Food Fight: Pork Ribs

Categories: Food Fight, Q

gatlins.jpg
Gatlin's.

I recently organized a rib crawl that consisted of 11 people feasting on ribs from five restaurants in one afternoon. We covered Pierson & Company Bar-B-Q, Burns BBQ, Gatlin's BBQ, Gabby's Barbeque, and Pizzatola's Bar-B-Cue--in that order. Ribs were ranked on a scale of 1-5, with five being the best. Final scores are averages of the 11 participants. Here's a recap and results of the festivities, listed from best-tasting rib of the day to least favorite.

Gatlin's BBQ
Price: $22.50/slab
Consensus: Elite ribs
Score: 4.56
My take: I know we usually hold the winner to very end of Food Fight, but not this time around. Gatlin's was simply outstanding in just about every aspect--peppery seasoning, nice bark, and tender, almost fall-off-the-bone ribs. They were lean, but not dry, and had no need for sauce. That's a good thing because the sweet sauce, although good, didn't add anything to the taste of the meat.
Mike's take: "Awesome flavor, very tender. Sauce is the best so far. Smoky, yet smooth flavor. Excellent bark."

piersons.jpg
Pierson & Company.
Pierson & Company Bar-B-Q
Price: $22.50/slab
Score: 4.43
Consensus: Elite ribs
My take: The ribs at Pierson's were top-notch, and given the close proximity to my house, the good people over there have not seen the last of me. If you're a fan of bark, this was the best of the day, and I'm guessing the best in the city. Pierson's is yet another example of a rib that needs no sauce. To me, this is the ultimate barbecue compliment.
Blake's take: "The meat was very tender and fell off the bone. Nice streaks of fat kept things juicy. The sauce was mildly spicy and tasty."

pizzatolas.jpg
Pizzatola's.
Pizzatola's Bar-B-Cue
Price: $19.95/slab
Score: 3.6
Consensus: Very solid
My take: I definitely echoed the group's opinion on Pizzatola's ribs--very solid. I did find them a bit too salty, but overall, a nice showing. The ribs were less moist than some of the competitors.
Addie's take: "Sauce was a lot like Campbell's Tomato Soup. The ribs were a bit dry, and the meat did not come off the bone very well. Still, they were pretty good."

gabbys.jpg
Gabby's.
Gabby's Barbeque
Price: Spare ribs: $18.99/slab, baby back ribs: $18.99/slab
Score: 3.2
Consensus: Surprisingly good
My take: Gabby's was the only chain place on the crawl, and I think each member probably walked into the restaurant with a few preconceived notions. I was pleasantly surprised with these ribs. We ordered a rack of the spare ribs and baby back ribs. Both slabs looked the part, but certainly didn't have that long-cooked look, nor the smoky flavor. The spare ribs were better than the baby-backs.
Brent's take: "Short ribs bad. Long ribs good. Best ceiling so far." Note: He was referring to the restaurant's actual ceiling. Random, but accurate.

burns.jpg
Burns.
Burns BBQ
Price: $25/slab
Score: 2.27
Consensus: Disappointing
My take: Going into this competition, I had Burns as my dark-horse pick. They just didn't bring their A-game, and from the looks of the other scores, most everyone agreed with me. The meat was flavorful, but a bit too chewy, and lacked that classic bark that I so desire.
Casey's take: "Not falling off the bone. Not smoky enough. Meh!"

In conclusion: It needs to be noted that not one rib we ate the entire day was bad. In fact, I'd say every place was better than average. Given the high expectations, Burns was the biggest disappointment (and the highest priced ribs). But their ribs were better than about 80 percent of other ribs out there. I think what really took the participants off-guard was the exceptional service from three of the places--Gatlin's, Pierson's and Pizzatola's. At Pierson's, for example, Clarence was even nice enough to show the entire group his smoker--classy move.

Finally, this competition proved to be a two-horse race--Pierson's and Gatlin's. Both places produced just about the finest product imaginable, and it was very easy to tell they loved doing it.

Location Info

Gatlin's BBQ

1221 W. 19th St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Pizzitola's Bar-B-Cue

1703 Shepherd Dr., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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12 comments
Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

I truly hope you got to try Williams BBQ before they burned down. That was easily the best ribs in the city, and I haven't found a better one yet.

Big favor to ask, though. I am defying some folks to find me a better Vietnamese egg roll than the one at Hollywood Vietnamese on Montrose. Let me know a good one to battle, and I'd like to see the result. (and considering how cheap they are, I'll pay for the comparison.)

Whyfight
Whyfight

Last two times at Gatlins, the ribs were definitely boiled prior to any smoking. The sausage and sides were average. The best part of the meal was the homemade lemonade. I don't understand why this place is so revered. They were serving the meats out of an igloo container. I won't go back a third time.

Dustifun1
Dustifun1

Pierson's all the way!Comfort food ribs versus the others listed. :))

bibulb
bibulb

I enjoy Hickory Hollow's ribs, but that's partially because they're really convenient for us.Gabby's, back in the long ago and far away, used to do a once-a-week all-you-can-eat ribs night. They weren't GREAT, certainly, but sheer volume can do wonders for perception of quality...

Peter
Peter

I agree that Gatlin's has the best ribs. It's certainly moved ahead of Burns and Thelma's in my book. I disagree that Pizzitola's is up there; my last two times there my ribs were drier than the Sahara (albeit they were weekdays when I went)

Jbell
Jbell

I remember when the only question about BBQ in this town was, "Burn's or Thelma's?" Im sad to say that Burns is on the verge of going "Hollywood" and Thelma has already jumped the shark. Welcome to King Gatlin. May your reign be tender and smoky.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

Done...that will be my next Food Fight, I've never had Hollywood's. They'll go against Thu Thu's on Antoine. Just so I am sure, it's the fried vietnamese egg rolls right? Not spring rolls.

Also, yes I did have the chance to eat Williams. Great ribs. Both Gatlins and Piersons are both in their league, no doubt. Best rib in the country...Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City.

Kyle
Kyle

You didn't try any brisket??

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

Pierson's ribs were outstanding. I know Gatlin's has gotten a lot of pub lately (as they should) but P's are definitely in the same league...just a matter of preference.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

Yep. The fried ones wrapped in lettuce with cilantro, hot sauce, etc. Huynh had decent ones, as well, but I've yet to have ones better than Hollywood.

I'll try Gatlin's and Pierson's to see how they compare to William's. I miss having good ribs.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

@Whyfight...I'm sorry to hear your experiences didn't go well. I can just go by what I consumed that day (and one other day for dessert). I might give it one more try if I were you. Just saying.

@Kyle We really tried to keep it strictly on the ribs the entire day...it was a lot to eat, and I didn't want to get full on other things. That said, I had a bite of sausage (awesome) and some dirty rice (awesome again). I stopped in the next week and grabbed some cobbler and bread pudding...I thought both were average.

Kyle
Kyle

Nah, that reply was to Whyfight who gave up on Gatlin's before trying the brisket.

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