Food: 30 years of BBQ leads to rebirth

Craig Collins mastered serving crowd- pleasing barbecue and South American cuisine over the years and continues to tweak his restaurant’s offerings. (Photo by Kathy Tran)
Craig Collins mastered serving crowd- pleasing barbecue and South American cuisine over the years and continues to tweak his restaurant’s offerings. (Photo by Kathy Tran)

Craig Collins gave his eateries new life, even when nearby businesses sank

Craig Collins is the only business owner who didn’t vacate The Hill, even when the shopping center was wrought with neglect.

The short tenure of high-profile businesses like Kroger didn’t deter the success of his two restaurants, Red Hot & Blue and Nazca Kitchen. The barbecue franchise and South American eatery became staples of the barren development at Walnut Hill Lane and U.S. 75.

“We have managed to weather the storm thus far,” Collins says.

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After a 20-year decline, the shopping center is receiving an approximately $90-million makeover, complete with updated storefronts and amenities. Since the upgrades coincided with the barbecue joint’s 30th birthday, Collins revamped the entire space.

“There’s not a single 2-by-4 left in that restaurant,” he says. “We gutted the entire thing. It’s completely different. There’s not a toilet seat that was there before.”

Now called RHBQ, the outdoor patio and bar features biweekly events like football watch parties and beer tastings. Collins hired a barbecue consultant to tweak its menu, and, because it’s Dallas, brunch offerings are on the horizon. Local musicians take the restaurant’s outdoor stage every Friday to perform, whether it’s blues or electronic tunes.

“I was in a band in my teens,” he says. “I wasn’t going to make it as a rock star. I have a soft spot for starving artists and giving people a chance to get some exposure.”

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Collins was a lawyer, not a restaurateur, when he introduced Red Hot & Blue to Texas. His former college roommate founded the concept in Washington D.C. Collins couldn’t get enough, so he brought it to Dallas.

“When we opened in 1994, it was the only place in the city you could get pulled pork.”

A spontaneous trip to South America spurred Nazca Kitchen’s creation, with a second location that recently opened in West Village.

Collins still practices law occasionally for charity work, but his priority is keeping his restaurants, especially RHBQ, relevant.

“We had the opportunity to update it and make it something for this generation.”

RHBQ
9810 N. Central
Expressway, suite 600
redhotandblue.com


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