After 30 years with Cousin's, Mark Payne wanted his own barbecue cafe.
So the Payne family's "middle child" will open his Back Forty Smokehouse next month in North Richland Hills.
"I think this is a great location, but the family wasn't ready for another restaurant," Payne said this week, explaining why he rented an oft-failed location in what was once the old Smithfield feed store.
"I've been driving by this place for years," said Payne, formerly manager of Cousin's at Keller and Alliance Town Center.
"This building just screams 'barbecue.'"
The former feed store reopened as a restaurant in 2003, first as Cotton Belt Bar-B-Q and later as the uninspired Big Barn Bar-B-Q, a music venue.
"I think they tried too hard to make it on entertainment," Payne said.
"We'll devote more attention to the food."
He promised Texas singer-songwriters but not a "bar atmosphere."
Cousin's is considered one of Fort Worth's old-school barbecue Holy Trinity, along with Angelo's and the Railhead Smokehouse.
Cousin's won "people's choice" awards for sausage at Texas Monthly's festival. It was a White House favorite during the first Bush administration, when founder Calvin "Boots" Payne trained chefs at what is now Disneyland Paris.
Payne said he plans to bring his own formula to Back Forty, using a Southern Pride smoker instead of an Oyler pit and serving his own different sauce. He might purchase Cousin's sausage, he said.
So far, bigger has not been better for barbecue restaurants in Northeast Tarrant County.
The most talked-about restaurants have been small and simple: North Main BBQ in Euless, Red Barn Bar-B-Que in Colleyville and Feedstore BBQ in Southlake, along with the newer Black Diamond Smokehouse on Rufe Snow Drive.
Watch for Back Forty at 8021 Main St., North Richland Hills, 817-428-2225; facebook.com/BackFortySmokehouse.
Cousin's has four locations including the flagship store at 6262 McCart Ave.; 817-346-2511, cousinsbbq.com.
Also new on the barbecue beat: Mad Dog's BBQ & Grill, moving up from food-truck service to a restaurant location in suburban River Oaks.
Mad Dog's has been a Stockyards landmark, serving burgers, nachos and festival food.
Mad Dog's restaurant menu also includes a smoked-brisket burger and even funnel cakes. It's open daily for lunch and dinner; 5155 River Oaks Blvd. (near Merritt Street), 817-625-4838.
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