Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue

HUNTSVILLE: New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue
2601 Montgomery Rd
Huntsville, TX 77340


Open Thur-Sat 11-7

Sometimes known as the "Church of the Holy Smoke", this joint is a destination for BBQ lovers all over the state. It has made it onto countless "best of" lists when Texas BBQ is being discussed, and the church's incredible story has been told in magazines and television. Needless to say, this was a must see destination for myself, Smokemasterone, and Smokey D. The trip down to Huntsville flew by on a rainy Saturday morning, and we got into town before they opened. We spent our extra time at McKenzie's BBQ down the street since it opened earlier. We paced ourselves at the warm-up joint, so we were salivating when we pulled into the parking lot and drove past the prominently placed smoker.

The place was empty right at 11:00 when we entered, and we could see smoked meat piled into warming cookers behind the counter. The obvious choice was to get a sampling of meats which included sausage, chicken, brisket and ribs. Buttermilk pie could not be resisted, nor could a few cans of Dr. Pepper.

As the meat arrived at our table, we couldn't wait to dig in. I grabbed a pork rib first. It took quite an effort to pry meat from bone, but the huge spare ribs had a good level of smokiness. Cooked too fast and too short, there was still plenty of unrendered fat. Chicken had decent smokiness and overall flavor, but the white meat was terribly dry, and the skin on all the cuts was still chewy. Sausage was the best with plenty of black pepper and a nice snap. I tried the brisket last hoping for the best. I could see the gray slices sitting on the platter while I ate the other meats, and the lack of guttoral sounds from my tablemates was a bad omen. The slices were chewy and lacked any sort of crust, smoke ring, or smokiness. The meat tasted like nothing more than baked roast beef.

After all the hype, our carload of hopefulness was dashed. I know that the place is run by the church, so the staff is not always the same, but I'm not sure of the role of pit master is shared. If so, it may explain why our trip was so disappointing, but I'd assume they'd have their "A" team working on a Saturday. Either way it's going to be hard to justify another three hour drive to test the theory. If you make the trip, by all means I want to hear about your experience. Just be sure to get the sausage and buttermilk pie in case all else fails.

Rating **

Church Barbeque on Urbanspoon


Jacob said...

I drove all the way from Austin on saturday to come eat here (also hit up Gidding Meat Market on the way). How crazy. I got to Zion about 1PM. Your review is dead on, although I will give them the credit that I thought the rub they used was good, but it didn't matter after they weren't cooked right. Also portion size was huge. It seemed to me that this was more southern style that my grand parents try to claim is better in Mississippi and Georgia. It was also begging me to pour sauce all over it, which I refused to do.

Anonymous said...

My experience here was much the same. Anticipation created by much hype and disappointment with the food.

Plano Mark said...

I was there on Friday, Feb 11th about 3:00 PM. I got the three meat platter with ribs, brisket and sausage. I 100% agree on the sausage, it was great. My ribs pulled of the bone pretty easy and they were tasty, and my brisket was slightly better than your description. I've had better, I've had a lot worse at other places. This was my second trip, won't be my last. I give the atmosphere an A+, the food a B.

Anonymous said...

The blame is on those who over-hype the quality of the BBQ and those that go to Zion buying into the hype...expectations are raised too high.

The church members who volunteer at Zion are doing a good thing - raising money for their parish.

For me Zion has always been about the experience of the place and not the que. I never went to Zion seeking great que; only a great place to grab a quick lunch or dinner. And in the back of my mind helping out a local church.

Its kind of unfair of the review to not point this out on some level.

Anonymous said...

Sorry; i would expect great cue. You don't make all the lists, etc. unless you have a pretty good product. I would expect something pretty good if I showed up there.

This was a pretty bad review. Too bad I have always wanted to go there; maybe it was an off day. I thought that joint was all you can eat?

BBQ Snob said...

They do have an option for family style where you can eat as much as you like, but you can also order by the 1/2 pound and they offer traditional plates as well.

DFWEngineer said...

I've been there twice with my most recent trip being last summer on my way down to Houston.

Seems to me that they do more of a fast smoke type of cooking. I had the brisket and ribs both times and I found that though they tasted good and had some smokiness, the flavor tended to lean more toward grilled instead of meat that was truly smoked.

I can say that the meat that I had was more tender than what Snob had on his visit. So I really feel sorry for him in that regards.

I can also say the people are some of the nicest I've met anywhere and the joint really does have good character.

Beer Of The Day said...

This is definitely on my list, but I plan to get there early on a Saturday. My understanding is that that's the best time, and once the slow-cooked stuff goes they play catch up trying to cook what's left fast enough to keep up with the demand.

Hope my experience is better.

smokemasterone said...

We were there pretty much as they opened and I don't think that is going to make a big difference. It is a good story and an above average way to make a contribution. I would suggest taking the ** explanation, if you're in the neighborhood, to heart.

MikeM said...

I had a slightly more positive experience there several months ago. Not great 'cue, but decent. I do agree with the diagnosis -- it's cooked too quick. I'm not a white meat chicken eater in the first place, but the dark meat is the better choice. My ribs were a bit more tender. And the brisket I had was just too lean, even though I asked for the fatty end. The sausage was delicious on my visit. All of that being said, the desert was great. Homemade pies that can't be beat. It's worth coming by and eating at once, and worth coming back if you're nearby, but other than that . . . .

Anonymous said...

I ate there yesterday. After all the build up I left heartbroken. Brisket with a burned crust was grey tough and stringy. Sausage was mealy and tasteless. Ribs tasted like lighter fluid. The beans were tasteless. I placed my order and before I knew what was happening 7 ladles of not that great aside was dumped all over my plate. I think they were going it would camouflage the bad Q. After hearing from friends about the magical Q to be had at Zion I was let down.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog...

If no other reason, I recommend Zion because it's easily one of the most unique dining experiences I've had in almost forty years of living in Texas.

I'm no BBQ connoisseur, but I thought the brisket, potato salad, and beans were very good.

I left fat and happy. I have been there twice and it was great both times.

Anonymous said...

Re: Zion.. Sister Ward who was the idea maker of the BBQ and head cook died a few years ago and now the pastor is in charge of it..

Unknown said...

Plan to take drive from Dallas to try. We will see. Highly recommended on Travel Channel.

Dave S said...

I visited today (2/11/2016) and would report that your review was exactly my experience. I'll have to admit I was not very impressed. As a "honorary mention" in the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ list my expectations were very high. I'd give them a "C". First off, they way over sauced the plates without asking if we wanted it. Sides (baked beans and potato salad) totally ho-hum. Brisket was likely foiled as crutch during cooking and did not develop nearly enough bark. Ribs were tasty but, IMO, needed more rub and drastically slower cooking. I think the average Rudy's kicks ass compared to my single experience here.

Unknown said...

I call bs on this review, as zion has never had pork ribs a single time that i have been there and i lived 3 miles away for over 11 years. They have chicken, "pork" which means sausage, beef brisket, and beef ribs. Potato salad and pintos, onions, pickle and sliced bread with all platters. Offering of sweet tea and usually 3 different pies: sweet potato, buttermilk, and pecan.
BTW none of their food was ever cooked "hot and fast" and those are the best beef ribs anyone's getting anywhere.


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.