Nothing about Hinze’s BBQ in Sealy says trendy. It’s situated a half block from I-10, and right next to a Whataburger. Just like that Whataburger, Hinze’s has a drive-thru stacked with vehicles. There were so many cars that I went inside to find their massive menu displayed on LED screens above the ordering counter. The red flags were mounting. There are five different fried meat items that aren’t steak. I nearly lost my nerve when I scanned over grilled tilapia.
This is the second location of Hinze’s. The original is far removed from the interstate in Wharton, and the menu is hand lettered on wood. The Wharton location has a more down home feel, but this location has no identity crisis. Sealy is a highway rest stop between Houston and Austin. Most folks aren’t stopping here to linger. They want food quickly, and they want to be on their way. Hinze’s chooses to provide that service, otherwise they might be replaced with another fast food option.
The components of my combo plate made it into the box via a barbecue assembly line. One woman sliced the meat. Another added the sides, and yet another added the plastic ware and sauce into a plastic bag. In seconds I was eating on my trunk in the parking lot. The items displayed before me looked promising. The bark on the ribs almost shimmered in the sunlight. A slice of white bread was baked in the restaurant, and the sauce wasn’t from a grocery store bottle. The brisket was pretty good too. Most of the fat was gone, and it wasn’t particularly smoky, but every slice from the flat was still juicy and tender. That’s not the norm with what normally comes through drive-thru windows.
Those ribs didn’t just look the part. That bark had a peppery bite and a mellow sweetness. Sauce wasn’t required for the moist meat, and a few bites into it I knew I had a rib with exemplary texture. Sliced pork was also done well. Smoke could have been more forward, but that sweet rub gave a bold punch of flavor around the edges. Thick slices were closer to a good roast pork than deeply smoked meat, but I’d be happy to order it again.
The options don’t stop with the main courses. The menu has twenty side items, two of which are pinto beans and dirty rice. The pintos are simple, well seasoned beans. They provide a good supporting role. Dirty rice was missing the depth of seasoning and the funk of offal that is normally associated with the dish. Instead it was more like a pilaf – no spice with carrots and mushrooms and the unmistakable flavor of chicken bullion. It was good, but I missed the dirty in my rice.
Hinze’s BBQ isn’t going to give any of the barbecue destinations in Lockhart, Austin, or Taylor a run for their money, but sometimes dependable is all you need. Along a stretch of I-10 with few decent barbecue options, Hinze’s made a good impression. I’ll leave it up to you to determine how the grilled tilapia matches up against the barbecue.