Restaurants

Fort Worth’s 93-Year-Old Barbecue Institution Gets New Owners With Top 10 Clout — What to Expect at Old Bailey’s Bar-B-Que Now

Panther City BBQ Team Takes Over One of Fort Worth's Oldest Restaurants

BY // 02.21.24

One of Fort Worth’s oldest restaurants — 93-year-old Bailey’s Bar-B-Que — will be under new ownership as of March 1. The pit masters of Panther City BBQ Chris Magallanes and Ernest Morales, along with their newest partner (Chris’ brother Raymon Magallanes), will take over the historic barbecue spot. The plan is to embrace the best of the past with a few modern touches.

These Texas Monthly Top 10 barbecue masters (and Guinness Book World Record holders) don’t plan to change much at this local institution.

“I remember going to Bailey’s with my dad in the ’80s,” Chris Magallanes tells PaperCity Fort Worth. “We are barbecue history buffs — and plan to embrace the old-school flavors that are quickly disappearing across the state.”

This barbecue trio is purchasing Bailey’s Bar-B-Que from the current owner Tim Turner. For the first 30 days, Magallanes says it will continue to run as is, with all the current staff at Bailey’s staying put. The Panther City team plans to keep the meats simpler at Bailey’s (smoking less fancy cuts of meat) and the menu prices low.

Located in downtown Fort Worth at 826 Taylor Street, Bailey’s is the ultimate Fort Worth hole-in-the-wall. Little has changed since it was opened by J. T. Bailey in 1931. This tiny cinder block building with its red-painted facade has weathered everything from the Great Depression to COVID-19 and it’s still going strong. Downtown Fort Worth has quite literally grown up around Bailey’s Bar-B-Que over the past 93 years. It is dwarfed by the Federal Building that holds court just across the street.

Panther City BBQ co-owners Chris Magallanes and Ernest Morales, shown cooking at the Fort Worth Food Festival, are taking over Bailey's. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
Panther City BBQ co-owners Chris Magallanes and Ernest Morales, shown cooking at the Fort Worth Food Festival, are taking over Bailey’s. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)

This tiny barbecue joint does most of its business as takeout for good reason. It only has around six tables, seating a mere 18 people inside. A small patio, off to the side, does offer a couple of additional tables.

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Before Turner purchased the legendary barbecue joint, it had been run by J. T. Bailey’s grandniece Brenda Phifer for many years, who always said the secret to Bailey’s success was in the smoke. No need for fancy, proprietary spice blends or secret family recipe rubs, it’s all about the natural smokiness imparted by smoking with oak.

Like Bailey’s, Panther City BBQ smokes over post oak.

Bailey’s Bar-B-Que Changes?

Panther City plans to retain this rare time capsule with its well-worn wooden bar, complete with brass foot rails.

“From the register to the front door, everything is staying as is,” Magallanes says. “ We respect that history of Fort Worth. The tiny smoke pit has very old smokers that will need to be upgraded, but we will also be utilizing our Panther City smokehouse to add volume.” This is something Bailey’s never had before.

Bailey’s Barbecue – a sampler of Panther City BBQ’s amazing barbecue.
A sampler of Panther City BBQ’s amazing spread shows why its a Top 10 in the Texas barbecue spot.

“We plan to bring a more modern cooking style with handmade sides,” Magallanes tells PaperCity. “We’ll add a couple of our own side dishes to the current menu and are working to upgrade the classic sides at Bailey’s, embracing that old school flavor.”

Still, the sauce at Bailey’s will remain a spicy, vinegar-based style. It won’t be changed to Panther City sauce.

Bailey’s Bar-B-Que will continue to focus on lunch, being open from 11 am to 4 pm for now. Its new owners note that they might add breakfast in the coming months.

“We will be leveraging our social media presence as well,” Magallanes says. “Bailey’s never had much of that. And we are exploring the potential of box lunch delivery in the downtown area.”

As Fort Worth’s barbecue power continues to grow, Panther City sees the opportunity to embrace one of the most historic barbecue joints in North Texas, maintaining Bailey’s for future generations to enjoy.

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