Proprietors Mark “Tex” Howard, Sharon Bernard-Howard, and Mark Johnson grew up in Houston, Texas – a place that takes great pride in the barbeque that gets served up. In Texas, it seems there’s a barbeque joint of some kind on every corner. There are regular full-size barbeque restaurants, barbeque kiosks, barbeque pits in gas stations (“Fill ‘er up, please check the oil, and how’s the smoked brisket today?”), barbeque at fairs, festivals, and farmers’ markets, and barbeque being sold on the side of the road. And the funny thing is – as many places as there are – most of them are pretty good. Because Texans take their barbeque seriously, and any place that doesn’t serve top-notch ‘cue won’t be in business very long. When we were growing up, all three of us assumed that most places knew how to barbeque properly. Man oh man, were we ever wrong. Fast-forward a few decades, and fate and other ventures brought us all to the San Francisco Bay area. One of us even married a native Californian. And we tried again and again to find some local barbeque that was worth eating twice. And failed miserably at the challenge. After trying and being disappointed again by the umpteenth newest place in town, we were all about to give up the pursuit when a trip back to Texas one fall produced a simple revelation – “We know what makes great barbeque, why not produce it ourselves?”
And thus, a new journey began. One where we committed to producing the finest barbeque that California has ever seen. Barbeque created in the traditional Texas style – slow-smoked in high-quality pits using only the finest cooking materials, and serving the finest in naturally-raised meats with the utmost in attention to detail. Cut no corners, take no shortcuts. Keep it simple, but make it great.
The Difference between Simple Grilling and Pit-Smoke Barbequing
There’s a big misconception between what grilling is, and what true barbequing (and more specifically, “pit-smoke” barbequing) is. Grilling everything from meat to fish, poultry to vegetables on a standard propane gas grill is one of the most popular pastimes in America. Unfortunately, it also produces some of the driest, most overcooked results you can achieve. Although a skilled griller can produce good results with quality equipment, an attention to detail, and a lot of practice, whether it’s grilling a fresh salmon or cooking up burgers for the clan, it’s very easy to overcook and dry out meat when cooking directly over an open flame (on both gas and charcoal, although grilling purists prefer charcoal over gas). When most people talk about the “barbequing” they’re going to do, more often than not, they’re talking about “grilling.” And believe me, we here at Tex Howard’s do a lot of it, whether it’s grilling fresh shrimp marinated in lime juice and herbs, satisfying the kids with their favorite hot dog concoctions, plank-grilling a fresh Pacific salmon, or cooking up the best hamburgers (and gardenburgers!) around.
But when it comes to beef brisket, pork ribs, beef and pork sausage, whole turkeys and chickens, long and slow indirect pit-smoking is the way to go. Cooking via indirect heat, and more specifically by indirect heat and smoke, produces the most flavorful and juicy barbequed meats possible. Because they don’t ever get contacted by flame and are completely sealed on the outside, the results produced will be the best you’ve ever had. Which brings us back around to Texas-style smoking. Tex Howard’s takes great pride in using time-tested dry-rub methods and the best smoking firewood materials to produce the finest quality smoked barbeque you’ll ever have.
What Makes Our Barbeque So Special?
First of all, there are more types of regional barbeque than you can shake a stick at. Although Texans like to think their dry-rub, smoke-centric style is the best, some of the most well-deservedly famous barbeque can be found in Kansas City, Saint Louis, Memphis, and the Carolinas, each of which focuses on a particular type of meat and style of sauce, ranging from sweet to tangy. Central California itself has a long history of tri-tip smoking and grilling, and far be it from us to deny the appeal of a well-cooked Santa Maria Tri-Tip. And if you travel outside the USA, you’ll find some incredible and unique barbeque ranging from Argentina, Australia, Korea, and Japan. Each of these styles holds its rightful place in world culinary history. As native Texans however, we hold the traditional dry-rub pit-smoked method dear to our heart. In our opinion, this method delivers the most juicy and flavorful meat there is, whether it’s brisket or ribs, sausage or chicken. And you haven’t lived until you’ve had a properly smoked turkey for holiday dinner. As for barbeque sauce – Texans have a phrase they like to use, which is “If you have to use sauce on your barbeque, you’re not cooking it right.” And as true as that statement is at its core, we still offer a delicious barbeque sauce, we just serve it on the side. No more drenching of bad barbeque with sauce to hide how dry and tasteless the meat is. And who knows – you might get to the point where you’re so happy with the flavor that you don’t even want any sauce at all. But that’s OK with us, because we’ll know then that we’ve done our job.
Naturally-Raised Angus Beef Brisket
The Angus breed is the best tasting beef there is – known for their superior marbling, juiciness, tenderness, and flavor, and when it comes to pit-smoked barbeque, taste is everything. We source our Angus beef brisket from the #1 natural beef ranch group in the USA, the only major beef company to receive “Certified Humane” designation from the Humane Farm Animal Care program. Required standards include that cattle be raised with shelter, sufficient space and the ability to engage in natural behaviors. The cattle are raised on a strictly vegetarian diet, and are never given any form of hormones or antibiotics. The animals are allowed to mature slowly for optimal tenderness and marbling. 100% of these cattle can be source and age-verified back to their ranch of origin. All are born, raised, fed and processed solely in the USA. The bottom line – there simply isn’t any better beef available, and it’s the only beef brisket that Tex Howard’s will ever use.
The Best in Pork Ribs, Beef & Pork Sausage, and Free-Range Chicken
Besides our Angus beef, we also source the finest in pork ribs, beef/pork sausage, and free-range chicken from ranchers in nearby Sonoma County. And once again, just like with our beef, we only work with ranchers committed to strict, natural animal husbandry standards, no hormones or antibiotics, and dedication to humane and natural treatment of their animals.
Mark “Tex” Howard – Co-Founder & Pitmaster
The “Tex” in”Tex Howard,” Mark is a native Texan who loves California but hates what the state has done (or hasn’t done as it were) to create good smoked barbeque. He’s a successful lifelong salesman and former barbeque restaurant owner in Texas. Like most Texans, he can talk your ear off on just about anything, and he’s probably forgotten more than most people will ever know about smoking meat. Mark comes from a long line of family members who have spent their lives cooking for others, and it is his mission to finally show Californians what real Texas-style smoked barbeque is all about.
Sharon Bernard-Howard – Co-Founder & Keeper of the Sauce
The only thing that Sharon loves more than Texas-style barbeque is Kansas Jayhawks basketball. Well, that and her kids. And her grandkids. And football. And baseball. Especially San Francisco Giants baseball. But then she loves Texas barbeque best! Loves it so much that she went back to Texas, married a Pitmaster, and brought him back to California so she’d be able to have a dependable source. As a skilled registered nurse, she is more than qualified to revive you after you pass out from the ecstasy of our food. Or deliver your baby if you go into labor while waiting in line. Because she was there when both Marks were in high school, she knows which stories they tell about that time were really true and which were really tall tales. Which most of them were.
Mark Johnson – Business Manager & Smokologist
An award-winning interactive multimedia producer, Mark is also a native Texan who has complained about the state of California barbeque for most of the 25 years he’s lived here, and felt he finally had to do something about it with his childhood friends. He’s so glad to finally be able to stop taking vacations to Texas just so he can eat good smoked barbeque. Favorite meat? Smoked brisket. Favorite cheese? Smoked Gouda. He would pit-smoke ice cream if he could.