a selection of dishes at original j's tex-mex barbecue photo by michelle volansky

First Look: Original J’s Tex-Mex Barbecue in Clayton

Original J’s Tex-Mex Barbecue
, the new spot from restaurateurs Liz and Mike Randolph, opened well under the radar on Monday, Nov. 25, at 7539 Forsyth in Clayton. Original J’s debuted with abbreviated hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., which will last through the weekend.

“We wanted to get our sea legs before we started dinner service,” said Liz Randolph. She said regular hours, which are still “under discussion,” are expected to kick off on Monday, Dec. 2.

As the name implies, Original J’s differentiates itself from the barbecue milieu by going in a Tex-Mex direction. Pulled pork nachos and tacos filled with barbacoa share menu space with barbecue standards like brisket and wings. As befits the kitchen of a James Beard Award nominee, there are a few elevated touches as well, like the dressed kale with cotija cheese and tomatoes with smoked mozzarella and lime vinaigrette on the sides list.

The restaurant exudes a small town Main Street vibe. From the table-top Ms. Pac Man to the blue-and-white checked table cloths to the rec room wood paneling, the space conjures up everyone’s favorite pizza place/diner/neighborhood greasy spoon, while the classic country tunes wafting through the speakers brings the Texas influence to bear. The décor – a mix of classic photos, ads, amateur oil paintings and a lone needlepoint duck – was collected by the Randolphs on the antique mall circuit.

“We had a lot of fun picking everything out,” Liz said. The result of their efforts is comforting, not kitschy, and hearkens back to places of a bygone era.

“The best compliment we get is when someone comes in and says, ‘How old is this place?” Mike said.

Here’s the latest addition to the St. Louis barbecue family.

Matt Sorrell is a staff writer at Sauce Magazine.