Friday, February 17, 2012

Gerardo's Drive-In

HOUSTON: Gerardo's
609 Patton St
Houston, TX 77009
Open Daily 5:30-6 (Barbacoa F, Sat & Sun only)

If you're reading this I presume you're awake, which means that Gerardo's is probably open. If it's a Friday, Saturday or Sunday and you're anywhere near Houston, then you need to make a trip for some hearty barbacoa. Barbacoa has many meanings. A strict translation is barbecue, but depending on your heritage, it could mean any cut of smoked goat, mutton, or more specifically cow heads. Most times in Texas when you find barbacoa on the menu it will mean cabeza de vaca or cow head (unless you're at Chipotle), and it will rarely be smoked. In fact, other than Vera's in Brownsville, there may not be any commercial barbacoa that is smoked. At Gerardo's in Houston they wrap the heads in foil and steam them like owner Jose Luis Lopez learned to in Michoacan. The seasoning is mainly salt, pepper and oregano, and the results are incredible.

The meat could be eaten by the forkful. The silky salt-soaked fat mixed in with the chunks of meat make for a rich flavor. Add some of their famous salsa verde on a fresh grilled tortilla, and you'll have one of the finest breakfasts that can be had.

Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

Strictly speaking, this probably isn't barbecue, but the rich tradition of barbacoa in the state is very much overshadowed by other traditional barbecue styles. I'll be interested about the effect the smoke used at Vera's will have on the meat when I visit there in the coming month. There isn't a hint of smokiness here (why would there be?) but the results are worth coming back for.

Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

In addition to cabeza of the cow, they also feature chicharrones, pork carnitas and mutton barbacoa. The mutton lacked the gaminess I had braced myself for, and was just as good as the beef. It was more tangy, and a bit dryer, but not too dry. The meat also had a nice reddish hue different from the dark brown flesh of the beef. I don't think I'll be able to choose between the two on my next visit, so I'll just have to get both.

Rating ****

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Open Daily 5:30-6"

5:30am - 6pm?


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.