Popular Pearland Barbecue Joint Now Offers Full Service Dining and Accepts Reservations
Any barbecue devotee knows that a sign of good barbecue is a line of people trailing out the front door. Despite that, not everyone is willing or able to enjoy their smoked meat preceded by an extended wait midday – even if it’s some of the best in Texas. That’s why in January 2017 chef and pitmaster Ronnie Killen of Killen’s Barbecue did something rather unusual for a ‘cue joint – he installed a second set of smokers so he could expand his hours through dinnertime. In May 2018, he took that one step further and did what most ‘cue enthusiasts would consider unthinkable: At 4 pm, after taking the last lunch orders, Killen refashions the dining room, topping the tables with black linens, fine stemware and flowers, and swaps out paper towels, plastic trays and utensils for handsome ceramics, stainless steel, and red and white linen napkins. At 5 p.m. dinner service begins, at which point guests are greeted by a hostess and can enjoy a seated dining experience with servers and an expanded menu.
Why veer from the first come, first served cafeteria-line model that has served him so well during lunch? Simple: To better serve his guests. One evening, after initially expanding to include dinner hours, Killen surveyed the dining room and felt he was doing his dinner guests an injustice. “After a hard day’s work, most people prefer to enjoy a relaxed meal with great service, rather than stand in line to place their order, then retrieve their own eating utensils, drinks and refills,” says Killen.
Like at lunch, barbecue plates and meat by the pound are on offer, and Allen Brothers steaks remain from the initial dinner phase. In addition, the menu is now peppered with familiar favorites from the chef’s fine dining restaurants, such as smoked short rib tamales, jerk chicken wings and glazed pork belly burnt ends, which were first introduced at Killen’s STQ. Brisket nachos and Korean sticky ribs that grace the bar menu at Killen’s Steakhouse can also be found on the new dinner menu. Past popular smokehouse specials such as fried shrimp and catfish, introduced during Lenten season, and burgers, which made an appearance while Killen was building out his burger concept, are on the menu permanently.
Of the brand-new dishes, Killen is most excited about his Tex-Mex additions, including fajitas and enchiladas, the latter of which you can choose from classic cheese, barbecue brisket or smoked chicken. Anticipate nightly specials as well. The meaty affair can be accompanied by a select list of draft and bottled beers and wines by the glass or bottle.
As at any Killen’s restaurant, saving room for dessert is a must. Signature desserts are on offer, including among others the legendary bread pudding, deviously made with fresh croissants instead of stale bread, as well as a delightful crème brûlée cheesecake, a new Killen creation that boasts a creamy cheesecake topped by a layer of caramel crusted custard.
On the Go
Those who prefer a quick fix can place orders at the newly installed to-go window situated to the left of the front door, which is open from 4:30 p.m. until close each night. Everything on the dinner menu is available, save for fried items (sorry, no fried chicken or chicken fried steak) due to concerns about maintaining quality of said food in transit. Orders can be taken away or enjoyed alfresco at the picnic tables on Killen’s covered outdoor pavilion.
As always, catering orders of 25 pounds or more may be placed via the website with 48 hours advance notice and picked up in the morning at the side door next to the pavilion.
“The new format of table service coupled with the to-go window is the best of both worlds; catering to both those who’d like to be served and those who prefer the low-key, no-frills experience,” says Killen. Additionally, as was originally intended, offering dinner service has successfully reduced wait times during lunch. Another perk to this change is that items that were once only available as weekly specials – like the smoked prime rib and chicken fried ribeye – are now available daily during lunch and throughout the evening, with exception to Killen’s famous 24-hour brined fried chicken, which is available evenings and throughout the day on Sunday.
Killen’s Barbecue is open Tuesday-Sunday, serving cafeteria style from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 11-8 p.m. on Sundays. Dinner service is offered Tuesday-Thursday from 5-8 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 5-9 p.m.