Phil came home on Friday, exhausted from a week of selling fabrics to his apparel clients. But as tired as he was, he still had the energy to fire up the grill. Phil was a master griller. In fact, his neighbors, family and friends became very familiar with Phil's grilling. The delicious smell would travel for blocks. Phil wore a cowboy hat to keep the sun off his head and he'd tie a red bandana around his neck because sitting next to a grill all night sure works up a sweat. That's how he earned the nickname "Cowboy Phil." Tonight it was three whole chickens on a skewer that would roast slowly until perfection. Of course his wife, Jeanette, gave the chickens a good rub with her special blend of spices. Once the charcoals were at just the right color, Phil sprinkled on some mesquite chips that had soaked all day. He had just set the chickens to grill when the phone calls began. By dinner time, he had eight guests and happily prepared more chickens. After a lengthy discussion, and against the advice of their friends, Cowboy Phil and Jeanette decided to open their first restaurant in Dallas.
For two weeks before opening their doors to the public, curious shoppers stopped by to see what they were up to. Cowboy Phil gave them free samples from his menu, so by the night of the grand opening, a group of new customers, neighbors, family and friends created a line that stretched around the corner. Phil was delighted! Word got out about his hand-rubbed, slow roasted chicken, as well as his homemade side dishes. And don't forget dessert. Jeanette makes a great apple cobbler, too. Once everyone was seated, he spent some time ringing up orders, greeting everyone, explaining his process, answering questions, until suddenly he realized that no one was in the back cooking
So into the kitchen he went, only to discover there was no fire in the grill! Somehow, while everyone was visiting, the wood just began to smoulder. Cowboy Phil apologized to the crowd, who was very forgiving.
"Don't worry, we'll wait," they all said. So back in the kitchen he went. He placed the chickens on a skewer and set them to roasting. Phil was so excited that he would finally be able to serve dinner and watch as his customers cleaned their plates. Only when he went to check on the chickens, they had all slid off the rod and into the fire. There was no food to serve on opening night. It was the disaster of all disasters.
Phil and Jeanette were devastated. With a broken heart he began to tell his customers one by one there would be no food that night. He started giving everyone's money back, but some people refused to take it. They said they would just come back the next night. Although the crowd was forgiving, Phil and Jeanette began to question their decision to risk everything and open a restaurant. But because of their tenacity, they became even more determined to make a go of it, and they opened the next night to another large crowd. That night they served everyone. And their customers came back. And they kept coming. Phil ran his restaurant that first year in the evenings after he worked all day selling fabrics. And the customers kept coming. He was doing something right!
That was 1981 and twenty some odd restaurants ago. Today, Cowboy Phil is accompanied by a full staff who make sure all of his restaurants have that down home feel. And most importantly, he makes sure that what he serves is still good, honest food that keeps customers coming back time and again. You can visit Cowboy Phil and try out the newly opened Cowboy Chicken, located at 3351 Regent Blvd. #100, here in Irving. You can also visit them online at www.CowboyChicken.com. Look in their website for next week's calendar. It's full of grand opening activities and specials.