CorkScrew BBQ: Solid 'Cue in Spring

Categories: Q

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Smoked turkey, brisket and fresh jalapeños at Corkscrew BBQ.
Although "spring" is right around the corner (more like summer at this rate), the solid barbecue at Corkscrew BBQ at 24930 Budde Road is actually to be found in Spring, just south of The Woodlands.

There, in a gravel lot off a quiet side road, Will and Nichole Buckman have set up a simple shop with only a smoker, a trailer for order-taking and a few scattered picnic tables. But even though it's tucked away, the CorkScrew caravan is hard to miss thanks to its black and bright-pink paint job.

CorkScrew has been a hit almost since the first day it opened this past November. Corkscrew warns fans on its website that it sells out every day: "We cook as much as we can fit on the pit daily, when we're out we're out..." And even though I arrived with a friend at 11:30 a.m. one Saturday afternoon, the Buckmans were already out of smoked chicken. Nichole explained that it's one of the most popular meats on the menu, and suggested the turkey as a replacement.

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Fatty brisket with a good smoke ring? Check.
I rarely find a piece of turkey I enjoy that doesn't come in a club sandwich, topped with plenty of mayonnaise and bacon to give the bird some moistness and flavor. So I was charmed to find myself enjoying the smoked turkey at Corkscrew in spite of myself, infused with a woodsy aroma and remarkably tender.

The fatty, soft brisket was the star of the afternoon, however, with a wonderfully charred exterior and smoke ring that spoke to hours spent in the hot confines of Corkscrew's big, black smoker. It had a flavor that I couldn't quite place, though -- a sweet smokiness that was entirely unlike the mesquite- or hickory- or even pecan-smoked 'cues you find so often in Texas.

I contemplated the mystery flavor while demolishing two of CorkScrew's sides: a rather average if passable cole slaw and a black pepper-spotted potato salad that tasted of salty Parmesan cheese and tangy sour cream, by far the best of the two.

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Perch on a picnic table while you wait, or stay there to eat your lunch in the sunshine.
Finally, I went back to the window to find out what wood the Buckmans were using for their smoker -- the same basic, perfunctory question you ask at every barbecue joint -- and was astounded by the answer.

"Red oak," Will answered with a grin. "We just like it best." It was the answer to what had been driving me crazy about the brisket and turkey, too -- the sweet, nutty source of that maddening flavor. Unusual, to say the least. But it's what will ultimately set CorkScrew apart and -- I predict -- is what will draw serious 'cue hounds to the spot as more people learn of the Buckmans' talent at the smoker.

As we were leaving, I saw a kid fresh out of Little League practice chowing down on one of CorkScrew's sandwiches. I scanned the menu when I got home and found two more items that will guarantee I'm one of those people making a return visit and buying out Corkscrew's 'cue each day: Pancho & Lefty, a brisket sandwich covered with pico de gallo and mayo; and The Whole Hog, a pulled pork sandwich topped with sausage and two fat pork ribs.



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CorkScrew BBQ

24930 Budde Road, Spring, TX

Category: Restaurant

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5 comments
Bob d'Aigle
Bob d'Aigle

Is Corkscrew the Best in the West? Darn totin'! It's so damned good I had it shipped overnight to Tegucigalpa, Honduras! BBQ in Honduras is cooked 'til it's DEAD! What a treat for all our friends and relatives in Tegucigalpa. They were licking their fingers and smiling. Redwood smokin'? If Will and Nichole say it's the best - "The proof of the pudding is in the eating"! Thanks, guys!

Bob d'Aigle, Permanent ResidentLas UvasTegucigalpa, Honduras

(PS: I miss Texas)

Nate
Nate

Fresh jalapenos, awesome. 

Not sure why their choice of red oak is so astounding.  Post oak, aka white oak is what I would consider the standard Central Texas BBQ wood to smoke with.  I think mesquite is too resinous, you might use a little for flavor, or to grill over, but not for extended smoking sessions, unless you wrap in foil to keep the creosote off.

Eric S
Eric S

To the extent that devoted 'cue hounds are always looking to try new places, Corkscrew is worth the drive. If I lived up there, I'd probably be a regular. However, I don't quite share Albert's level of enthusiasm. I still think Gatlin's and Virgie's are producing the best barbecue in our area. 

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

After living in Central Texas for the better part of 20 years, I was overjoyed to finally find Houston-area BBQ that measures up to the best pits in the Hill Country.  I'm so glad you ventured up to check 'em out.

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