Owners shutter Rudy’s Bar-B-Q units in Dallas

Smoked: owners shutter Rudy’s Bar-B-Q units in Dallas

Ron Ruggless

DALLAS — The last of the two Dallas-area Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q units, a concept created by restaurant impresario Phil Romano, closed earlier this month.

Four remaining units of the barbecue concept remain open, including the original in Leon Springs, Texas, outside San Antonio, and franchised locations in Austin, Texas and Albuquerque, N.M.

Romano sold rights to the Rudy’s concept late last year to a company owned by Lynn Ford, wife of former Brinker International executive Creed Ford, and New Mexico Rudy’s franchisees Blake Brown and Pete Bassett.

“I have been concentrating on Eatzi’s, so it was time to let it go,” said Romano, who created that high-profile home-meal-replacement concept in a joint venture with Brinker International last year and plans to open the second unit in Houston this summer.

The new Rudy’s owners, operating as Rudy’s Texas Bar-B-Q and based in Austin, hope to expand the barbecue concept.

We think Rudy’s is fairly regional barbecue, so we’re trying to determine what areas it will work in,” said Brown, who serves as vice president of the ownership company and as president of New Mexico-based Casa Roja Inc., the franchisor of Rudy’s. “Hopefully, we’ll open some company stores and then some more franchised stores.”

Casa Roia opened its second Albuquerque Rudy’s roughly one year ago, and Brown said it has been successful. “We’ll certainly open a few more stores, either in New Mexico or Tucson, Ariz., or El Paso, Texas,” he said.

His partnership with Lynn Ford and Bassett extends to the umbrella organization as well. Ford is vice president of Casa Roja and president of Rudy’s Texas Bar-B-Q. Bassett is a vice president in both companies.

“Right now we really don’t have any company stores, because franchise groups own all those that are open,” Brown said. He added that the Austin franchisee is shopping for another location as well.

Brown said Rudy’s has a timely concept, with easy carry-out options and a casual atmosphere.

“It’s the best quality barbecue that I’ve eaten,” he said, “and the concept is interesting. It’s different. It’s not full-service, and that’s what I wanted to get away from. It’s more to go, home-meal replacement.”

Per-person check averages are $7 to $8. Meals are served on white butcher paper in baskets with counter-style service.

“The simplicity is attractive,” Brown added.

The former Rudy’s location in Dallas, which continued serving barbecue until early May but without the Rudy’s banner, has been taken over by Dan Hawbaker, who worked with Romano as president of the Rudy’s division. Hawbaker kept the lease on the 12,000-square-foot location, which has 6,800 square feet of space for restaurant and the rest for other operations. He plans to reopen the site in early June as a new concept, called Truckers Midtown Cafe, with a 1940s and ’50s truck-stop theme.

“We’ll have a number of comfort-food items, large burgers, open-faced roast-beef sandwiches, open-faced roast turkey, meat loaf and liver and onions,” Hawbaker explained. “There will also be a high number of steaks – ribeyes, T-bones — along with a number of daily blue-plate specials served on large platters. Of course, we’ll also have biscuits and gravy.”

He said that in researching the menus of the ’40s and ’50s, he found restaurateurs would bring on new items on a daily or regular basis depending on the availability of food, and run them as daily specials.

“We want to create good price value by letting our chefs work with seasonal products and create ongoing daily excitement,” Hawbaker explained. “We’ll have a base menu, but we’ll have lunch and dinner specials every single day. So we’ll create customer excitement and enthusiasm that way.”

Rudy’s barbecue roots won’t disappear entirely at the location, he added. “We’ll also utilize some of the smoking know-how from the barbecue business, with smoked pork loin and smoked turkeys and smoke meats as a theme but not in a barbecue setting,” Hawbaker said.

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