Interview with Mike Babb of Babb Bros. BBQ & Blues on Lessons from Phil Romano, Slow Smoked Ribs and Incubators
Driving over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and across the west bank of the Trinity River, one quickly enters the Trinity Groves Project. If you're not heads-up about it, you could easily miss the sign announcing it. But, most likely you'll sense a revival in a part of Dallas that has been left to its own devices for several decades. It's amazing what a few coats of bright paint can do.
LDD Mike Babb of Babb Bros BBQ & Blues
The word "incubator" has been attached to the real estate venture, created by Phil Romano, Stuart Fitts and Butch McGregor. It's supposed to serve as a safe warm nest for burgeoning cooks and hopeful restaurateurs. This group of successful businessmen wants to create a truly unique Dallas experience brought to you by the people of Dallas who otherwise might not have the resources to start their own business.
The first restaurant in the incubator concept is Babb Bros BBQ & Blues at 330 Bedford Ave. I met Mike Babb a couple of years ago while covering the tailgating scene for the Dallas Cowboys. We talked about ribs, smoked slow and low and the paramount rule of serving sauce on the side. (He's from Kansas, where they've been known to serve sauce on the meat.) Babb has a gregarious character and everyone in his party loved his food. Even Nate Newton once tried Babb's ribs and told him to call him if he ever opened his own place.
One very apparent personal trait of Babb is that he shoots straight. So, I was anxious to get his insight on this incubator concept.
This Wednesday afternoon when I arrived at the new spot, which would be open in less than 24 hours, more than a dozen workers were busy around the building tidying up loose ends.
Walking in the restaurant I was overwhelmed with the glorious smell of smoke. It's amazing how great a place looks when it smells good. There were about seven cooks in the open kitchen, all working on different things. One of the cooks had a thick head of white hair; he popped his head up to look at me when I walked in. Phil Romano was cooking in the kitchen.
Babb walks up and we start to chat. Two guys at a nearby table finish eating and get up to leave. I smile at Babb, "Thought you weren't open yet?"
"We're not. But, they came walking up the parking lot, and I told them we open tomorrow. Then Phil says, 'Oh, we've got some food ready. Come on in. We'll fix you up,'" Babb says with a laugh. "I guess that's why he's in charge of that part and I should probably just stay in the kitchen."
We walk out to a table on the back porch, which looks like a fantastic spot to enjoy ribs and beer, by the way. Babb points out where they're building a small stage for music. Live tunes too. Awesome. That patio and lawn will be packed soon. But, on Wednesday we nabbed one of about 20 empty tables, not far from a carpenter sketching out a small plan on a sheet of scratch paper.