage and pulled pork on it, and it became popular with regular customers. He decided to put it on the daily menu, but it needed a name. Playing around with the order of the ingredients led him eventually to PB&J—“P” for pulled pork, “B” for brisket, and “J” for jalapeno sausage. “Wayne’s PB&J” was born.
The sandwich is loaded with sliced smoked brisket, jalapeño sausage from Ruffino Meats in Bryan, smoky pulled pork, and crunchy housemade coleslaw. At only $8.50, it is the best value on our list. What really sets the “PB&J” apart is the bun. Kammerl procures Sheila Partin’s Sweet Sourdough jalapeño cheddar buns from Sweet Mesquite Bakery in Houston. The texture and level of sweetness of the bun makes it a perfect complement to the savory stack of Brisket House smoked meats.
CorkScrew BBQ, 26608 Keith, Spring
Though it’s tough to visit CorkScrew BBQ in Old Town Spring without ordering their impeccable, all-natural prime brisket, this sandwich spectacle is a draw on its own. The “Whole Hog”features a half-pound of sliced smoked sausage, smoky pulled pork and a giant pork sparerib to top it off. It costs $13.25. Sure, with the rib you have to deconstruct The Whole Hog a bit to eat it, but it’s worth it.
Pitmaster Will Buckman says the Duroc pork spareribs from Compart Family Farms are coming in huge right now, and the one on our sandwich had to be almost a pound by itself. The Whole Hog is massive and easily enough for at least two separate meals. Top it with a few pickles, add fresh sliced jalapeño and onion for crunch, a little CorkScrew BBQ sauce, and going “Whole Hog” takes on a whole new meaning!
Tin Roof BBQ, 18918 Town Center Boulevard, Atascocita
Ronnie and Nancy Webber opened Tin Roof BBQ in Atascocita (just east of Humble) in 2001. The family-friendly atmosphere, huge outdoor deck with live music on weekends, and play area for the kids, has won the restaurant many fans over the years. As a regular customer since 2004, this behemoth caught my attention long ago, and is the biggest barbecue sandwich I’ve ever encountered.
It’s called the “Badwich” and includes at least a quarter-pound of all six meats Tin Roof serves—chopped beef, sliced smoked turkey, pulled pork, sliced smoked sausage, sliced brisket, a pork sparerib, and a smoked chicken leg. It’s so big that all the components don’t fit on the tall stack, so some get plated around the bun. This isn’t an issue, because the Badwich has to be taken apart to be eaten anyway. It’s no longer listed on the regular menu, but Tin Roof will still make it if you ask for it. With over a pound-and-a-half of meat, the “Badwich” tops the scales of the Houston-area stacked barbecue sandwiches and is $24.99.
Most barbecue places offer one or two-meat sandwiches from their various smoky offerings. Not all take these to the level of the stacked sandwich with three or more meats and additional toppings. If your favorite place doesn’t have one, get creative and make your own. How about sliced brisket, sausage, macaroni & cheese, and fried pickles? Or pulled pork, smoked turkey, bacon and guacamole? Look over the menu, including the sides. With some imagination, the next big barbecue sandwich and social media sensation might end up being named after you.
About The Author: Smoked meat enthusiast and barbecue competition judge Scott Sandlin authors the Texas Pit Quest blog, maintains the Guide to Houston-Area BBQ map, and is the barbecue (and general meat) columnist for Houston Food Finder.