A new restaurant specializing in two of Fort Worth's most cherished cuisines has snagged a primo spot on the city’s far west side: Poppin' Fresh BBQ and Soul Food will open at 7709 Camp Bowie West Blvd., the building recently vacated by local favorite Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ.
Poppin' Fresh owner Torri Walker is an entrepreneur who launched a food truck by the same name in east Fort Worth in 2016. Over the past four years, Walker and longtime pitmaster Carl Mosley have built a following of barbecue lovers, prompting the jump to a brick-and-mortar.
"Despite the pandemic, business has been good," Mosley says. "People keep asking us, 'When are you going to open a restaurant? When are you going to open a restaurant?' When we heard Billy's space became available, we thought, now is the time."
The property has gone through an extensive remodel, including an expansion of the patio.
"With everything happening with COVID-19, we knew we'd want to put an emphasis on outdoor dining," Mosley says. "The patio is now as almost as big as the dining room. Everybody will have plenty of space to social distance."
Barbecue will be the primary focus, with a menu that includes brisket, pork ribs, hot links, and whole and half chickens, along with rotating items such as beef sausage and beef ribs.
There will be equal emphasis on soul food, with dishes such as smothered pork chops, smothered chicken, oxtails, chicken-fried chicken, and other Southern-food staples. Sides include pinto beans, potato salad, candied yams, cucumber salad, and cornbread, all made from scratch, Mosley says.
"It's going to be a wide, wide, wide menu," he says. "Everything from barbecue to lobster tails."
Poppin' Fresh will fill the void left by Billy's and BBQ on the Brazos, the highly rated BBQ restaurant that left the area when it relocated to Cresson in July.
Billy's closed in March, and owner Billy Woodrich opened a new home-cooking concept in southwest Fort Worth called Rufus' Bar & Grill — leaving far west Fort Worth bereft.
"There are some chains on this side of town," Mosley says. "But ours will be the only family-run barbecue restaurant in the area."
To smoke his meats, Mosley will use a 250-gallon wood-burning smoker, hand-made by his uncle.
"I use a combination of woods — pecan and white oak," he says. "It gives the meat a different, deeper flavor than you might get at other places."
Mosley's love of cooking came from his grandmother, Era. "She was the pastry chef at Broadway Baptist Church for 35 years," he says. "That was my first job in a kitchen, as a dishwasher. I was 15 years old."
He's cooked ever since, cutting his teeth at two east Fort Worth institutions: soul food spot Stormie Monday's and the acclaimed Off the Bone BBQ. His background in both barbecue and soul food came in handy for Poppin' Fresh's twofold concept.
"The two go hand-in-hand," Mosley says. "Both are forms of comfort food — food that makes you feel like you’re home surrounded by friends and family. That's what we're going for here, food that makes you feel like you’re at home."