Just through the front doors of Bud’s House of Meat in south Houston, you’ll likely find co-owner Henry Wayne Adair Jr. directing traffic. Wayne (he goes by his middle name) is part greeter and part quarterback. In his blue-and-white striped shirt, complete with name patch, he points incoming customers to open spots or the shortest line at the meat counter that stretches the length of the building. The variety of raw meat behind the counter is mesmerizing. Turkey wings, fajitas, homemade sausages, and boudin share space with steaks, chops, and ground pork shaped into the silhouette of a pig. If you’re looking for already-smoked meats, Wayne will point you to the takeout counter under the neon sign that reads “Bud’s BBQ To Go.”
Beyond that sign is the domain of Wayne’s wife and co-owner, Twila Adair. “I don’t know anything about restaurants,” she told me matter-of-factly. But she does know something about business—she’s been helping run the meat market for more than 32 years. In 2013, the couple added a Southern Pride smoker and began to add barbecue to their offerings. They passed out samples to the meat-market customers, hoping to drum up some sales. At first, Wayne was doing the smoking, but now they employ brothers Antonio and Carlos Berrios, who run five smokers and two industrial ovens that churn out as many as two hundred baked potatoes daily. The barbecue operation has taken on a life its own with Twila at the helm, and customers line up for styrofoam trays generously loaded with smoked meat and homemade sides.
Barbecue wasn’t in the plans when Henry Wayne Adair Sr., who went by Bud, opened Bud’s House of Meat with his son a couple miles away on Scott Street in 1977. Bud’s father was a meat cutter, and so was Bud. He didn’t care much for stuffing sausage casings, though Wayne thought it was a lost opportunity for a meat market. Bud retired in 1989, and Wayne and Twila took over full ownership and bought the grinders, stuffers, and smokers you need for proper sausage.
“I’d bet I gave away a thousand pounds before I sold the first link,” Wayne said of his now highly regarded boudin. He tweaked the recipe until he was comfortable selling it, and that patience has paid off. “A slow month on the boudin is forty thousand pounds,” he said. Nora Linares, Nancy Arias, and Maria Zuniga spend nearly every minute cooking, mixing, and stuffing boudin during their shifts at the market. One reason they sell so much of it is because it tastes so good smoked from the barbecue counter, which now brings in 20 percent of the market’s revenue.
As I looked for the smoked boudin on the menu, Twila steered me in the right direction. “Boudin is not a meat,” she said. “Boudin is a side.” Yes, a foot-long link of house-made, perfectly smoked spicy boudin (mild is also available) can be had as a side to any barbecue plate. The casing was so taut that the rice grains made a pattern like that of a stained-glass window as the juices bubbled between them. Steam erupted as I snapped the casing open, and I’d nearly finished the link before opening the lid on the broccoli rice casserole. The latter is one of the few items with anything green on the menu. Green beans are another. But the most popular verdant option is the green-onion pork sausage. Twila prefers the creole sausage, but Wayne and I both preferred the spice, the coarse grind, and the full flavor of the green onion variety.
It’s hard to find a dud among the many sides. “I don’t like food that comes out of a can,” Twila said. The staff peel the sweet potatoes for the sweet yams, the mac and cheese starts with a scratch-made béchamel sauce, and the beans come out of a bag. And there are so many beans. Pinto beans are the classic option, but I like the spicier and slightly sweet cowboy beans. Red beans and rice, cheesy ranch potatoes, potato salad, and slaw are also on the menu. I asked Twila how she developed all the recipes. “We just figured them up,” she said. Also, if you like your boudin without the casing, get a cup of smoked rice. Pans of the boudin filling are smoked for an hour or so to take on some of the oak flavor.
When it comes to the whole-muscle meats, everything at Bud’s is marinated in a vacuum tumbler before it’s smoked, which is uncommon in barbecue. That’s how the joint offers its chicken, ribs, and brisket in the raw-meat case, and they put the same products on the smoker. The fatty brisket was incredibly tender and would do well inside the popular stuffed baked potatoes. Twila promised that if the Astros win the World Series, she’ll bring back the Grand Slam Potato, which includes brisket, sausage, chopped chicken, and a rib to top it off.
I arrived at 2 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, and both the market and the barbecue counter were still humming. The full menu is available starting at 10 a.m., and that’s when Wayne suggests trying the pork ribs and the pork steak. They’re wrapped in plastic film and held in warmers after that, so they tend to overcook by the afternoon. I didn’t try the chicken quarters, but the smoked wings were impressive. I’ll have to come back for a stuffed potato.
Serving up hot barbecue as a side business to a meat market is a model that used to be found across Houston, but it’s slowly going away. Guy’s Meat Market was famous for its smoked burger. It closed in 2017 after 79 years. In 2021, both Davis Meat Market (established in 1988) and Burt’s Meat Market and Cajun Foods (established in 1946) closed for good, ending their service of hot barbecue and boudin. Bud’s is one of the few that are still around, and thankfully, it’s thriving. All that business comes with plenty of stress, though, as Twila will attest. “On any given day, you’re just looking around, thinking, ‘Is this really happening today?’ ” she said with a laugh. Twila and Wayne credit their faith with helping them through the rough patches. “Anybody can open a meat market,” Twila said. “Anybody can open a restaurant. But if God’s not in it, I don’t know how you can get through it.”