feed the beast

Houston’s Enduring Eats: Multiple Generations Find Comfort Food at Barbecue Inn

by Annie Bulloch Posted: 08-07-15 | 2 years ago
barbecue inn houston
Photo Credit: Annie Bulloch Barbecue Inn is an old school time-travel adventure.

In our Enduring Eats series, Annie Bulloch explores Houston-area restaurants that have been in business for 30 years or more.

Barbecue Inn Shrimp and Stuffed Crab
The little parsley garnish is another bygone relic. I was an adult before I knew you could actually eat parsley.

Barbecue Inn opened in 1946 in a little house at the corner of Crosstimbers and Yale, a bit north of Loop 610 near Garden Oaks. Louis and Nell Skrehot founded the restaurant and raised their sons Louis, Jr. and Wayne in the business. Today, the restaurant is in the same location and remains in the family, with Wayne and his son David now running the show.

Original copies of Barbecue Inn’s 1946 and 1965 menus are on display in the restaurant lobby. Aside from the prices, very little of the menu has changed since 1965.

There are a few exceptions, though. For instance, the 1965 menu included canned soups as appetizers, which unsurprisingly got phased out. Catfish replaced trout. Veal and ham steaks disappeared sometime in the intervening 50 years, and items like coleslaw and ranch dressing eventually were added. (Yes, Barbecue Inn existed in the fabled Time Before Ranch Dressing, which was invented in the 1950s and only found mass popularity in the early 1980s.) And most importantly—because it is my personal favorite—chicken-fried chicken was added to the menu alongside chicken-fried steak.

But about 80 percent of the menu is the same, and the basics — barbecue and fried chicken — were on the menu all the way back in 1946.

Barbecue Inn Chicken Fried Chicken
My beloved chicken-fried chicken, with cream gravy on the side to preserve the crunch.

While it’s called Barbecue Inn, and the barbecue is fine, the real star is the fried chicken. The menu specifies that fried chicken orders will take an extra 25-30 minutes, and it is well worth the wait. The crunchy coating adheres to the juicy, flavorful meat beautifully, so you get all the flavor and texture in every bite.

My great-grandparents frequently brought my grandmother and great-uncle to Barbecue Inn for fried chicken in the 1940s and ‘50s, and my mother fondly remembers eating the fried seafood platter when dining with her family as a young girl in the ‘60s. My relatives insist that the food hasn’t really changed. Having multiple generations of the same family run the restaurant has given it a continuity upon which other multi-generational families can rely.

I went to Barbecue Inn for dinner on a recent Friday night, and the dining room was as busy as ever. Many of the patrons were over 50 years old (some well over 50), but there were plenty of younger people there as well. Almost every plate contained fried chicken or seafood. No matter what food trends come along, simple, delicious comfort food doesn’t go out of style.

Barbecue Inn Side Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
A big green salad with chopped tomatoes cancels out the unhealthiness of fried chicken and a loaded baked potato, right?

On this visit, I brought a friend who has lived in Houston for years, but never had heard of Barbecue Inn. She was game for a time-travel adventure, and we had fun noting the relics of past times, such as the candy and mints for sale under glass at the front counter, and the area of the restaurant that’s sectioned off by a wall that’s purely a formality. Once upon a time, it divided the smoking and non-smoking sections. In those days, “non-smoking” just meant “not sitting immediately next to active smokers, who are probably at least 10 or 15 feet away.”

I ordered my usual chicken fried chicken, and my friend chose the stuffed crab and fried shrimp. Both come with a green salad and either fries or a baked potato. If you order oil and vinegar dressing, they very much deliver separate cruets of salad oil and vinegar to the table so you can dress your salad to your taste. I asked for blue cheese dressing on my salad, and they do not skimp on the dressing. A basket of assorted packets of crackers also comes with the meal, and it includes melba toast. Melba toast!

When our entrees arrived—after the extra time it took to fry my chicken, of course—our conversation quickly ground to a halt so we could chow down. We slowed down long enough to exchange a bite of my chicken for one of her shrimp, and ultimately joined the clean plate club.

After nearly 70 years in business, Barbecue Inn’s formula for success still works. It’s not self-consciously kitschy. It’s a neighborhood institution where being old-fashioned isn’t a gimmick. My friend and I left too stuffed with

Barbecue Inn on Crosstimbers
Barbecue Inn on Crosstimbers

fried food and potatoes to handle any of the delicious pie, but that’s okay. I’ll be back soon.

Barbecue Inn
116 W. Crosstimbers Street
Houston, Texas 77018
713-695-8112
www.thebarbecueinn.com

Hours:
10:30 AM-9:30PM Tuesday-Saturday
Closed Sunday and Monday

 

Annie Bulloch

Annie Bulloch is a freelance writer who has lived in Houston most of her life. Her main obsessions are food--both cooking and eating--and pop culture, especially comics, movies and TV.

Follow Annie Bulloch on facebook twitter instagram

COMMENTS

  1. Suzanna

    I’ve never heard of this place, but the chicken fried chicken officially sounds awesome. Do they gravy it up?

    Reply
    • Annie Bulloch
      Annie Bulloch

      It’s my favorite chicken-fried chicken ever, and I consider myself a CFC connoisseur. They do put gravy on it, but you can ask them to put it on the side. I always do so the outside will stay crunchy. In the photo above, you can see the little gravy ramekin in the top left corner. That’s what came with my order.

      Reply
  2. Janet Foster

    I am so enjoying your “Houston’s Enduring Eats” articles. Brings back tons of memories and make me want to go out and sample them again. I think I will! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Annie Bulloch
      Annie Bulloch

      Thank you! I’m so glad you’re enjoying them.

      Reply
  3. I love Barbeque Inn. The fried shrimp is the best I have ever had. Any other place I eat fried shrimp is always compared to BBQ Inn. It is always so fresh. The salads are always cold crisp and fresh.

    My second favorite is the chicken fried chicken. The choice are so hard to make.

    Barbeque Inn is great place for a family evening out.

    Reply
  4. Jerrie Sanders

    I grew up just a few blocks behind the BQInn, on Heidrich. We went there often, as well as to the Mexicatessen (that is now gone) just a block west of the Inn. The food at the Inn was wonderful then, and now. I took some neighbors from New Orleans there one day; they ordered fried chicken and swore it was the best they had ever eaten in a restaurant. And like you, the CHChicken is my favorite! Glad to hear others love it too.

    Reply

Leave a Reply Want your image to appear next to your comment? Get a gravatar!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *