The chile relleno sausage of brisket trimmings at Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue in Tomball is served sliced, exposing the green, off-white, and minute specks of red from the roasted poblano chile and pepper jack cheese. The post-oak-smoked meat is rife with spice and snaps with all the flavors of a chile relleno. The rounds of beef link are nestled in a two-ply corn tortilla. Salsa is conspicuously absent. That’s where the house-made mole comes into play.
To be clear, mole is more than a salsa or sauce. Mole is supposed to be the main component of any platter bearing its name. Its preparation is complex and time-consuming. It requires knowledge of history, timing, and ingredients to produce the balanced structure of flavors. But at Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue, co-owner/pitmaster Scott Moore Jr. and his brother Greg Moore, the chef, aren’t trying to serve a mole that conforms to Mexican tradition. Instead, the restaurant’s recipe is something more like a barbecue sauce. “It’s got the fruit and the seeds and the bread and the chiles,” Scott says. “Greg makes a paste that’s cut back with stock and vinegar to thin it out.” The result has a bite and lacy texture with a brighter pop of color than that of a mole poblano or mole oaxaqueño. “I like to call it mole ’cue.”
Poured atop the cut link or on an individual slice, it gleams against the pale rust-hued sausage. The mole also helps connect the tortilla (sourced from nearby Tortilleria La Ranchera) and filling. It creates a neat parcel that’s easily and quickly consumed. Oh, and it goes without saying that the mole uses Tejas chocolate.
Scott and his wife, Michelle Holland, opened Tejas as a bean-to-bar chocolatier in 2011. The smoked meat followed when they added a restaurant in 2015. “We sell barbecue to support our chocolate-making habit,” Scott says. The chocolate is made into concoctions like truffles, pecan pralines, and the Dark Matter bars, which burst with black lava sea salt and black pepper. But it’s the barbecue that pays the bills. The lines that form prior to each day’s opening of the Texas Monthly Top 50 joint are evidence of that.
Customers pass the chocolate on their way to the barbecue counter. During my visit, I spied truffles of single-origin chocolate from Chiapas, truffles blended with raspberries, truffles infused with champagne, and pieces topped with dried orange peels. Yet I resisted the temptation to fill up on the goodies before grabbing a chile relleno sausage taco. Next time, I’ll make sure to buy chocolate for the road. And I’ll make sure to visit on a Tuesday, to try Tejas’s weekly smoked beef cheek taco special too.
Perhaps by then Scott will have made good on his promise to produce tortillas in-house. “Tacos are in our DNA. They have been available since day one,” he says. “I keep threatening to make our own tortillas. I’m really intrigued by the idea of milling my own corn and making an artisan corn tortilla. But we’re not there yet.” I, for one, would like to see the Tejas crew try their hands at fresh tortillas. But those they’re currently using are good. They’re sturdy and pliant with a faint aroma of corn. In-house tortilla production also adheres to Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue’s foundational handcrafting ethos—“It’s just kind of how we approach a lot of stuff. We make our chocolate, we make our sausage,” Scott says. Why not tortillas?