There's this silly debate in Houston about where to find the best barbecue. It's silly because there is no debate. Ronnie Killen has made sure of it. Granted, one could make the argument that Killen's Barbecue should be placed in its own category; a lone heavyweight in a crowd of featherweights. After all, there's only one BBQ joint in Houston with a three-hour wait on the weekends. That's kind of how it goes with the Killen's restaurants. Burgers, steak, or brisket, when a new Killen's opens, the competition gets a little nervous.
It's safe to say, then, that news of a possible Tex-Mex kitchen from the beef king of Houston has more than likely ruffled a few feathers among restaurant owners in the area. Particularly those unfortunate enough to own Tex-Mex kitchens in Pearland. Well, those feathers can remain collectively ruffled, because it's official: Killen's TMX is coming.
After months of speculation and open secrets, the news has been made official by a spokesperson of the company. Five miles west of the famous smokehouse, in the rapidly developing area of West Pearland, a lease has been signed and construction is underway on the latest Killen's restaurant. This November, the fifth installment in Ronnie Killen's empire of Houston institutions will introduce a dedicated Tex-Mex menu that promises to combine aspects of Texas barbecue tradition with authentic Mexican fare.
The Tex-Mex stand-alone has apparently been in the works for years. Chef Killen and family have long discussed the idea of developing a full Tex-Mex menu using family recipes like his brisket and cheese enchiladas. A handful of these south-of-the-border recipes have recently been available on the menu at Killen's BBQ, to warm customer receptions. Diners have been flocking to the wagyu beef fajitas, short rib tamales, and brisket tacos, while rumors of a full-blown restaurant gained traction within the industry.
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Though Killen's is not the first member of Houston barbecue royalty to throw its sombrero into the proverbial ring, it may be the first to offer true Tex-Mex and barbecue fusion. The few Mexican dishes already found on the Killen's Barbecue menu have found fast success among customers thanks to their generous (and intelligent) use of barbecue. The brisket queso, for example, is an obvious combination of two staple items that makes you wonder why aren't more barbecue places doing it.
In the creation of his Tex-Mex menu, Ronnie Killen offers a valuable culinary lesson to ambitious chefs: play to your strengths.
While the TMX concept will lean heavily on Killen's barbecue pedigree, with brisket and smoked chicken featured in many of the dishes, customers will be pleased to learn that strong emphasis is also being placed on authentic Mexican cuisine. Special consideration is being given the coastal seafood tradition of Baja Califonia. Chef Killen has been traveling frequently to Baja seeking inspiration and ingredients for his upcoming menu, one that promises real Mexicano flavor wrapped in smokey Texas glory.
Undoubtedly, Killen's TMX will be a defining test of Chef Killen's versatility, as well as a test of the often criticized fusion restaurant. It will also test the compatibility of Texas barbecue within other cuisines. With a track record of culinary success and an already buzzed about teaser menu of Tex-Mex BBQ dishes, expectations are sky high for the newest Killen's concept.