Big Tex in Decatur has an interesting history.
Back when the Texas-inspired comfort food restaurant and bar opened in the summer of 2011, it was another outlet for the vision of brothers Jonathan and Justin Fox of the widely popular Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q.
But things didn’t go quite as planned, and in late 2014, Big Tex closed, though the kitchen continued to operate for a time as a commissary for the Fox Bros. catering side.
Recently, original partners Dan and Beau Nolen (Fox Bros., Smith’s Olde Bar) teamed up to resurrect the restaurant with former Big Tex general manager Robin Vaughan, as well as several new partners, including Sean and Tammy Dammann, and Scott Drake, a Decatur commissioner who’s also involved with Moe’s and Joe’s Tavern in Virginia-Highland.
“We always intended to bring Big Tex back,” Vaughan said last week. “The oddest thing is you never hear of a place that closes down for a few years and then opens back up as the exact same place. That just doesn’t happen.”
Though the Fox brothers are no longer involved, Big Tex looks much the same. The storefront space at the corner of Ponce Place and Swanton Way conjures a Texas roadhouse, with a riot of Lone Star memorabilia covering the walls and the signature longhorns still perched above the back of the ornate bar.
Even if Lake Charles, La., native Eric Guillot is in the kitchen now, the menu easily recalls the original, albeit slimmed down a bit for the opening run.
And a few new items have popped up — including the Parker Sandwich, named for a regular who specializes in homemade pickles, which are layered on a soft potato bun with smoked chicken and Alabama white barbecue sauce.
Among the sections, you’ll find snacks and apps such as smoked chicken wings, Tex-Mex-style brisket nachos and chicken flautas, entrees such as chicken-fried steak, carnitas and fried catfish, a double smash burger, and a house-smoked turkey sandwich.
“It’s Texas, Southwestern and Southern comfort food at the same time,” Vaughan said. “We smoke our brisket and turkey and chicken wings in-house. And we’ll be expanding the menu. We’ll add more appetizers, and a few more entrees, and some more adventurous specials, as well.
“With Eric’s background in Cajun cooking, we’ll probably be doing something with that along the way. Maybe Fat Tuesday specials every Tuesday. We’ll probably bring back our block party, which was very popular, sometime this fall.”
The bar offers some 20 beers on draft, ranging from Miller Lite to White Hops IPA from nearby Three Taverns, plus another 30 or so in the bottle or can. House drinks include the Watermelon Slusharita, made with tequila, fresh watermelon and lime juice and agave nectar, and served up from a whirling slushie machine.
Overall, Vaughan said he sees Big Tex as both an old and new venture.
“There’s this great song by John Eddie called ‘Same Old Brand New Me,’ ” Vaughan said. “He played here during our last incarnation, and I heard that song, again, when we were getting ready to reopen. It really made me think of how that applies here.
“We have a lot of the same elements that people knew and loved. One of the clinchers is the bar, which would be hard to replicate. Decatur needs a bar like this. We can do a Bud Light, and we can do a well-made Sazerac. So we’re all-inclusive. And there’s something about this space that just has a great vitality and conviviality.”
308 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Suite H (at Ponce de Leon Place), Decatur. 404-377-3939, facebook.com/DecaturBigTex.