Dining With Denise Neil

Barbecue or Tex Mex? Why choose? New restaurant will serve both

Joseph Fowler will serve both barbecue and Mexican food at his new Iron Wagon Tex-Mex BBQ, which opens on Friday.
Joseph Fowler will serve both barbecue and Mexican food at his new Iron Wagon Tex-Mex BBQ, which opens on Friday.

His smoked meats are so succulent, Joseph Fowler says, that they taste just as good piled on a barbecue sandwich or stuffed inside a Tex-Mex-style burrito.

So when he decided to open his own restaurant, he opted not to choose between barbecue or Mexican for his theme.

He chose both.

On Friday, Fowler and his wife, Jacqueline, plan to open Iron Wagon Tex-Mex BBQ at 233 Main in Haysville. He plans two more Wichita locations to follow, and one could come in as early as three months.

Fowler, a longtime restaurant cook who has worked in places like Piccadilly and the former Brews Brothers, says his dream since high school has been to open his own restaurant. In one of his former jobs, he perfected his smoking skills and decided to center his business around that. He smokes his brisket, pork butt and hot links in a traditional Texas style, he says, using a combination of oak and hickory.

His menu will be split into two parts – “Build Your Own Tex” and “Build Your Own Mex.” On the Tex side will be more traditional barbecue restaurant options like barbecue sandwiches and barbecue plates with traditional sides. Customers also can build a rice bowls using the meats, beans and dirty rice.

The Mex side of the menu will offer tacos, burritos and taco bowls. The same meats will be used but customers can dress them up with Mexican flavors like salsa and avocado crema.

Fowler said he makes all of his sauces in-house, right down to the ketchup. His barbecue sauces include a Kansas City brown sugar style, a spicier Memphis sweet sauce, a mustard vinegar sauce and a cola habanero that he says is extra, extra hot. His salsas also are homemade and range in heat, and his side offerings include dishes like cole slaw for the Tex diners or cowboy beans and cilantro rice for the Mex diners.

He chose to start in Haysville, he said, because that’s where he found the right building: The former Taco J’s spot. That business closed in October after 34 years.

“It was basically opportunity and availability,” he said. “Our plan is to open three stores within the next year, and what I was looking for in the first store was a restaurant that was pretty much ready to go as far as having a hood installed, fire suppression and things of that nature.”

He said he’s not affected by the news from his restaurant neighbor across the street, Willie Lusk, who has had trouble sustaining his Johnny B’s burger restaurant in Haysville. (Lusk talked about his plans to survive in a story I posted on Tuesday.) Fowler said he knew to avoid opening another burger restaurant, and he thinks Haysville will respond to something a little different.

Iron Wagon will be an order-at-the-counter type place. In a few weeks, it will also have a drive through open, and a couple of weeks after that, Fowler plans to add delivery.

Hours starting Friday will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, call 316-200-2762. And stay tuned for details on Fowler’s Wichita locations.