Tales from the pits, a Texas BBQ podcast featuring trendsetters, leaders, and icons from the barbecue industry
Ep. 146 - The Return of Smokin’ Z’s

Ep. 146 - The Return of Smokin’ Z’s

January 25, 2021

When we first visited Smokin’ Z’s BBQ, Zaid and Mallory Al-Jazrawi were serving up quality barbecue in the Galveston area in 2018-2019 when they were faced with a problem many growing barbecue businesses face: the need for pit expansion to keep up with demand. 

Unfortunately, following the arrival of their new 1,000 gallon pit, health department permitting issues threw a wrench into the plans for Smokin’ Z’s BBQ. While they were going through the back and forth to navigate the always muddy waters of city and county regulations while simultaneously wedding planning, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. 
 Zaid and Mallory rolled with the punches, kept moving forward, and at the end of 2020 were finally able to reopen Smokin’ Z’s BBQ after one final hurdle: moving their business across the street from its previous location. Their community has responded with tremendous support, and they’re hopeful to see an influx of business from the tourist traffic that hits Galveston in the spring and summer. Make the drive down to the water and grab some quality craft barbecue from this great spot!
Instagram: @smokinzsbbq
Open Sat & Sun: 11 am - sold out 
6 Herring Drive
Bayou Vista, Texas
Ep. 145 - Cade Mercer CM Smokehouse

Ep. 145 - Cade Mercer CM Smokehouse

January 10, 2021

Cade Mercer grew up in the Seguin and New Braunfels area with cooking always as a major part of his life. After working in restaurants during high school, Cade started his cooking career at Rudy’s BBQ shortly after trying college. 

To grow his skills, Cade went to culinary school and then entered the fine dining world. Follow brief stints at restaurants near his hometown, a fateful call from Reid Guess, then head chef of Lambert’s, resulted in a job that would begin his path into modern barbecue. 

After his time at Lambert’s, Cade helped open another Austin spot before joining Reid again, this time at Guess Family Barbecue. Cade was instrumental in helping to create the menus and produce the great food made both at Guess Family and koKo Ramen. 

With dreams of starting his own business, Cade left Guess Family in November 2019 and started to work on his new spot, CM Smokehouse. Using a 500 gallon smoker built by Guess, Cade and his team have created an inventive and delicious menu that pairs well with the bar they’ve paired up with, Bouldin Acres. 

With an expansive menu ranging from firebox roasted poblano queso and burgers with brisket jam to smoked then fried cauliflower and baby back “wings,” there’s something for everyone on the CM Smokehouse menu. This is a food truck that in its early days is already expanding the boundaries of creative smoked dishes. 

CM Smokehouse (Located at Bouldin Acres)
2027 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, Texas 78704

CM Smokehouse hours of operation:
Sun-Wed 11a-10p
Thu-Sat 11a-12a

CM Smokehouse: @cm_smokehouse
Cade Mercer: @cmerc26
Bouldin Acres: @bouldinacres

Ep.144 - Things we are thankful for

Ep.144 - Things we are thankful for

November 25, 2020

This year has seen more than its share of challenges for everyone, the barbecue world included.  In this episode we discuss some of the good things that have happened around barbecue this year that we’re thankful for. Tune in to hear about some of the new happenings in BBQ, some menu items and restaurants that continue to wow us, and more.


Ep. 143 - Season Two, back on the road

Ep. 143 - Season Two, back on the road

November 16, 2020

After releasing an episode nearly every week for almost three years, we were ready for a bit of a break. But what 2020 had in store was not something we could have ever planned for or wanted. After a long period of staying mostly close to home, we're starting to venture out safely for one of our favorite activities, barbecue road trips.


As it's been such a delay, we thought we might as well act like a podcast and call this the start of a new season! So, welcome to season two of Tales From The Pits! We're so happy you've stuck with us, all of the messages we've received during our break have been great. We plan on continuing the show with our preferred format that's worked for us so far. So get ready for some car ride episodes with us riffing on different BBQ topics, pitmaster interviews, and discussions with interesting folks around the barbecue world. 
Mentioned in this episode is one of our favorite older episodes, Episode 68: Classic BBQ Joints. It's a great one to tune in to if you're looking to find out a little more about some of the older places that have helped make Texas barbecue what it is today. We hope you'll give it a listen and go visit one of those old school places soon.
Ep, 142 - A Socially Distanced BBQ Run

Ep, 142 - A Socially Distanced BBQ Run

June 8, 2020

Having just completed our first BBQ road trip since the quarantine began, we discuss our experience going to four places, safety and social distancing measures we personally implemented as well as those we’ve seen at the places we’ve been to during the pandemic. 

One positive to come from the coronavirus situation from a customer standpoint is it has provided opportunities to get food from places that previously had been more difficult to dine at. There are number of ways to support your favorite BBQ places, whether you feel comfortable dining in yet or not. Gift cards, merchandise, ordering to-go and order bulk meats to use in a variety of home preparations are just some of options to help these business owners.

We also discuss in this episode some changes that have been made at restaurants that may become permanent even as things open back up. Stay safe, everyone and do what you can to support your favorite spots.


Ep. 141 - Three years of Tales

Ep. 141 - Three years of Tales

May 26, 2020

When we started this podcast three years ago we had no idea what the show would become or the places it would take us. We are incredibly grateful to all of the amazing people in the BBQ industry that have given us the gift of their time and their story. 

 From our first episode breaking down the 2017 Texas Monthly top ten list to interviews with some of the top BBQ cooks and pit fabricators and everything in between, we’ve had the time of our lives helping to provide a platform for these talented people to share their stories. 
We can’t thank enough our guests and even more importantly anyone whose taken the time to listen to these episodes for three years. Thank you for letting these two barbecue nerds take you down the rabbit hole. There’s much more to come...
Recent Joe Zavala Interview referenced in this episode: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Idu-g_rxpD0&feature=youtu.be
Ep. 140 - Supporting BBQ through tough times

Ep. 140 - Supporting BBQ through tough times

March 13, 2020

The world, and more recently the United States, has begun to deal with the effects of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As large events cancel, corporations and school districts suspend operations, and people begin to stay home in large numbers, the inevitable decline in sales that small businesses will experience is frightening for many Americans.

Barbecue restaurants operate on tight budgets and slim profit margins and have begun to prepare for a slow down in business as best they can. In addition to those concerns, these dedicated hospitality professionals feel an overwhelming sense of obligation to keep their families, staff, and customers safe as they try to maintain a successful business.
In this episode we wanted to provide information to barbecue consumers and industry professionals based on our experiences and from our discussions with the business owners themselves. We provide tips for consumers on how they can do their part to not only support small businesses but to do so as safely and responsibly as possible along with information that can aid restaurant owners and staff in giving consumers more peace of mind during these trying times.
Ep. 139 - Truth Barbeque Houston , scaling a barbecue business

Ep. 139 - Truth Barbeque Houston , scaling a barbecue business

March 9, 2020

In August of 2015 Leonard Botello and family opened up a tiny BBQ joint just outside of Brenham, Texas. There was no big grand opening, there was no meeting of the #BBQFam or podcasts, and no social media campaign. That is precisely how Leonard wanted to launch.

Bryan noticed the name change from "J's BBQ" (not to be confused with LJ's which was to open later) to "Truth Barbeque" as he drove back and forth from Austin to Houston. Gone were the old school rectangular pits and in their place was a large Klose pit. Curiosity prevailed and a stop there resulted in surprisingly good barbecue. Repeat visits proved it was not a fluke and the word began to spread.

By 2016 the word was out and lines began forming before open. In 2017 Truth landed a spot in the Texas Monthly top 10, cementing their name as one of the best barbecue joints in Texas. Plans were afoot to open a larger location in the heart of Houston's Heights neighborhood and by 2019 the almost impossibly small restaurant in Brenham had a big brother finally open.

The opening wasn't easy. Leonard wanted a quiet build but the location was identified and the demand for Truth Houston to open grew. Battling confusing and inconsistent health department enforcement and dialing in all new pits custom built for the Houston location while dealing with not just expanded cooking volume but additional business days took their toll. There was a lot of lost sleep and tweaking required to dial things in to where Leonard was satisfied with the quality.

A little after a year after opening Leonard is finally able to take a deep breath and step back a bit to enjoy what he, family, and team have built. We caught up with Leonard and Corey Taylor to find out what it was like to scale and transform a sleepy little barbecue joint into Truth BBQ Houston.

For additional background:


Visit Truth at their original location in Brenham, Texas or at their Houston location




Ep. 138 - Five of our favorite things in BBQ February 2020

Ep. 138 - Five of our favorite things in BBQ February 2020

February 24, 2020

On our way back from a recent road trip we came up with five of our favorite things happening in BBQ right now.

We discussed the following topics:

  • What's old is new again
  • Breaking away from the brisket bubble
  • Accessibility of great BBQ
  • Expansion of quality BBQ joints
  • The full meal experience

Take a listen and if you like our show please make sure to tell others, and if you visit a BBQ joint or buy a pit from someone you found out about on the show, please let them know!


Ep. 137 - Hurtado Barbecue

Ep. 137 - Hurtado Barbecue

February 17, 2020

The DFW barbecue scene is blowing up, and popups, food trailers, and brick and mortars are opening around town. 

Brandon Hurtado has progressed through popups and food trailer into a retail store front, bringing his spin on Hispanic influenced Texas Barbecue to the game. 

The brick and mortar retail establishment is having the grand  opening Sat Feb 22, 2020 at 205 East Front Street, Arlington, TX - go check it out!

In our episode we talk about his background, what Tex Mex influence means to him, and his vision for Hurtado Barbecue



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