Andrew Ho and Sean Wen of Pinch Boil House and Andrew Samia of South BBQ & Kitchen weren’t prepared for just how well their first team effort turned out. Samia, who runs one of San Antonio’s best barbecue joints, brought the smoked meats to their first pop-up last May. Ho and Wen provided the rice and curry from their Southeast Asian–inspired seafood house. The pop-up, planned as a distraction from COVID-induced boredom, was immediately a hit. The partners were slammed, with no time to try the finished dish themselves before service ended. They each packed up doggie bags to take home—then the group texting began. “Are y’all tasting what I’m tasting?” Samia remembers writing. A string of positive emojis followed. Wen asked, “What if we did a full-on concept around curry and smoked meats instead of just a dish?”
After one more successful pop-up, the trio decided to turn Curry Boys BBQ into a permanent restaurant. Samia already had the location: a building on North St. Mary’s that was once the kitchen and smokehouse for the former Hot Spot Bar-B-Que. Samia, who is also an owner of Dignowity Meats, originally wanted to use it as a late-night barbecue-taco shack, but the pandemic put that plan on hold. The building was perfect for the minimal needs of Curry Boys BBQ—cooking rice and curries—while Samia continued smoking the meats in the offset smoker parked behind South BBQ. “There’s not much more labor or wood required to cook more barbecue,” he says.
Although it’s tiny, you can’t miss Curry Boys’ bright pink building. “It was going to be lime green or pink,” Wen says. “The building is so small, we needed a color that was like a life jacket in the ocean.” There’s a walk-up window for ordering, and several partially shaded picnic tables for dining on site. As the weather warms, the trio plans to add more shade, misters, and fans to keep the area cool for diners digging into warm bowls of curry-laced barbecue and rice.
Aside from specials like Vietnamese pork ribs on Saturdays, there are four mainstay curry dishes on the menu, which all come with rice, carrots, potatoes, smoked meat, and a fragrant garnish of fried shallots. Each curry starts with a base of chicken stock, coconut milk, and varying amounts of lemongrass, garlic, and fish sauce. Loads of cilantro stems, kaffir lime leaves, and lime juice are added to make the green curry that goes with both the Brisket Smoke Show and Magic Mushroom bowls. I tried both, and I can’t stop thinking about the whole, plump button mushrooms seasoned with smoked salt. The thinly sliced brisket was great with curry, and brought me back to a memorable past meal of barbecue curries at Eem in Portland, the restaurant where Ho came to the realization that the two foods made a harmonious combination. Ho also spent several years in Vietnam as the general manager of the country’s first American barbecue-and-craft-beer restaurant, Quán Ụt Ụt, which translates to Oink Oink Restaurant. He’s maintained a fascination with barbecue ever since.
Ho and Samia both said they prefer the turmeric-heavy yellow curry paired with strips of smoked chicken thighs. The thighs are smoked specially for Curry Boys, but the seasoning is as peppery as at most barbecue joints. The team wanted flavors that combined Texas barbecue with traditional curry, so Samia uses his usual blend of barbecue seasonings. I loved the spice and sweetness in the panang curry, which is served with sliced smoked pork and garlic sausage from Mikeska Brands. A sausage link can be added to any bowl. I’d also recommend adding the optional sides of house-made pickles and chili oil for some extra punch.
Several sides are available at Curry Boys, like curry creamed corn, a cucumber slaw, and cold chili garlic noodles, the latter of which they forgot in my order. Flan is the only dessert option, and it’s topped with whipped cream and sweet cold-brew coffee for a quick pick-me-up after a heavy meal.
Back in 2019, I left Eem in Portland more excited than after any barbecue meal in a long while. The marriage of velvety, rich, spicy curry and salty smoked meats was exceptional, and I hoped those flavors would one day make it to a menu in Texas. Curry Boys BBQ has made that wish come true, and they’ve executed both types of fare incredibly well under difficult circumstances. Wen admits they moved forward with the concept and the location because both were “low cost, low risk, and COVID-friendly.” As more big-city barbecue joints trend toward sameness in menus, techniques, and aesthetic, Curry Boys brings a new energy that I hope will inspire continued growth in Texas barbecue.
2334 N. St. Mary’s, San Antonio
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday, 11 until sold out
Pitmaster: Andrew Samia
Method: Oak and mesquite in an offset smoker
Year opened: 2020