Back in late 2000, Kingwood resident Ronnie Webber came home and told his wife, Nancy, that he was retiring from the Houston Police Department after 31 years of service.
Nancy said, “Well, that’s great, but we have kids in school; what are we going to do next? And he told me we were going to open a restaurant.”
The pair didn’t have formal training or experience, but had received favorable reviews cooking for church and schools events as well as police officer benefits.
In short order, Ronnie found an old house built in 1927 in Memorial Park through a developer friend that was available for free. They moved the house up to Humble to the first location of Tin Roof, on FM 1960 near the Houston Garden Center. They paid $7,500 to move it to a leased piece of land and started remodeling it to be a restaurant. They opened the doors to Tin Roof BBQ for the first time in June 2001.
In January 2004, the Webbers decided to buy their own land for the restaurant and moved the existing building to the current location on Town Center Boulevard. Shortly after the move, they purchased an additional building, this time a former Kinder Morgan Gas Company office building that was located on FM 1485, for $1, and moved it to their new location. Webber had a side job as a building mover while he was a police officer, so the logistics came easy. The original building now serves as a party room, while the second building serves as the main part of the restaurant.
Fast forward to 2017. Earlier in the year, Webbers were selling 10,000 pounds of brisket each month, as well as hundreds of additional pounds of sausage, turkey, steaks and hamburgers and a healthy quantity of side dishes like mac and cheese, green beans, baked beans, potato salad and desserts.
When asked the secret to why the Tin Roof brisket is so good, Ronnie said, “We only buy quality. We buy choice Creekstone, which is premium black Angus brisket. We trim it, then use our own seasoning mix and cook it for 12-14 hours, depending on the size. We recently improved our cooking system. We bought a 100 percent wood-fired pit that does not use electricity or gas. We use red oak and a little bit of pecan wood and we go through about two cords a month. My wood man loves me.”
Tin Roof and its famous brisket has been featured on television more than once. Most recently, G. Garvin of “Road Trip with G. Garvin” came to visit.
“They were here filming for eight hours; he was wonderful,” said Nancy. In addition, more than 10 years ago, notable food author and travel journalist Anthony Bourdain came to visit and film an episode of his show.
The Webbers have four children, all of whom have worked at the restaurant over the years. Currently, the youngest son, Eagle Springs resident, Brek, and daughter, Kacee Richter, work at Tin Roof. “Brek is our exit strategy and the future of barbecue in Houston. He took second place two years ago in the open category at the Humble Rodeo for his stuffed shrimp brochette,” said Webber.
The Webbers may retire to part-time status in the next few years and let Brek take over. They have lived in the community for many years and support local schools and other area groups by having one spirit night a month, where a portion of the proceeds are donated to a school or group.
“We also support a veterans group called Banded Brigade Outdoors. They take wounded servicemen hunting and fishing every three months and we go down and feed them,” said Ronnie.
This community-loving business recently had to deal with an unexpected turn of events. At 1 a.m. on Sept. 24, shortly after the Webbers had left the restaurant, a grease fire caught the back wall of the pit house on fire, spreading to the prep kitchen. The fire rekindled between at 4:30-5 a.m. and firefighters had to cut holes in the roof to douse the area with water. Between cleanup and restoration, Nancy estimates the restaurant sustained close to $300,000 in damages. Fortunately they had insurance to cover the costs. It took a while, but they reopened for business Nov. 10.
Nancy said of the outpouring of support, “We had the fire on Sunday, and people were calling us, asking how they could help. On Monday we put out a call on social media for a cleaning day. The next day a lot of people showed up and cleaned their hearts out. We had a woman selling candles that offered a fundraiser, but we told her we had insurance and it would be better to help Harvey victims. The community was behind us 100 percent and we couldn’t ask for a better place to have a business. Since we have re-opened, people have been coming here in droves to show their support.”
Those who have visited Tin Roof may have noticed the plethora of cats roaming the premises. Nancy said that there are about a dozen cats that live on the property and they bring the strays to Lonestar Veterinary to be spayed/neutered. “We spend a fortune on vet bills,” said Nancy, who takes care of the cats, providing beds, food and water.
Tin Roof is located at 18918 Town Center Boulevard, across the street from the Atascocita Walmart and is open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tin Roof is closed on Monday.