Great BBQ takes preparation, a steadily monitored environment and knowing how to adapt to unexpected changes. Great pit masters develop their skills over years and learn from knowledge handed down from other skilled pit masters who guide and teach from their experience. So much of the precision comes from educated guesses. Great BBQ comes from surety based on familiarity.
Houston is undoubtedly expansive and culturally diverse, something that native Houstonians such as myself tout with pride. Being able to pinpoint a culture or tradition to learn about and explore is something that has always made the idea of leaving this area a stretch for me. However, familiarity is not always inherent with the process early on. Burns Original BBQ is located in an area of town that I had yet to spend much time in; North Houston’s Acres Homes neighborhood.
North Houston much more unincorporated than the majority of areas I usually roam. It provides ample space for flora to grow, far different than the cookie cutter houses of West Houston suburbia or the Metropolitan Downtown district. Houston has little to any zoning law, so things always seem like a mixed bag of what you can find, but North Houston possesses enough space between properties that it could really keep you guessing. My GPS started the journey, but it was only when I stopped treating the location like an assignment that I was really able to find it.
I learned of Burns’ by following a few local cross-medium artists who had posted about it on social media over time; @donkeeboy and @slimthug. The late Anthony Bourdain included the restaurant in a Houston episode of “Parts Unknown”, a homage to the diversity of the Houston community. Bourdain is actually featured in @donkeeboy’s mural outside of Burns’. As I stopped by to snap a few photos and meet some very generous pit masters who provided a short history of the business. They were kind to inform me that Bourdain arrived at the Houston staple way more often than just what the camera’s captured.
Burns has a solid facebook page with information, hours and photos that you can find here.
Also, Texas Monthly had a 2018 writeup that details the lineage of the business since it’s creation in 1973 here.
The song this week is Washboard Sam’s “Barbecue” which I first heard in 2012 while creating a road trip playlist. The song always stuck with me, and I think really fits the location this week as I can see where learning how to play an instrument is much like learning how to make great BBQ. You follow your passion, adapt to what you find, and develop based on familiarity.
It’s been over a year since Bourdain has passed by suicide, and I am still wrestling with it. I know that the BBQ at Burns is delicious, though I am not intentionally moving into becoming a food blog. But I also would be remiss if I didn’t address that if you are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, there is help available. Reach out to friends or to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255.