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Chicken fried steak at Killen's Barbecue—similar to the one now served every night at Killen's Barbecue.

Image: Kimberly Park

Yesterday, Killen's Barbecue served its first dinner. The plan was to begin offering steaks, too, but the torrential rains of the past two days prevented the radiant grill from making the trip from San Antonio. Perhaps it was the wet weather, but at 5 p.m., only a handful of customers filled seats. One table, by the side door to the patio, was host to owner Ronnie Killen. Recovering from a bout of the flu, he talked a mile a minute as usual, but with a gravelly voice and a bit less energy than is typical.

Still, he was excited for tonight. The grill arrived this morning and Killen is primed to begin cooking up ribeyes, strips and filet mignons. The steaks will be certified Angus beef, and will be priced between $20 and $24 with a choice of any two sides and Texas toast.

Though the meat isn't of the same world-class quality served at Killen's Steakhouse, the classically trained chef says he's found ways to make the beef optimally flavorful. The steaks will marinate for an hour, then receive a rub that contains a mix of several flavored peppers, chile powder and salt. "What expectations are people going to have of me doing a steak?" he wonders aloud. "It's not going to be Denny's. It's going to be a good steak." No surprise there.

Killen hasn't set regular dinner hours—as at his Houston restaurant, Killen's STQ, he'll serve food each evening until diners stop coming in or they run out of grub. In these early days of dinner service, barbecue will be available, of course, but also grilled pork chops and the enviable chicken fried steak that until now has only been available on Tuesday. Little by little, Killen will add more dishes, including his previously Sunday-only fried chicken, and some healthier options including smoked chicken salad. He's also toying with the idea of table service to go along with the new availability of wine.

And for diners not eager to make the drive from the inner city to Pearland, it might not be long before they have other options: Killen says he has "a year plan" in place for a location in or around the Heights. He's currently looking at three places, including one recently closed restaurant in the Washington Corridor. Any way you slice it, the Killen's empire is continuing to beef up. 

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