Review of Red’s True Barbecue Houston Slopper
What they say:
A Red’s single classic bacon cheese burger, slathered with cheese sauce, topped with housemade brisket chilli and finished with grated cheddar cheese.
Well, I came into Red’s with the intention of having brisket and wings but was totally distracted by the special burger for this month, which has brisket chilli on top of a bacon cheeseburger.
You know the score with Red’s – it’s all about the meat. See all the earlier reviews for a précis of the place. Hard to beat. Oh, and the smell….!
I still ordered the brisket and wings by the way – brisket to take away home and wings to eat alongside my burger.
My burgers are usually planned with a degree of military precision so it felt a bit like flying by the seat of my pants, doing a completely unplanned one.
It’s not a complicated build, based on the description, but it was apparently made to mark a pit competition in America – the BBQ World Championships in Houston, where Red’s Brisket came 26th out of 144. That’s pretty decent.
So, Red’s True BBQ Houston Slopper. Houston, we definitely do NOT have a problem. Brisket, brisket, brisket, it’s a briskety day.
The burger is basically a single beef patty (and I know from previous visits that it’s good), bacon, cheese AND cheese sauce, as well as the brisket chilli. On arrival at my table, one thing was immediately obvious – I’d be needing my cutlery. The cheese and chilli was inside, outside, all over the place and made it completely impossible to pick up. It’s a knife and fork burger. Or maybe even a spoon!
It doesn’t even look entirely like a burger – the top was in the process of sliding off as it was placed before me, and I hadn’t even touched it yet. Primarily it was a plate of brisket chilli with a secret burger centre. Can’t really knock it too much for that.
So it was into the chilli tasting first. This was distinctive, but not very hot. The brisket was melt-in-the-mouth sublime and the chilli made it very sloppy. In fact, the Houston Slopper could probably be defined as a variant of the sloppy joe.
About the heat though, and considerably more of it came from my buffalo wings. I’m not here to talk about wings though, but I must add briefly that you ought to try them, especially with blue cheese to dip into. Lovely stuff.
But back to the burger. Despite all this incredible amount of slop, the bread seemed to do a remarkable job of not crumbling. It’s not an entirely fair test though, because obviously I never had the chance to pick it up.
Moving onto the beef and I encountered an all-too frequent foe – well-done meat. It was really disappointing that Red’s and their supplier hadn’t gone through the FSA documentation hoops for minced beef – gone is the delightful pink centre that you used to get here, and in its place a hunk of overcooked beef. The pit tones still came through, and as far as well-done patties go, it was pretty good. Just crushingly disappointing to see my favourite places do this, when you know there are ways to continue cooking burgers rare and medium, with the right choice of supplier and administration.
This disappointment preyed on me throughout the rest of the burger. Ultimately it was very enjoyable but as with an increasing number of good burgers these days, could’ve been great with the right cooking.
Anyway, onwards. The cheese was almost unnecessary – so much lubrication came from the wet chilli, but was rather welcome anyway. It and the cheese sauce too, worked very well on the visuals as well as texture.
And a little delight was to be found hidden in the gloop – fried onions. Not mentioned in the written description so they were an unexpected bonus – hidden treasure! They gave a wonderfully sweet hint to each mouthful.
The brisket pieces in there were absolutely fantastic – like I said they melted in the mouth and really felt like the completely authentic real deal BBQ flavours.
Presentation-wise, well you can see the photos. A total mess. Almost certainly on purpose though. It’s a gloriously enticing mess that required fork and knife from the first bite, but hugely satisfying.
The beef patty, despite being responsible for my disappointment, remains quite distinct and smoky, and I reckon it might be possible to identify it in a blind taste test.
In summary, the Red’s True BBQ Houston Slopper is a solid monthly special, showcasing the pit talents of Red’s chefs, particularly with the addition of the brisket. If it were the case that every burger joint in the country HAD to cook patties through, it might be unfair to mark them down for it. But it isn’t – if Red’s (and other burger places doing the same thing) were to either pressure their supplier or change supplier, and update procedures and paperwork to accommodate the new guidelines, medium and rare burgers can still be sold. So, it’s a choice and one I disagree with. The choice of cooking should be ours – the paying customer.