Before J.R.’s, Jonny Ragland had Gator’s Bayou.Now, Ragland’s long-gone Cajun drinkery will return on Texas 121 in Colleyville, this time as a full New Orleans restaurant in place of his newer J.R.’s Grill. Gator’s will replace a J.R.’s casual concept, which never quite gained its independence from the popular original J.R.’s Steakhouse. The two J.R.’s will be combined at the original location.“We wanted to try the grill concept, and now we’re moving forward with prime steaks and the best of both menus,” said nine-year chef Todd Phillips.The new hybrid will be named J.R.’s Steakhouse & Grill, featuring prime steaks, fresh seafood and casual dining in a remodeled steakhouse with a patio and — for the first time — a smoke-free dining room and bar.The new Gator’s location gives Ragland and Phillips two concepts instead of two sometimes similar grills.“We were doing the same thing over and over, and we wanted to add something new,” Phillips said.He’s a former chef at a Ritz-Carlton Florida resort, so he knows plenty of shrimp recipes and will add his own winning gumbo and étouffée dishes. The only Cajun restaurant nearby is Pappadeaux. Until a few years ago, the Airport Freeway supported a Razzoo’s and R.J. Gator’s, both gone, and the original Gator’s Bayou in Euless.J.R.’s Steakhouse, 5400 Texas 121, remains open the next week for dinner only weeknights and Saturday nights, then closes March 10 for two weeks’ changeover into the steakhouse and grill; 817-355-1414, jrssteaks.com.J.R’s Grill, 5220 Texas 121, is open for lunch and dinner through March 23, or whenever the steakhouse reopens. Then it’ll close for remodeling by mid-April to Gator’s; 817-571-1414, jrsgrill.net.• Meanwhile, Salsa Fuego is splitting into two restaurants. Carlos Rodriguez’s innovative west Fort Worth restaurant will move into its new home a block north by midsummer, becoming Salsa Fuego Mexican Cuisine.The current location will become Fuego Burger, specializing in Rodriguez’s extra-large burgers with guacamole, jalapeños or other toppings on sweet sourdough buns.Salsa Fuego is open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays at 3520 Alta Mere Drive (Texas 183) at the Benbrook Traffic Circle; 817-560-7888, salsafuegofw.com.• If you’re not tuning into the Eats Beat weekly podcast, you’re missing more good talk about the highs and lows of local dining.This week’s podcast is a special, longer edition featuring two restaurateurs who talk and tweet about local dining, their own restaurants, and sometimes about other restaurants. Jesús García of Texas Monthly Top-10-of-2013 Little Lilly Sushi and Gino Rojas of Michoacan-inspired Revolver Taco Lounge are special guests.Look for “Eats Beat” at iTunes.com.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Wednesdays in Life & Arts and Fridays in DFW.com. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @EatsBeat