So, this was November 1st…Halloween+1…my last day in Texas before slowly making my way back home to CT. I only had two destinations…Burns Original BBQ for lunch (as seen on the Houston episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown)…and dancing at Big Texas – North, in Spring/north-Houston, less than 3 miles from my hotel, the sister country-western dance hall to Big Texas – South, in Webster/southeast-Houston, which was my first dance hall stop in Houston on this trip.
I honestly don’t remember doing anything else that day, which likely means I did laundry and took a nap at my hotel. The next day was going to be the longest driving-day of the trip…Houston to Oxford, MS…nearly 600 miles…so, I know I was physically gearing up for that.
Houston is funny. There is no zoning. So, you can literally just turn a corner and find yourself suddenly in a different world. I love that. As with the Himalaya Restaurant and Little India, GPS had me driving on a typical Houston, very mainstream “Generica” frontage road, parallel to a highway…it told me to turn right, into a shopping center…and poof…the entire shopping center was comprised of Indian-owned businesses. Very cool.
The route to Burns Original BBQ was very similar. I remember that on the Parts Unknown episode, the filmmakers made a point of bringing the viewer into the segment by highlighting street views of the area it is located in. It was a very modest, quiet, peaceful, predominantly African-American neighborhood, nicely shaded with a lot of trees.
So, GPS guided me out of a high-density, very commercial area into this suddenly very quiet, peaceful subdivision of modest homes, people working out in their yards, etc. You don’t expect to find these sorts of peaceful enclaves in a city that seems dominated by tangles of highways and stacked highway interchanges. I realize it may seem very “touristy” of me, but I found this very cool…very tranquil.
And Burns, itself, is sort of nestled in the middle of this quiet neighborhood. There may be one or two other small businesses next to it, but that’s about all. It’s not a commercial shopping area. And Burns was busy. It was midweek lunch hour. Most of the customers seemed to be getting take-out. There was a constant flow of cars leaving and arriving in the cozy parking area. There was also a short, but constant, line at the counter.
I didn’t know what to order. All I knew was that I’d have to be quick about it, judging by the pace at the walk-up counter. I went with the 2-meat half-pound dinner…brisket and mild sausage…that included two sides, because I wanted a little variety. This was the smallest meal you could order, next to the “Monster” stuffed potatoes, which are arguably just as big.
Here’s a snapshot of my lunch:
This was not a half-pound of meat. I think it was much closer to a pound-and-a-half. So, “generous portions” would be an understatement. And it was delicious. It’s no wonder that Burns has been around since 1973, and continues to thrive.
So, along with Himalaya Restaurant, my visit to Burns BBQ became part of what I’ll call the “Bourdain Effect” on my trip…seeking out a few of Mr. Bourdain’s stops in cities he visited that happen to either be on my route, or that I changed my route slightly, in order to try these places out. And so…there is more to come.
My last stop in Houston was Big Texas – North, to see what country-western dancing I could find. Big Texas – North is…big. It has a nice, big, racetrack-style dance floor, with a bar and seating inside the racetrack. It also has multiple bars and lots of seating outside the dance floor. As with my night at Stetson’s, I apologize that I decided not to take any photos, because I really just wanted to find some dancing and try to meet a few people.
There was actually a pretty big crowd, early, at Big Texas, so that was refreshing. I did take the beginner two-step class. But, instead of taking the waltz class that followed, I headed over to the other side of the racetrack, where an intermediate two-step class was in progress. It was the middle of the class, so I just watched from the sidelines. The teaching in this class was a bit closer to what I am familiar with, so it was fun to watch.
When the open dancing started, I did manage to get a few two-steps in, and a west-coast, so that was nice. But, I was really more on my own than at Stetson’s, despite this being a bigger crowd and just as nice. I’d definitely head back to Big Texas in the future. It might just take a little longer to meet and start chatting with some of the regulars, though I did chat a bit.
So, this was my last night in Houston…and in Texas…for now.