FROM SURF TO TURF
Tony Phelan grew up in Texas, attended the University of Houston and met his wife Kathleen in the restaurant business. Soon they had five restaurants – and two sons. Fourteen years ago the family moved to Southwest Florida to try new things. They opened the first Pinchers restaurant with six employees; today there are seven restaurants with more than 400 employees.
You’re probably thinking Tony should be resting on his laurels by now; he can’t, he’s on a mission. He’s busy introducing Southwest Florida to the Southwest flavors of true Texas barbecue. Surprisingly, he found added incentive when had to take down an orange tree at his home. The man who did the work asked if he could have some of the wood. Tony asked what he’d do with it and he responded he’d dry it and smoke with it. Tony experimented and found that orange wood “results in a very mild, delicious smoked flavor – not bitter like mesquite or overpowering like Oak.” A flavor was born.
TEXAS TONY’S BARBEQUE IS “ALL ABOUT THE RUB AND THE RING.”
The rub is made from his secret recipe. The ring occurs when you smoke meat with orange wood over a long period of time; the pink is where the smoke has permeated the meat. The process takes hours but “this is true Texas barbecue.”
The sauce is a matter of regional preference. In the Carolinas they like a mustard-based sauce; in Texas they prefer a tomato-based sweet sauce. “We make our own sauces – a sweet ‘original’, a mustard sauce for people from the Carolinas and a spicy habanero.” Tony prefers spicy.