Dr. Bell's BBQ Pits Its Brisket Against the Challenges of Downtown Business

Oak Cliff native Andrew Bell has worked for the past two decades exclusively in fine dining, but two weeks ago he opened a casual barbecue joint in downtown, Dr. Bell's BBQ.

"I was looking anywhere there was cheap rent because I was looking to serve inexpensive food," said Bell, sitting at a home-made table inside his restaurant on Wednesday evening. He took a few more sips from his Corona and explained why downtown made sense for him as the location for his first restaurant.

"I really don't listen to the writing on the walls, the naysayers and all that," said Bell. If you have a good product, Bell believes, your business will float, not sink. "People are going to find you...I think we've been warmly embraced by the working population and the residents."

But the infrastructure was a little reluctant to welcome the new owner. The location is next door to City Tavern on Main Street. Originally, Bell had intended to take off the wooden paneling from the previous restaurant and leave the building's classic brick exposed. But as they pulled off the paneling, the brick started to crumble away.

"I went to Home Depot, bought stuff on my credit card, came back, and put it up," said Bell. While restaurants in the area are owned by corporations or by owners with enough money to hire contractors, Bell's restaurant is as close to home-made as they come. Who built it? "Me and a buddy of mine and another friend...Everything I have is in this restaurant. Everything."

Bell is a self-proclaimed "fun-time guy," but after spending some time with him it's a claim that's easy to believe. Bell didn't mind sharing that he had a warrant out for his arrest for a speeding ticket he hasn't paid. "Oh, I'm not worried about that," Bell said. But on second thought added, "I do care about getting arrested!"

For now Bell closes around 7, but is considering extending hours until 10 pm in the upcoming weeks. Unless, of course, the law hauls him away.

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