We find Killen’s in Strip Mall Land about 20 miles south of Houston. We walk in and are confronted with an electronic menu above and handwritten specials on a chalkboard easel. We narrow it down and step up to the cafeteria line. Behind the counter, a friendly gentleman takes our order (just meats; the sides and dessert are farther down the line).
It’s essential also to visit the accoutrements area with its bright pink pickled onions, slightly sweet and tangy pickle chips, and pickled jalapeños. We add a few cold beers, then find a spot next to the windows to consume our feast.
On the table are three sauces in huge medicine jars: coffee, tangy, and sweet. I’m especially drawn to the coffee, which has a deep earthy flavor, and the tangy, which is slightly spicy. They’re all good, but the meats are so juicy and flavorful that they really don’t need sauce.
Pulled pork is sweet and tender, with meaty strands hanging from flavor-packed edges. Sweet-spicy rub on ribs tastes of brown sugar and pepper and forms a drool-inducing crust that covers a layer of melt-in-your-mouth fat. Meat falls right from the bone. Again, no sauce needed.
Casing on a jalapeño-cheddar sausage is so tight that it’s almost hard to bite into, but gives a satisfying snap and has plenty of cheesy flavor. Not heavy on the jalapeño, but good nonetheless.
Creamy mac ‘n’ cheese looks like just another side but its texture is chewy and creamy and comforting. Collard greens are cooked with bits of salty bacon.
Smokey brisket tacos are served with green salsa. We add a few pickled onions and touch of coffee barbecue sauce. Yep. The brisket is flavorful on its own, but I really like it nestled in the tacos.
Oh, and of course: peach cobbler. We see it brought out of the back when we order it in the line, and it’s very hot. Good, but nothing revolutionary, with sticky sweet brown sugar crust. Later, we have it cold and find it’s actually gotten better.
Killen’s has a very friendly, no-nonsense vibe. Rolls of paper towels and plenty of sauce adorn each table, and neon chicken, pigs, and cows line the walls. Also, the apt Killen’s tagline: “It’s the best BBQ, period!”