THE PITMASTER SERIES: Bramwell Tripp of The Pit Room in Houston, TX
Born in Maryland and raised in Maryland, Ohio, and Kansas, pitmaster Bramwell Tripp moved to Texas in 2013, and applied his culinary background in Italian fine-dining cooking to Houston mainstays like Liberty Kitchen, Cultivare, and Revival Market, before teaming up with Michael Sambrooks to open The Pit Room in restaurant-rich Montrose, Houston. We hung out with Bram in his restaurant to chat about Texas, barbecue, and Texas barbecue.
"Houston has a very specific kind of diversity. There's no shortage of places to eat, and the options are endless."
S&D: Your background is in Italian fine dining—how’d you get into barbecue?
BRAM: It was always a passing interest. Michael, who I worked with at Liberty Kitchen, approached me with the idea, and after about a year and a half of experimenting and trial and error, we opened The Pit Room.
S&D: What was the trial-and-error process like?
BRAM: At first we overthought a lot of the steps. We originally started seasoning with nine different ingredients, but ultimately ended up just using salt and pepper.
S&D: Where’s the best brisket you’ve ever had?
BRAM: Freedmen’s in Austin. Valentina’s is another go-to of mine in Austin, and of course Franklin’s.
S&D: What’s your stance on the no sauce debate?
BRAM: I’m happy either way; I’m not gonna stop anyone from putting sauce on their food. I’m also really proud of our sauces here at The Pit Room, all of which are made from scratch. One of sauces, for example, is made with a smoked brisket fat base. We make it a point to be a completely scratch kitchen.
S&D: Favorite thing to smoke and why?
BRAM: I personally love doing pork ribs, but brisket and beef ribs are obviously the biggest challenge. Anyone can throw meat on a smoker, but when you have fourteen hours worth of smoking… you learn the hard way.
S&D: Ever smoked anything unique? How’d it go?
BRAM: Beef tongue, pork kidney, boudin-stuffed quail. The beef tongue I forgot about the first time I smoked it; the pork kidney was interesting, but not my favorite.
S&D: Do you have a preferred wood?
BRAM: Post oak. We tried red oak, but post oak is endemic to simple Texas BBQ —it’s perfect for getting flavor without overpowering the meat.
S&D: What differentiates Texas BBQ?
BRAM: Places like North Carolina and Kansas City are different — in North Carolina everything’s very dressed, with vinegar, and seasoning, and in Kansas City the meat is so saucy, it’s closer to a pot roast — it’s not fall-part Texas BBQ.
S&D: What do you love most about calling Houston home?
BRAM: Houston has a very specific kind of diversity. There’s no shortage of places to eat, and the options are endless; it’s not just any one thing. When I first moved here, I didn’t know what to expect; I just had this idea that Houston was huge. But the city is great; it’s got an ingrained diversity. I love the Menil Collection, and the Museum District.
S&D: What do you miss most when you leave Houston?
BRAM: The ability to get a bowl of pho whenever I want.
1201 Richmond Ave.
open daily 11AM -9PM