Eric and Jessica Mouton didn’t jump into the barbecue business hastily. The process to launch Mout’s Barbeque (pronounced like “moots”), in Winnie, started three years before its opening in August. The couple purchased an empty building just south of Interstate 10, between Houston and Beaumont, that had been a doctor’s office. Then Eric used the welding skills he developed in the marine salvage business to build a steel offset smoker. All the while they traveled the state with their four kids, researching the best barbecue joints in Houston, Austin, and Lockhart. Eric’s confidence in his own barbecue grew, but he had to be sure, and asked Jessica if she thought people would buy it. “I think it’s the best, but I might be biased,” she told him.

“Last year for spring break we loaded up the kids and went to Goldee’s,” Jessica said. “We got in line at four a.m.” They returned from the trip ready to launch their new endeavor, and gathered the extended family for a grand taste test. The Moutons prepared the menu items they were planning to serve and asked for honest feedback—most of it was positive. The restaurant opened soon after, and Eric has been happy to light the fires ever since. “I always liked the early mornings and the smell of the smoke in the mornings,” he said.

Eric’s love for barbecue began back when he was a kid hanging out at his grandmother’s store on the coast in Port Bolivar. Every Fourth of July they hosted a large barbecue. “They would dig pits out in the ground and put grates over it to cook,” Eric recalled, but those barbecues are a distant memory. “They lost the store in a hurricane,” he said, and never rebuilt it. Mouton’s Barbeque is his way of carrying on the family tradition.

One of the traditions was wrapping green beans with bacon and baking them with brown sugar for Christmas dinner. At Mout’s, the cooks layer a mix of brown sugar, onions, and pork belly over a tray of green beans. I was the first customer of the day, so the freshly uncovered pan looked more like a stew. I still enjoyed the sweet and savory concoction, but there’s nothing light about it. Fortifying the sides with smoked meat doesn’t end there. The cooks fold shedded smoked brisket into the creamy mac and cheese, and add big chunks of bacon to the hearty tater tot casserole. (Sides of potato salad and coleslaw are meat-free.)

While I was visiting, Jessica’s brother, Eric Payton, was there with his wife, Caroline, to photograph a few trays for Mout’s social media. They were highlighting the lighter fare, such as the grilled vegetables and smoked turkey. Payton’s family also runs an alligator and rabbit farm, and produces the alligator sausage smoked at Mout’s. I had my first alligator sausage wrap during my visit, and it came on a freshly griddled tortilla. The Moutons get their tortillas frozen, but still raw, so the finished product is far better than the premade packaged kinds. The sausage itself was quite mild, and not at all gamey.

Mout’s Barbeque Review
Mout’s employee Hannah Bohler outside the Winnie joint.Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

Eric Mouton worked on several iterations of his own smoked sausage for the menu. It’s a good one, with coarsely ground beef and plenty of black pepper and green onion. I also loved the smoked chicken half. Eric blends all his barbecue seasonings except the one that goes on the chicken. Jessica owns a boutique called Lily’s two blocks from the restaurant, and she carries a line of rubs from the Grill Your Ass Off brand. Eric tried its chicken seasoning one day and was hooked. The blend of dried peppers, onion, garlic, and a little sugar helped brown the skin of the chicken. It was crisp on the outside and juicy in the middle.

Shaina Villarreal was working the cutting block when I visited. Eric said he is mentoring her to take over some of his pit duties, and she showed great care in slicing a very tender brisket. The lean side was juicy, with loads of black-pepper crunch on the bark. The fatty side was fall-apart tender, with a deep smoke ring and a stout bark. The spare ribs had also gotten quite tender in the foil package. Eric thins some of his mildly sweet and onion-heavy barbecue sauce to coat the ribs. They maintained their well-developed bark, and the sweet and savory seasonings blended together well.

Jessica is a talented baker, so don’t skip the free slice of white bread when offered. I assumed it was from a bag of cheap white bread, but Jessica bakes all the loaves from scratch. She also makes the pickles and pickled onions, and all the desserts. Beneath its golden, buttery crust, the blackberry cobbler still had whole berries rather than being cooked down to mush. I had to save the bread pudding for the next visit.

Thankfully, with the opening of Mout’s, there’s now a solid barbecue option along the lonely stretch of I-10 between Houston and Beaumont. The Moutons have also expanded their reach. I missed both Eric and Jessica during my visit because they were running their new food trailer that travels to both Baytown and Anahuac, making it even easier to try the best barbecue Winnie has ever had.

Mout’s Barbeque
413 Texas Highway 124, Winnie
Phone: 409-296-1050
Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday 11–2; Friday 11–2 and 5–8
Pitmaster: Eric Mouton
Method: Oak in an offset smoker
Year opened: 2023