Chomp!: Get your barbecue on at Hinze's
By Jessica Rodrigo - JRODRIGO@VICAD.COM
Feb. 20, 2013 at 2:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 19, 2013 at 8:20 p.m.
We've seen more warm days than cooler ones this winter, and with the warm weather comes barbecue season. To prepare diners for what is to come, I've decided to take a visit to the barbecue pros at Hinze's in Wharton.
Driving toward Houston, be sure to keep your eyes open because the barbecue restaurant is just after a bend in the road, and there are no warning signs posted to slow you down.
A large menu posted on the wall greets diners as they walk in with an array of choices: barbecue plates, specials, sides and desserts.
Order at the counter, and the cashier will help you through the process. Behind the cashiers, the crew piles sides onto plates and wraps sandwiches in paper.
I always enjoy a barbecue sandwich with chopped beef or slices with pickles and extra onions, if I remember to ask for them. For my side, I ordered the mustard greens.
Luke ordered the regular plate (choice of two meats and two sides) with sausage and sliced beef and the potato casserole and black-eyed pea salad. His plate also came with a slice of bread and a side of onions and pickles.
We sat down at a small table slightly under where the branches would be of the large tree growing in the restaurant. The dining area must have been built around the tree, since there was a nice seating area wrapped around its trunk.
When they called No. 168, our tray was heavy with food and we were ready to dig in (But maybe we shouldn't have bought kolaches at Prasek's before we arrived at Hinze's #badplanning).
My barbecue sandwich was larger than I anticipated, which meant I would have a midnight snack for later.
The beef was chopped up into small pieces and smothered with tangy barbecue sauce. I could tell the meat had a chance to get acquainted with the sauce since it wasn't oozing out of the sandwich but instead, was almost like a sloppy Joe. I did forget to order extra onions, but it was still good without the extra crunch.
My mustard greens were chopped into small pieces, including all the stems, and cooked with some onions and bits of ham. It was a little too bitter and chopped too fine for me, but it was a good contrast from the barbecue sauce. I usually leave my greens in larger pieces and cooked less thoroughly.
Luke's plate was neatly arranged with the beef and sausage cut in manageable, uniform slices. The sauce was served on the side, the potato casserole and garnish completed the partitioned plate. His black-eyed pea salad was served in a small bowl to contain all its sweet but slightly acidic juices.
The black-eyed peas were soft and the bell peppers still crunchy. The potato casserole was to die for. It was basically a loaded baked potato without the hassle of unwrapping a hot piece of foil or scraping the sides of a potato skin. The potato casserole had it all: green onions, bacon, cheese and sour cream. It was delicious.
Hinze's sausage was spiced well and flavorful, and the sliced beef still moist and tender. The sauce is good and thick but not too thick that it would pull the meat off your fork and force you to dig it out.
By the time we finished our plates, they were calling for order No. 201 - a sure sign that people love the barbecue at Hinze's. We were certain we hadn't been there longer than 45 minutes, but the front counter had gone through more than 30 orders of sausage, ribs, chicken and more.
Jessica Rodrigo is considering the position of bloody Mary judge for the barbecue cook-off. It could be a lot of fun. She will need a DD, so if you're interested, tweet @eatseatseats or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.