There is no menu posted on the Blood Bros. BBQ website. The trio of owners at the Bellaire barbecue joint, Quy Hoang and brothers Terry and Robin Wong, change up the options so often that they instead post a new menu to their social media pages every day, which makes me sad to live 229 miles away. The folks from Visit Houston (who really should update their barbecue recommendations) might as well just send that Blood Bros. menu out to their email list and see travel to the city double. I’m especially forlorn to miss the fried bao stuffed with smoked char siu pork belly, which Blood Bros. is serving October 24–November 1 as part of Texas Monthly Barbecue Week.
At least I got to try the char siu pork banh mi, one of the Wednesday specials, a few weeks back. Char siu is a Chinese recipe for marinated and roasted pork. At Blood Bros. they chose boneless pork loin and, of course, they smoke it rather than roast it. Hoang makes a char siu marinade and uses the same sauce to baste the meat as it smokes. Then, he assembles the banh mi with house-made chicken liver pâté studded with thin slices of the pork. I finished it in no time, then remembered the Wednesday specials I had yet to try.
The history of meat market barbecue in Texas hinges on smoked sausage. Grinding the scraps and trim to create something profitable helped keep those old meat markets afloat, just as it does for the newer sausage makers. But a pitmaster doesn’t need to master sausage making to make use of brisket trimmings. “That’s one of the things, especially right now, is trying to minimize leftovers and waste,” Hoang says. After trimming all those briskets, Blood Bros. is left with sixty pounds of beef each week, so they’re using it to make burgers.
The patty melt, called the Patti Dooke, starts with one of those burger patties that has been seasoned and smoked. Swiss cheese, beer-braised onions, and spicy mayo go on top, and it’s all sandwiched between two slices of marble rye bread, baked locally at Heights Bier Garten. It’s a great sandwich, so it’s hard to choose between it and the smoked Loco Moco. The latter is a Hawaiian dish meant to be substantial. White rice is topped with a smoked burger patty, gravy made from brisket drippings, and a fried egg. Between the juicy patty and the fluffy rice is a surprising dose of umami from furikake seasoning, which combines sesame seeds, salt, sugar, and nori.
The Loco Moco came to the menu before the Patti Dooke. Wednesdays originally had a Hawaiian theme that included a play on Spam musubi, which is Spam and rice wrapped in nori. Instead of the canned stuff that’s popular in Hawaii, the Blood Bros. made their own from ham that they cure and smoke, mixed with raw pork shoulder. A Japanese togarashi spice mix with sesame seeds, nori, orange zest, and red peppers is mixed into the batter before it’s shaped into a loaf pan and smoked. The musubi didn’t sell well, but their version of Spam was so good that they found another use for it on Thursday’s turkey club sandwich. Thin slices of this homemade creation are crisped on the flattop, and take the place of both the ham and bacon components of a traditional club sandwich. If they could can this stuff, the Blood Bros. would no longer have to run a barbecue joint.
I joked with Hoang that I’d like to camp out at Blood Bros. and eat my way through the daily specials, such as Thai green curry boudin balls, guava glazed pork ribs, and thit nuong pork belly burnt ends. He said some of their regulars come in three times a week and order something different every time. Hoang is always working on something new, like the smoked curry meatballs he was testing when we talked. The exciting thing for the team at Blood Bros. is they’ve built a community of customers since opening in late 2018. Those folks trust their local pitmaster now, so when Hoang thinks up a new and interesting menu item, they’re more likely to give it shot. “We just want to cook food that we like eating,” Hoang says. From what I got to sample recently, we must have similar tastes in barbecue.
Method: Oak in an offset smoker
Pitmaster: Quy Hoang
Address: 5425 Bellaire Boulevard, Bellaire
Hours: Wed 11–3, Thu 11–3 & 6-10, Fri–Sun 11–3
Year Opened: 2018