The barbecue train keeps rolling, and the latest opening comes from the team behind Company Cafe. Called Back Home Barbecue, it'll open in a quirky location on Ross Avenue, where they hope to be by smoking by February.
The space they nabbed is the old Yin's Wok at 5014 Ross Ave., notable for its central location and commuter-friendliness. Yin's was unique in that it was a Chinese restaurant on the ground floor, with a residence for the owners upstairs; you don't see that kind of configuration too often.
Company Cafe spokesman Jeff Wells says the original plan was to make the space a central commissary. But they decided to shoehorn in a restaurant as well.
The takeout window will appeal to commuters on their way home, so the restaurant will open with hours uncommon in the BBQ world: 4 to 10 pm.
"We've had a smoker at our Katy Trail location and enjoyed working with that flavor profile," he says. "And barbecue is very big right now. We wanted to get an opportunity to explore that realm, and set up a better smoking setup than we had at Katy Trail."
The menu will have some basics — brisket, of course — and classic sides such as potato salad, collard greens, baked beans and coleslaw. But they'll be offering some not-so-conventional items and techniques, as well, such as smoked chicken breast (as opposed to the whole chicken), St. Louis ribs and venison-pork sausage.
"I'm a 'green' smoker," he says. "I don't think you need to be chopping down trees to get good barbecue. We're using a chip smoker, with wood chips smoked in water to create the smoke."
They're also applying molecular gastronomy principles to their mac and cheese. "The mac and cheese is something I'm super psyched about," Wells says. "We found this amazing way to create our own cheese sauce using molecular gastronomy and cool science, with the result being a better quality cheese, but tasting as classic as if you made it out of a box."
The space has a small dining room, decorated in a worn-in manner with rough-hewn recycled wood, where you can eat in. But they expect the takeout-window setup will appeal to commuters on their way home after work. To that end, they'll open first with hours not common in the barbecue world: 4 to 10 pm. They're also applying for a license to sell beer to go.
"We could very well sell a six-pack or even a single beer, unopened, out of our drive-through window," Wells says.
Company Cafe was founded in 2011, with a focus on natural, fresh fare; it drew a big following as a local pioneer in the gluten-free trend. It has two branches, one on Greenville Avenue in addition to Katy Trail.
Barbecue is a change of pace but Wells and his team are seizing the moment to have some creative fun. "It's a little weird, opening a drive-through barbecue place," he says. "Maybe we've lost our minds. But it's an adventure where you say, 'Let's jump off this cliff and see what we can do.'"