It's been three years since fire razed the original Bluebonnet Barbecue in Collingwood. Now, after short-lived residencies at the John Curtin Hotel and the North Fitzroy Star, Bluebonnet owner and pitmaster Chris Terlikar finally has a permanent home for his American-style low-and-slow barbecue in Brunswick East.
"It feels pretty damn good," says Terlikar. "We've signed a 20-year lease, so we're not going anywhere for a while."
He's taken over the site that once housed Luxor Lounge on Lygon Street. "It was a really odd place when we got it, but it had great bones," he says. With the help of construction firm Four by Two, Terlikar has turned the former hookah bar into a restaurant with capacity for 170.
It's built around a huge central dining room, split into two areas by an existing archway. As well as tables, the back half also houses the open kitchen, complete with a $30,000 Ole Hickory wood-fired rotisserie smoker.
More space means more room to play around with the menu. "We want to expand on just barbecue and sides," says Terlikar, "so we're also doing some reverse-seared steaks, a bone-in pork loin with crackling and a one-kilo tomahawk steak." More new dishes are planned.
Drinks are also a focus. Served from the front bar, which has been built from repurposed railway sleepers, the cocktail menu features a range of classics, seasonal and signatures, including one mixed with Grey Goose vodka, olive and a house-made apricot and leek soda. For beers, there's everything from Furphy to Sailor's Grave, and a sharp collection of wines.
Still to come is a pool table, butcher's doors under the archway, and there's potential to turn an upstairs floor into an additional dining room if required.
Open Mon-Sat noon-1am; Sun noon-11pm.
124-126 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, 03 9972 1815, bluebonnetbbq.com.au