Killen's Barbecue fires up new restaurant in familiar Cypress space
Killen, who teased the deal over the weekend on social media, explains that he couldn’t pass on the opportunity to take over a fullyequipped restaurant in a prime location. He expects Burro & Bull to close later this week; once it does, his team will get to work making some minor changes such as installing a cafeteria-style serving line and Killen’s signage. If all goes according to plan with construction and permitting, the new Killen’s Barbecue could open in early October.
“What sold it for me is there is a Chick-Fil-A under construction [nearby],” he says. “If Chick-Fil-A is going to come out here, I know they do their research. I know several people that own Chick-Fil-As. They know people are going to be there.”
Although Burro & Bull only opened its Cypress location last fall, founder John Avila tells CultureMap that he and his wife and business partner Veronica had quietly stepped away from operating the restaurant in March. They’re focused on opening a second location of their modern general store Henderson & Kane at the Houston Farmers Market.
“We’re very lucky that Ronnie took an interest in the building,” he says. “There’s no better person to go into the space, and he will make it work for sure.”
Cypress will be the third location of Killen’s Barbecue, joining the original in Pearland and a Woodlands location that opened in early 2021. Widely credited with being among the first to bring craft barbecue to the Houston area, Killen’s remains ranked among the state’s 50 best barbecue restaurants by Texas Monthly. It features an extensive menu of proteins that includes beef brisket, pork ribs, beef ribs, and housemade sausage along with Killen’s signature sides such as creamed corn and mac & cheese. Earlier this year, rising star pitmaster Willow Villarreal (Willow’s Texas BBQ, J-Bar-M Barbecue) joined the Killen’s team.
Part of the reason Killen is so excited about the space is the location’s overall design and layout, which includes a dedicated bar area and spacious patio. The kitchen comes fully equipped with a wood-burning grill and two Southern Pride smokers that Killen may keep — “they work for chicken, ribs, and smoked sausage,” he says — or swap out with an Oyler rotisserie like those he uses at the Killen’s Barbecue’s other locations. Briskets will be prepared on a 1,000-gallon offset smoker — either a trailer-mounter barbecue pit or one from Mill Scale Metal Works, Killen says.
The wood-burning grill gives the restaurant the ability to serve similar dishes to Killen’s STQ, the chef’s upscale, live-fire steakhouse in Briargrove. Killen plans to introduce a STQ-style dinner service complete with the same elegant table linens and flatware as the original. He describes the hybrid concept of barbecue during the day and steakhouse at night as “Killen’s Barbecue Plus.”
“We’re going to make it as nice as we can. If we can put linens down, put nice silverware down, and have the whole deal that we do, we’re going to push it as far as we can towards the STQ side,” he says. “Who doesn’t like a good wood-fired grilled steak?”
[Editor’s note: No one we want to be friends with, chef.]
Growing his operation to nine Houston-area restaurants — three barbecue restaurants, two Killen’s Steakhouses, STQ, comfort food restaurant Killen’s, Killen’s Burgers, and Killen’s TMX plus barbecue service at both NRG Stadium and Minute Maid Park — has Killen in a reflective mood. He says he realizes how far he’s come from the days when he only operated an under-the-radar steakhouse in Pearland.
“I get excited about things we’re doing, changes, progress, moving forward. I’m doing all this myself. I don’t have partners,” he says. “When I was in high school I couldn’t read well. My brother was always the smart kid. [I’ve created a business] by hard work and trying to give people what they want. It really makes me feel good.
“For me, all those people that tried to prove me as being a dumb kid or wouldn’t be successful, my motivation is to prove ‘em wrong.”