A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 17, 2008
Church of the Holy Barbecue (New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville)

New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville (about 65 miles north of Houston) added barbecue for a prayer meeting in the early 1980s. The barbecue was so good that the church soon became the New Zion Bar-B-Que and was rated one of the best barbecue places in the state of Texas.

Nicknames have included “Church of the Holy Barbecue,” “Church of the Holy Smoke,” and “Church of the Immaculate Barbecue.”


AOL Video
New Zion Bar-B-Que Huntsville, Texas
Just off I-45 on Montgomery Road in Huntsville, Texas you’ll find the New Zion… Missionary Baptist Church or what some folks call, “the church of the holy smoke.” Right next door, separated by 12 feet of asphalt, you’ll find New Zion Bar-B-Que. Horace and Mae Archie run this eatery that was started 25 years ago by one of the parishioners, Annie Mae Ward. According to Rev. Clinton Edison, the church pastor, Mrs. Ward’s husband, D.C. Ward, was painting the church as Mrs. Ward was cooking her husband’s lunch in a 55-gallon drum on the church lawn. Edison said, “Once she fired that pit up, she couldn’t even cook dinner for people stopping and wanting to know if they were selling barbecue.” The next week, Rev. A.C. Harris, the former pastor, gave Mrs. Ward $50 to start the business and the rest, as they say, is history. While we were shooting the New Zion segment, we met customers who traveled to Huntsville specifically to taste the ribs, brisket, chicken and sausage that Mr. And Mrs. Archie continue to prepare in the tradition started by Mrs. Ward.

Houston (TX) Press
The Church of the Immaculate Barbecue
Heaven has its smoking pits too—at New Zion Baptist Church in Huntsville

By Alison Cook
Published on July 28, 1994
The pilgrimage to the countryside in quest of barbecue is a sacred Texas ritual A never more so than when its goal is the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Huntsville’s sleepy south side. There, outside a rickety clapboard parish hall, three hulking barbecue pits belch apocalyptic clouds of smoke, a sight as inspiring in its way as Chartres Cathedral rearing up over the fields. Tended by taciturn black gentlemen, the ribs that emerge from New Zion’s well-sooted pits trigger something very like a religious experience: to gnaw on these magnificently crusty bones, awash in the incense of smoldering post oak, is to be convinced that there is a God.
(...)
And there is parable, fittingly enough. The tale of New Zion Missionary Baptist’s barbecue enterprise has been passed down and chronicled for years in southeast Texas; the discerning friend who brought me my first eyewitness account of the place invariably glorified it, in tones of the highest respect, as “The Church of the Immaculate Barbecue.”

In the beginning—was it 15 years ago?, nobody’s quite sure anymore—there was only Houston painting contractor D.C. Ward and his wife, Annie Mae. Mr. Ward took some time off work to paint his mother’s little East Texas church; Annie Mae took off from her dry-cleaning job and came along to New Zion to keep him company. The first day, a Thursday, she smoked him some barbecue for lunch, right there by the side of the road.

Lured by the smoke, people stopped. And smelled. And wheedled. And bought. On Friday and Saturday, Mrs. Ward cooked extra. She sold it all. By Sunday, she was asking New Zion’s pastor to give his blessing to an idea that had seized her: she would sell barbecue and donate the profits to the church. The rest is history, complicated by a brief unpleasantness when the health department made the volunteers move their operation indoors, where kitchen facilities were available. Barbecue profits built the air-conditioned parish hall, where congregants are now fed from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. sharp, every day but Sunday and Monday.

One comes away from New Zion filled not only with ribs, but with a sense, however transitory, of the rightness of things. There is peace inside this modest building, and a connection to a rural past that still holds Texans in its mythic sway, however urban we have become. That connection, more than anything, is the holy grail, the reason that we drive forth in search of barbecue.

12 April 1996, Robesonian (Lumberton, NC), “Holy barbecue! Texas church is famous for tasty meals,” pg. 7A:
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP)—The sign by the front door is smoke-stained and barely readable. The pale yellow paint on the walls is chipping. The folding metal chairs are scratched.
No matter, say customers of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church’s Barbecue. Its ribs, beef, chicken and sausage links are the most savory in Texas.
(...)
On a recent afternoon, some visitors drove 100 miles just for lunch at a restaurant known as “The Church of the Holy Barbecue.”

Google Books
The $100 Hamburger
by John F. Purner
McGraw-Hill Professional
2002
Pg. 305:
New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 2601 Montgomery Road
Just 75 miles north of Houston, it is worth a detour and a landing on any business day and a special trip on Saturdays. This is the “church of the Holy Barbecue.” It has been smoked by an angel named Annie may Ward. She is the head pit diva at this decidedly “down-home” place.

What started 16 years ago as a one time way to raise money for the congregation of this east Texas church has become a for REAL Q shrine. It is opened from Tuesday thru Saturday. For 7 bucks you’re served ALL you can eat.

Google Books
Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook
by Robb Walsh
San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books
2002
Pg. 242:
New Zion Missionary Baptist Chruch Barbcue
2601 Montgomery Road, Huntsville
409-295-7394
When driving between Houston and Dallas, the best place to stop for lunch is the combination Baptist Church hall and barbecue joint that’s been called the “Church of the Holy Smoke,” where you sit and eat family-style at community tables. Don’t miss the tender East Texas-style ribs and brisket, but skip the commercial sausage. Above all, save room for the wonderful homemade sides. (See Huntsville Butter Beans, page 128, and Mashed Potato Salad, page 126.)

CBS News Sunday Morning
Holy Smoke
Texas Churchgoer Is Famous For Her Heavenly Barbecue

HUNTSVILLE, Texas, July 27, 2003
(CBS) In some parts of the United States, barbecue is nearly a religion. Nowhere is that more evident, some say, than at the church of the holy barbecue in Huntsville, Texas.

The “holy smoke” rises early from the little wood frame annex of the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church. It is there that Annie Mae Ward and other members of the congregation say they are working on the Lord’s work — firing the meat smokers, fixing the beans, whipping up potato salad and blending the secret sauce.

Wednesday through Saturdays, it’s praise the Lord and pass the ribs at the church, which serves the need of all denominations of the barbecue faithful —ribs, brisket, chicken and sausage.

On Sunday, the church serves the spiritual needs of its flock. The barbecue is close to the church and so Ward, who is 84, and the others are able to attend services.
(...)
People now line up to enjoy what many have called the best of the state’s estimated 1,300 barbecue joints. One national magazine called it the best barbecue place in the world. And, the price is right: all you can eat for $8.
(...)
After trying to find the secret ingredient of the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue for 20 years, some are starting to believe it may not be the smoke or the sauce that makes the food taste good. It just might be Annie Mae Ward.
(Original Airdate 11/24/02)

Slate.com
An American Barbecue Pilgrimage
The Greatest Barbecue Restaurant in the World

from: David Plotz
Posted Thursday, May 26, 2005, at 9:55 AM ET
(...)
The Texas idealism produces extraordinary barbecue fealty. Barbecue: A Texas Love Story, a charming new documentary, captures the cultlike nature of it, cruising with the University of Texas student barbecue club and worshipping at the New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, whose barbecue side business is so beloved it has earned the nickname “Church of the Holy BBQ.” Every few years, Texas Monthly magazine rates the best barbecue restaurants in the state, an announcement that is to Austin almost what the Academy Awards are to Los Angeles.

Texas Food TV (April 20, 2008)
Holy Smoke
Our first stop was just off I-45 on Montgomery Road in Huntsville. There, you’ll find the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church or what some folks call, “the church of the holy smoke.” Right next door, separated by 12 feet of asphalt, you’ll find New Zion Bar-B-Que. Horace and Mae Archie run this eatery that was started more than 25 years ago by one of the parishioners, Annie Mae Ward.

According to Rev. Clinton Edison, the church pastor, Mrs. Ward’s husband, D.C. Ward, was painting the church as Mrs. Ward was cooking her husband’s lunch in a 55-gallon drum on the church lawn. Edison said, “Once she fired that pit up, she couldn’t even cook dinner for people stopping and wanting to know if they were selling barbecue.”

The next week, Rev. A.C. Harris, the former pastor, gave Mrs. Ward $50 to start the business and the rest, as they say, is history. While we were shooting the New Zion segment, we met customers who traveled to Huntsville specifically to taste the ribs, brisket, chicken and sausage that Mr. Archie and cook, Robert Polk, continue to prepare in the tradition started by Mrs. Ward. 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Tuesday, June 17, 2008 • Permalink