THE KING OF MEATS IN MINUTE MAID

Ken Hoffman catches up with a BBQ legend who's Killen it at Minute Maid Park

Photo by Kimberly Park

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

The Houston Astros may have lost an All-Star pitcher in the off-season, but the team has added an even bigger superstar who'll be throwing some serious heat in 2020. BBQ maestro Ronnie Killen, often called The King of Meats, has practically taken over the upper deck of Minute Maid Park in deep right field with his acclaimed, prize-winning meats, fixins, and sweet tea.

Wait till you see his new smoker they're installing in the ballpark — it's enormous. You could run the B&O Railroad off it.

"I met Ronnie about six years ago. We were looking for someone to sell BBQ at street festivals before Astros game and it was an instant success," says Mat Drain, the Dalai Lama of Dill Pickles for Aramark, which operates all the concessions at Minute Maid Park.

"Ronnie has been operating at NRG Stadium with Aramark the last couple of seasons. We approached Ronnie about bringing Killen's to Minute Maid Park in tour new entertainment and food area on the 400 level. Ronnie jumped at the opportunity and with his prior relationship with the Astros, we knew it would be an ideal fit."

I caught up with Killen at a recent Astros food tasting. Here you go — just a taste to whet your appetite for the 2020 baseball season:

CultureMap: What will be the name of your concession booth? Is it a built-in stand or a kiosk?

Ronnie Killen:
It will be a freestanding barbecue restaurant and the name will be Killen's Barbecue.

CM: Will you have a limited menu with a few things from your famous restaurant, or are you swinging for the fences?

RK:
We will serve more than we do at NRG Stadium. We'll have several different types of barbecue sandwiches, including sliced beef, chopped beef, sliced turkey, and sausage. We'll have BBQ plates with two sides, like brisket, sausage, pork ribs, turkey breast, and an occasional beef rib.

CM: How many restaurants do you own now?

RK:
I have two Killen's Steakhouses, one in Pearland and one in The Woodlands; Killen's Barbecue; Killen's Burgers; Killen's TMX; and Killen's STQ. Plus, two restaurants in NRG Stadium and coming soon to Minute Maid Park. So, technically, I have 10.

Continue on CultureMap to find out the secret to Killen's meats.

40 years later the amazing moment in sports history still holds its place

Do you (Still) believe in miracles?

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It's hard to believe, but this week marks the 40th anniversary of "The Miracle On Ice" A result and event where "if scripted", Hollywood would immediately reject on general premise, due to it's improbability. For a younger generation who is unfamiliar with the story (or the odds), visualize a bunch of nobodies and college kids two weeks ago trying to defeat Patrick Mahomes and the KC Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Then, magnify that by about 50 times, and you'll have the general scope and idea. You see, this is exactly what TEAM USA was comprised of, a bunch of college kids, and nobodies going up against the mighty Soviets.

The average age on the American team was 21. They lacked speed, fire power and the tenure of their opponents. The Soviets hadn't lost an Olympic Hockey game since 1968. They had won 4 straight Gold Medals with their core players intact for entire stretches of their Olympic and Global dominance. By contrast, the only American returning from the 76' games was Buzz Schneider. Schneider would actually score the first goal vs. the Soviets. If you ask most American's today, they probably think Buzz was one of the astronauts. The Soviets were so dominating in this era, they had even defeated the NHL All-Stars 6-0 in 1979 to easily win The Challenge Cup.

Lake Placid, New York served as the backdrop for the 1980 Winter Olympics. Lake Placid is a small village in Essex County, NY with a population today of around 2,500 people. If you visit, it's amazing because everyone in that town claims that "they" were in attendance or had their elders in the tiny 8500 seat arena with their families. What makes the story even more remarkable, is that the matchup wasn't even supposed to happen. The U.S. were heavy underdogs even their opening contests with Sweden & Czechoslovakia. Not to mention, that no one really anticipated a contest vs the Soviets as a mere two weeks prior, the Soviets had easily defeated Team USA in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden by a score of 10-3. Adding insult to injury in that loss, was defenseman Jack O'Callahan pulling ligaments in his knee. Jack remained on the Olympic roster, but played sparingly throughout the tournament.

The Soviets steamrolled through their tier of countries, defeating Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Finland & Canada by a combined margin of 51-10. The American's railed for a 2-2 draw in their opening game vs. Sweden, then stunned the Czechs, and then handled, Norway, Romania & West Germany. Thus the stage was set. There are edited versions of the historic matchup available for viewing on YouTube. Unlike the late Jim Mckay who refused to reveal the result on ABC's coverage (the game had been played several hours earlier) would never have had the impact in today's age of social media, and technology. Most American's had no idea the result prior to the game's airing on that tape delay. As a 9 year old kid at the time, this was certainly the case for me! This improbable upset didn't actually secure the Gold Medal. Team USA had to play Finland (trailed 2-1) before rallying 4-2 for the victory.

The "Miracle On Ice" launched some amazing sports moments in the decade to come. The Flutie Hail Mary, Lorenzo Charles stunning the Cougars, Nova shocking the Mighty Hoyas, but nothing could ever match American Pride on February 22nd, 1980 after the Soviets went down 4-3.

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