Chili's Founder Larry Lavine Brings Loop 9 BBQ to Grand Prairie | Dallas Observer


Loop 9 BBQ Aims To Be a Barbecue Destination in Grand Prairie

Dallas restaurateur Larry Lavine has poured all of his barbecue knowledge into Loop 9 BBQ in Grand Prairie.
Dallas restaurateur Larry Lavine has poured all of his barbecue knowledge into Loop 9 BBQ in Grand Prairie. Chris Wolfgang
Larry Lavine may have made a name for himself as the founder of Chili’s, but the restaurateur has found a more recent passion in barbecue. Lavine’s latest venture is Loop 9 BBQ, tucked into Grand Prairie’s growing EpicCentral entertainment district.

EpicCentral is a 172-acre park at the George W. Bush Tollway and Arkansas Lane, and it’s already home to the Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark. A new hotel is under construction, and Loop 9 BBQ is one of several restaurants nestled along the boardwalk to provide a new entertainment and dining destination for locals and visitors alike. Loop 9 will open in a few weeks, but we were invited out to have a look at the space and talk to Lavine about his latest venture.

As we sat over a tray of tortilla chips and delicious burnt-end queso, Lavine shared his excitement at being out in Grand Prairie and told us he was thrilled with the opportunity to be one of the first restaurant tenants.

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Loop 9 has a dedicated carryout lobby for grabbing barbecue (and pie!) to go.
Chris Wolfgang
"I had a friend named Nick Galanos who used to be a big executive with TGI Friday's. He knew the police chief in Grand Prairie," Lavine said. "Before any of this was here, the chief had told him they wanted to do some restaurants. Nick said they needed to do barbecue, because everyone loves barbecue. The city tried Ten50 and they liked it, and that’s when Nick called me.”

Ten50 in Richardson was Lavine’s first go at a barbecue restaurant, but he’s no longer affiliated with the restaurant.

“I didn’t know anything about barbecue,” he said of Ten50’s origins. “I studied it for years, and I like to say I sacrificed a lot of cows and pigs to learn it.”

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Burnt-end queso at Loop 9.
Chris Wolfgang
After leaving Ten50, Lavine opened another barbecue spot in Plano's Legacy Hall called Carlton Provisions, but struggled with the space limitations. At Loop 9, all of Lavine’s barbecue and restaurant knowledge are combined in a spot he’s truly excited about.

“Once you learn it, it’s not as hard as running a regular restaurant because it's prepped ahead and you’re not cooking to order," Lavine said. "For it to work, for me, you’ve got to start with a great product.”

For Loop 9, great product means prime-grade brisket, a custom sausage from Meyer's of Elgin, Texas, and heritage pork raised in Iowa.

"We buy the best, we cook it right, respect it and try not to abuse it," Lavine said.

While we chatted with Lavine, we had a chance to sample some of Loop 9's fare and came away impressed. We tried both lean and moist examples of the prime brisket, which were melt-in-your-mouth tender. Pork ribs were also solid, with a unique rub that finishes with just a tingle of heat.

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Loop 9 will have a full bar, a rarity in barbecue joints.
Chris Wolfgang
Lavine also wowed us with his choice of sides, all of which are made in house. The Mexican corn has a noticeable kick and two kinds of cheese blended throughout, while the mayo-based potato salad is a nice cooling counterpoint. Oddly enough, Lavine wouldn't know about the potato salad, as we learned he doesn't eat mayonnaise.

"That's why our first burger at Chili's only had mustard," he told us. "I asked my team what mayo is the best, and they said Hellman's, so that's what we use in it, but I'll take their word for it."

Loop 9's cole slaw is a tangy vinegar-based version that we enjoyed, while Lavine admitted that the borracho beans were still a work in progress.

"We had a bunch of stuff in here, and we just started over," he said. "I think we're missing a little salt."  We tended to agree, but the base is on point, with chopped brisket and peppers mixed with the beans.

Loop 9 will also sport some unique features in a barbecue restaurant. The first is a line of house-made pies baked by Lavine's wife, Ann. Pies and barbecue can be picked up to-go from a dedicated entrance that has a pie case full of the day's offerings. Loop 9 will also offer a full bar that dominates the center of the dining room, something of a rarity in Texas barbecue.

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We got to sample some of Loop 9's fare and came away impressed.
Chris Wolfgang
Loop 9 BBQ will be a seven-day-a-week operation serving both lunch and dinner, which also makes it stand out from the barbecue crowd. There's a massive patio facing the EpicCenter boardwalk and water feature, and there's plenty of space inside when the weather doesn't cooperate.

As is the case at many restaurants, rent and staffing presented some early challenges, Lavine said. It's certainly more affordable to open in Grand Prairie rather than in Dallas, and Lavine and team have made headway on the staffing front and will be ready to roll when the restaurant opens for business on March 6.

Spending time with a restaurant legend like Lavine is a pleasure, as he's seen and done almost everything there is to do in the restaurant business. And his passion for barbecue isn't limited to this new restaurant; we talked at length about other barbecue spots he enjoys across Texas. That devotion to barbecue is on display at Loop 9, and we look forward to adding it to our rotation of favorite barbecue spots to hit up in the area.

Loop 9 BBQ, 2951 S. Highway 161 (EpicCentral), Grand Prairie. Open daily beginning March 6.
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Chris Wolfgang started writing about barbecue for the Dallas Observer in 2015, and became the Observer’s restaurant critic in October 2021. In his free time, he’s a dog owner, plays a mediocre guitar and is likely recovering from his latest rec-league sports injury.
Contact: Chris Wolfgang

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