Barbecue impresarios Shane and Catherine Stiles gave the Posse a sneak peek recently of their new place — The Switch — which they will be opening on Friday June 22, located just off Highway 290 near Dripping Springs.
Their original place, Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew in Austin, is one of the best joints in the state. Catherine Stiles, of course, has made her own reputation with her Web site, Barbecue Wife, and her drink mixes.
Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins and I were impressed with what we saw during our tour. The Switch, we think, will set a new standard for Texas barbecue restaurants. Don’t even think about using the term “joint” — as in barbecue joint — in reference to The Switch. It doesn’t fit.
Where to begin to describe the place, which has been in planning for a couple years?
— It could be with the impressive post oak wood floors throughout. “It makes for great floors,” Shane Stiles said of the wood.
— Or, the four giant Moberg smokers in the pit room, which has a 55-inch Samsung flat screen TV on one wall. “The guys begged me to have a TV in the pit room, so I put one in there,” Stiles said. “Anything you can do to make their lives better is good.”
— Or, the framed Wyatt McSpadden barbecue photos on the walls and the McSpadden photos transformed into wallpaper in a few areas. Beautiful.
— Or, the window on the sausage room where customers will be able to watch meat preparation and actual sausage making as they stand in line waiting to order. “There will probably be prep work going on 24/7 at this place,” Stiles said. “We’ll make sausage for our other place, too.”
— Or, the big bull — smoking a pipe — over the entrance.
— Or, the huge bar in the middle of the dining area with high end Sinker Cypress wood for the counter. During a decade on the barbecue trail, the Posse rates the bar at Lambert’s in Austin as the best it has encountered in a barbecue place. The bar at The Switch will be a strong rival.
At 6,200 square feet, not including the patio and pit room, The Switch will be roughly twice the size of Stiles Switch BBQ. The new place will have seating for 250 and will employ about 65, Stiles said, again roughly twice the numbers for Stiles Switch. A portion of the main dining room can be closed off — with a separate bar — for private parties.
With the bar emphasis, Stiles hopes to increase alcohol sales as a percentage of overall revenue. At Stiles Switch, he said, alcohol accounts for about four percent of sales. He hopes to hit 18 percent or so at The Switch.
One difference in the operations: Instead of watching their orders cut, as they do at Stiles Switch, customers at The Switch will order and take a seat. Their food will be delivered to their tables. The Switch also plans to offer some Cajun specialities in addition to traditional barbecue. And there will also be salads. “We’re trying to make it a place where women want to come,” Stiles said.
In the beginning, The Switch will be open Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Mondays.
With 32,000 cars a day passing on nearby Highway 290, Stiles is optimistic about business prospects. The goal within the first year, he said, is to generate 500 or so customer tickets a day. A ticket could represent one diner or several. “Eventually, we’d like to get that up to 1,000,” Stiles said.
At a couple points in our preview of The Switch, I asked Stiles if he was trying to achieve an overall mood or feel in its design.
“Just fun,” he said when we were in the pit room.
Later, he said: “A place where I feel comfortable.”
From our early look, we’d say mission accomplished.
The Switch, Beltera Village, 166 Hargraves Drive Suite, Austin. Open Tues-Thurs 11am-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10:30pm & Sun 10am-9:30pm. Website: https://www.theswitchdripping.com