Harold’s/Texas BBQ Co.
Marigny: 2300 St Claude Ave.
Metairie: 3320 Houma Blvd.
The first New Orleans restaurant to serve barbecue as we know it today was a little joint just past Schwegmann’s on St. Claude Avenue. The neighborhood was already well on the way down when Harold Veazey opened his Texas-style smokehouse there. It was rundown enough to look like it belonged. A few artifacts of the Old West hung on the walls, resembling the decor of another new restaurant of that era: Bud’s Broiler.
But Harold’s barbecue then would be called authentic now, even in these days of intense scrutiny of barbecue joints. All the meats were slowly smoked for many hours, and came out of the pit with a convincing, dark, well-seasoned bark. The smoke flavor was real, and the tight texture of the meat showed the long, painstaking smoking process.
Since this was barbecue in the Texas style, the king of the pit was brisket. The sausage and chicken were also good. Pork was decent, but pork ribs and pulled pork shoulder are really from different regional traditions.
By the 1970s the neighborhood had declined enough for Harold to move to Metairie. The new place looked old on Day One, with even more cowboy memorabilia than the old place. The food was even better. Among its more unusual specialties was smoked turkey, of which Harold would smoke hundreds every Thanksgiving.
Harold’s sauce and sides were terrific. In an appearance on my radio show in 1990, Harold laughed when I asked for the sauce recipe. “All I’m gonna tell you is that you have to kill it,” he said.
Kill it? “You gotta cook it for a long time until all the sour taste of the tomatoes is gone,” he explained. How long was that? “Until you kill it.” That’s all he would say.
The beans and the corn on the cob were always great here, but the other sides were fresher than one typically gets from a place whose main cooking method is to kill things.
Harold’s son Nick took over in the mid-1990s and expanded his father’s place into a small chain called the Texas Bar-B-Que Company. At its peak, there were locations in New Orleans East and Kenner. The Kenner spot had a brief run. In the east, it took Katrina to knock it down. Meanwhile, Harold’s kept on going, ultimately changing its name to Texas BBQ Co. in the 2000s to compete better with Corky’s across the street.
At somewhere along the way, the Texas BBQ Co. bought a schedule of commercials on my radio show. For the occasion, I wrote a short song in the style of the Sons of the Pioneers, complete with a yodel at the end. After a week, the spot came off the air, never to be heard again. I never asked Nick whether it was because he hated the song. I didn’t want to know.
Harold’s came to an end in 2011, when Nick Veazey sold the old place to what is now Juicy Lucy’s. I keep hoping it reopens at some point. I think it would compare well with all the new barbecue spots around town. And that old St. Claude location would be a good place for it.