The stories behind Big Tex Cantina restaurant, which opened Memorial Day weekend in downtown Decatur, are as inviting as the menu of “Texican” comfort food.
Jonathan and Justin Fox, best known locally for Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q, are accidental restaurateurs. They left Fort Worth, Texas, and came to Georgia in pursuit of completely unrelated careers. They decided that while there is much they like about the area, they were disappointed in its barbecue offerings. After trying every barbecue restaurant that friends recommended, Jonathan decided that he’d have to cook his own.
In addition to loving good food, Jonathan also is a music fan, and often visited Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta to hear one of his favorite bands. The Fox Brothers started bringing their own barbecue. It was so popular that Smith’s Olde Bar starting offering the Texas style barbecue on its menu, recalled Mike Reeves, one of the owners.
Reeves laughed as he said, “We won a best barbecue award and we weren’t even running a barbecue restaurant. That’s when we figured out that we’ve got something here.”
Jonathan’s job in information technology fell victim to the economy; however, the job loss turned out to be a piece of good fortune. With help from Reeves and his partner Dan Nolan, Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q opened in 2007 and has become one of the area’s major business success stories.
A partnership that includes the Fox brothers, Reeves, Grant Mitchell, Nolan and his brother Beau Nolan set out as their next venture to open a restaurant featuring what Jonathan Fox described as “the kind of food I grew up eating.” They agreed that Decatur would be an ideal location.
“It’s a very family friendly city, and that’s what we wanted—a family friendly environment, a place to hang out and enjoy great food,” Jonathan Fox said.
“We just love Decatur,” Reeves said, “I’d been looking for a Decatur location for a long time.” Then a space—actually two spaces—opened up in downtown Decatur. The owners ripped out a wall and what had been two restaurants became the 5,000-square-foot Big Tex Cantina on West Ponce De Leon Avenue.
The menu includes such items as fried catfish tacos, chicken fried steak and Texas poutine—fries smothered in gravy, cheese and cheese curds. “We’re really proud of the food,” Reeves said.
Big Tex Cantina originally was scheduled to open earlier in the year, but putting all the details in place “seemed to take forever,” according to Reeves, who added “but we wanted to get everything right.”
The walls are decorated with signs proclaiming the greatness of Texas—the work of “Decorator Dan [Nolan],” according to Reeves—but Georgians didn’t seem to mind. From the size of the crowd a week after the restaurant opened and Facebook comments posted during the first week of operation, the restaurateurs who brought Atlanta Smith’s Olde Bar and Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q have another hit on their hands.
“We plan to be here 15 or 20 years, so we’re really working to make people happy,” Reeves said.