Houston is well-known for a many things (a huge population and geographic size, incredible cultural diversity, exciting food scene, Beyonce, etc.), but it has not historically been considered a big barbecue town. In recent years, however, following the boom in both barbecue and Houston, the community in this vibrant city has enjoyed increasingly creative and high quality barbecue. The growth can’t be attributed to one specific “right style” of barbecue, but we can point to a “right way” that has helped drive the rising tide.

The challenge for Houston residents and visitors alike in appreciating this cornucopia of ‘cue is navigating the sprawling landscape to try them all. That’s exactly what HOUBBQ founders J.C. Reid and Michael Fulmer sought to solve 11 years ago.

Photo Credit: Gabe Ramirez

Inspired in part by Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ Joints List, the two friends spent years eating their way through standout barbecue joints around Houston and beyond on “BBQ Run” road trips. After attending the inaugural BBQ Fest in Austin, they decided to flip the script and gather all the area pitmasters they had met in one place for an annual celebration of the entire Houston barbecue community.

Unlike Central Texas, which is dominated by the craft style barbecue popularized in part by Aaron Franklin, Houston’s scene is a melting pot of cultures and styles that includes flavors from the across region and all around the world.

“Houston has its own rich, interesting history of barbecue with East Texas, Cajun, & Creole influences. From the very first year, we tried to tell that story of Houston’s barbecue…the richness, the culture, the history,” said Reid.

Photo Credit: Robert J. Lerma

They didn’t just want to represent the full spectrum of styles in the samples included in the ticket price; Reid and Fulmer wanted to make sure everyone in their beloved city – both pitmasters and enthusiasts alike – were welcome at their event and had a good time. That means families, people of all different ages and backgrounds, and keeping prices low as much as possible. Plus, as Fulmer said, “you don’t need to take our your wallet, unless you’re buying a t-shirt or something to drink.”

It became crystal clear to the HOUBBQ founders in year two that their focus on the attendee experience had struck a nerve with the public. The 2nd annual festival, hosted at an NRG Stadium parking lot with limited tent coverage, fell in the middle of a weeklong stretch of nonstop pouring rain. Drenched but determined, Fulmer recounted worrying while setting up the morning of the Festival that their pitmasters weren’t going to show up. And even if they did, he thought, there’s no way that ticketholders would think the ‘juice was worth the squeeze’ to brave the weather. Before long, though, he was awestruck when every pit showed up ready to serve their barbecue, and a half-mile-long line to enter slowly built throughout the morning. In the end, it was an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.

Photo Credit: Cindy Robertson

As they’ve grown, HOUBBQ has continued to evolve and grow into additional events throughout the year, including the January BBQ Throwdown held at St. Arnold Brewing and the Tex Mex Block Party over the Summer. As Reid and Fulmer aim to remain an integral piece of the BBQ community in Houston investment from partners, like new presenting sponsor Goodstock by Nolan Ryan, will help them support the community in an accessible way.

Photo Credit: Robert J. Lerma

As they prepare to enter their second decade with the 2024 HOUBBQ Festival on April 14, they reflected on their path with excitement for the future. “We’re putting the name of Houston on this festival, it’s an awesome responsibility we take very seriously,” said Fulmer, before Reid added: “we plan to be around for the long haul!”

Photo Credit: Conor Moran

So if you live around Houston, or are looking to get a true taste of the unparalleled variety of flavors that can come out of a smoker in a celebration of Houston barbecue, you can learn more about HOUBBQ or buy tickets to the 2024 HOUBBQ Festival today.