A hunk of brisket at VooDoo BBQ & Grill begins its journey suspended over a bed of pecan and oak logs. Coated in a dry rub of local spices, the meat slowly turns on a rotisserie rod for up to 16 hours, its skin crisping while the inside stays a warm pink. The chefs smoke all their beef brisket and pulled pork over logs from Louisiana-based trees to lend them the region's unique smoked flavor, even at the risk of confusing passing botanists. They lightly coat grilled sausages, chicken, and burgers in three signature sauces inspired by the state's Cajun recipes. To complement their menagerie of smoked and grilled meats, they sling a variety of southern sides such as corn pudding, greens, and potato salads. At each of the 13 locations, the aroma of roasting meat fills a space of dark-stained wood and wrought iron; dining rooms awash in a palette of reds, greens, and oranges buzz with the sounds of jazz and blues.
Despite the adage that warns against messing with Texas, Jaime and Alicia Santillan had no problem giving Tex-Mex cuisine the cold shoulder when they opened Los Braceros Mexican Bar & Grill. The couple amassed dishes from their home country into a menu that has since won praise from Amarillo Magazine for its unflagging devotion to authentic Mexican food.
When he’s not strolling around the dining room, making sure customers are enjoying their food and wearing matching socks, Jaime supervises his kitchen staff as they prep plenty of tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and seafood entrees. The restaurant's grill often sizzles with the signature parrillada platter: your choice of three meats, from lamb chops to chicken, served with sides of rice, beans, and guacamole. It also roasts more obscure south-of-the-border meals, such as codorniz, a 2- to 6-ounce marinated quail, and Mexican-style ribs.
The restaurant, which is housed in a restored Route 66 building, stocks an impressive supply of tequila to augment its spicy eats. Patrons can sip on fiery samples or order beer from the full bar, which provides seating for live musical shows on Fridays and Saturdays.
Since 1984, Champps Americana's kitchen has sizzled with made-from-scratch dishes, satiating sports fans and families with a comfortable atmosphere. Amid sunlit dining rooms, diners seated at wooden tabletops can root for their favorite pixels on flat-screen TVs broadcasting live sports. In the kitchen, chefs prepare pastas with grilled chicken and roasted artichokes, pile buns with barbecued pulled pork and spicy buffalo chicken, and fill soft taco shells with grilled steak. Behind the bar, bartenders whip up specialty cocktails and margaritas and fill goblets with wine and local craft beers on tap.
Certified Angus beef, ham, turkey, and pork soak up smoky flavor over J & M Bar-B-Q’s mesquite fire pit. Before long, chefs will pull them away from the crackling fire and send them off to the restaurant’s homey dining room, where guests can then chow down on sauce-slathered pulled-pork sandwiches, jalapeño sausages, and plates of sliced or chopped brisket. Piles of baked beans, creamy mac 'n' cheese, and napkins made from authentic Wanted posters often accompany these meats to tables. J & M’s specialty meats also appear atop nachos, in Frito pies, and in bar-b-ritos—Mexican-inspired creations that swaddle chopped beef or turkey breast in flour tortillas along with beans, onions, and cheese.
When customers step into Buffalo Gap Steakhouse & Cantina, they step into the past—or, at least, a reasonable facsimile. The Tex-Mex grill's airy interiors recall rustic frontier homes and tax offices with accents such as adobe-style walls, timber-framed doors, and hanging textiles and hides. This space fills with the sound of live music on Saturday nights, and always promises the aromas of blackened tilapia and ample steaks fresh from the grill.
Inside the kitchen, the chef focuses on hearty house specials, including chicken-fried steaks, fried-fish dinners, and grilled half chickens smothered with lemon and garlic sauce. One of the restaurant's biggest draws, however, is the beef: grilled reserve Angus rib eye, center-cut sirloin, and aged tenderloin steaks. On Friday and Saturday nights, the chef also prepares a special garlic and herb-crusted Angus Prime rib steak for regular diners, a privilege once reserved for the customer who could guess the cow's favorite color.
Lone Star Bar-B-Que satisfies barbecue fans' cravings with slow-cooked meats, southern sides, and homestyle desserts served in a casual atmosphere with wood paneling and iconic red-and-white-checkered tablecloths. Pitmasters rub spices into choice cuts of chicken, pork, or beef, which strut their stuff as the stars of plates, the fillings of sandwiches, and the poundage of carryout meals. Groovy tunes from occasional live music acts float through the airwaves as customers sink their teeth into sides such as mac 'n' cheese and fried okra, as well as barbecue as tender as a sonnet about 16-hour marinades.
Grumbling stomachs find their flavor frustrations abated during midday meal breaks and after-work chow sessions at each of the three Stone Werks locations. Peruse the culinary playbill to prepare for the chefs' carefully scripted palate pageant, which dazzles audiences with prologues like the crawfish stuffed mushrooms with champagne cream sauce ($8.99). Pizzas are pieced together from fresh ingredients and dough made several times a day; meanwhile, the Portabella mushroom pie ($12.99) is topped with parmesan and provolone cheese, roasted red peppers, and kalamata olives. Let hearty appetites meet their mouthy match in the pan-seared Ahi tuna, crusted with freshly-ground chilies and peppercorn, ($17.99) or the "Big Rock" burger ($9.99), its tasty protein buried beneath savory layers of bacon, smoked gouda, lettuce, and red onions. Diners unwind and replenish empty food reserves in the stylish dining rooms accented with modern decor.