Texas Tony Phelan may live in Florida, but he's still very much a Texan.
Phelan grew up in the Lone Star state, met his wife Kathleen while working in the restaurant business and soon after, they and their two sons found themselves owning and operating five restaurants in Wichita Falls, Texas.
But the allure of trying something different remained strong and in 1987, Phelan packed up the family and moved to Southwest Florida. Before long, Phelan would open his first Florida based restaurant - Pinchers Crab Shack in Bonita Springs. After a highly-successful first year, Phelan set his sights on adding more.
One restaurant with six employees eventually grew to eight with more than 400 employed. And while business at Pinchers continues to grow, Phelan's desire to do more hasn't waned.
The origins of his latest endeavor, Texas Tony's Barbeque Shack, happened by chance. Phelan hired an arborist to take down an orange tree at his home. When the arborist was finished, he asked Tony if he could take some of the wood so thathe could use it in his smoker. Inspiration struck again and Tony began experimenting."Orange wood results in a very mild, delicious smoked flavor -not bitter like mesquite or overpowering like oak," he concluded.
A unique flavor was born. The only thing left to decide was what the menu would look like and how to bring this new flavor to the masses. The menu was the easy part. All Tony had to do was recall those Texas barbecue joints where ribs were so tender, meat could be pulled from the bone with just one's sauce-covered lips, brisket exploded with flavor and succulent chicken would be part of every dinner plate. He even made sure fresh collards, homemade corn bread, baked beans and sweet slaw would be served next to his barbeque.
"Texas Tony's is all about the rub and the ring," he says, adding that the rub is his secret and that the ring occurs when meat is smoked with orange wood over a long period of time. "The pink is where the smoke has permeated the meat. The process takes hours, but make no mistake this is true Texas barbecue."
Next was settling on a location for Texas Tony's. Unlike Pinchers' centralized locations, Texas Tony's would be a bit out of the way. That, however, didn't bother Phelan. While Phelan would set up a catering arm for those who wanted first-class barbecue at home or at any location or occasion, his years of experience in Texas taught him one thing: People will travel great distances for great food.
"The food stands on its own," he says of their East Trail location. "People will travel hours for the best in town and we have customers who routinely do just that for our barbeque." That's why we say if you want good barbeque you have to come and get it. We'll even bring the "Q" to you with our full catering services.