In the Cards

It takes more than just guts to stare down gambling's finest in front of a national TV audience. In the common vernacular, it takes brass cojones or perhaps a Big Johnson. Derick "Tex" Barch must think so, anyway. While the veteran poker star was finishing third this summer in the prestigious World Series of Poker, raking in a cool couple of mil, he also concerned himself with Big Johnson's Beer Garden, tucked in the far North Dallas space once occupied by The Reservoir. They're still tweaking the décor, but the beer flows, there's a bikini contest every Thursday (shades of Vegas, no?) and the kitchen dishes out some impressive fare. Big Johnson's menu offers everything from chicken-fried steak to seared ahi tuna, along with a selection of burgers made with Kobe beef. Clearly Barch has enough cash to spend on good ingredients, but isn't bar ownership a bit of a risk? Well, he and his partners are reasonably secure as long as he keeps playing cards, and they seem in no hurry to pull in the suburban version of the fickle 500. After all, Barch never flinched with $21 million in chips on the table in the middle of a 14-hour poker marathon. And if cards teach you anything about business--and Johnsons--it's that you gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. Oh, and know when to reinvest those winnings.

Tenting Tonight: Downtown hotspot Fuse finally covered its 10,000-square-foot patio. Or much of it, anyway. The hefty tent leaves the pool and upper deck to the vagaries of nature but protects the important things (i.e., bar and hot tub)...Bartenders around the city may soon have cause to curse the name Toulouse. Several already report fielding orders for the obscure classic cocktails served at the Knox Street bistro...When New Year's Eve rolls around, most people celebrate with Indian food, don't they? In order to capitalize on the obvious craze, Clay Pit in Addison plans two sampler menus accompanied--and traditionalists will cringe at the pairing--by champagne. In keeping with suburban family values, the deal wraps up before midnight.

On the job: Veteran Dallas liquor rep Carlo Barone is now vice president of sales for California's Global Wine Group. Amongst their holdings: Jewel, a decent label for daily consumption...Join bartending faves Sherry Maddox and David Pedack at Cretia's on Thursdays.

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries

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