Pflugerville chef looks to have broad appeal

John Tomlinson, the owner of Johnny T's BBQ in Pflugerville, said he has known he wanted to run his own restaurant since he was a child.

Tomlinson said his drive to become a restaurateur started with his grandfather, who bought a steakhouse when Tomlinson was 3 years old. Tomlinson said the steakhouse, which also had an old-fashioned butcher shop, was his favorite place to be.

"Just being in it was magical; it was like being in a toy store," he said. "I've wanted my own restaurant ever since."

After working at nearly a dozen restaurants and attending the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin, Tomlinson became head chef at Main Street Grill. He said he decided to make the leap from chef to restaurant owner after he noticed a failing restaurant off RR 620 near his house in Round Rock.

"It was kind of a bold decision," he said. "It was mainly that I was just cocky and thought I could do better."

Although he had a background in fine dining, Tomlinson said he decided to open Johnny T's BBQ because the building had housed a barbecue restaurant since the '90s. He also liked that barbecue appealed to a wide range of people.

"I was wanting something that had a broader audience than fine dining," he said.

Johnny T's BBQ stayed in its Round Rock location for seven years. In July, Tomlinson relocated his restaurant to Pflugerville after his Round Rock landlord decided to repurpose the building that previously housed his restaurant.

Tomlinson said he chose the Pflugerville location off FM 685 because no other barbecue restaurants were nearby.

"There was a void in this area," he said. "There has been a great reception in the community."

Meanwhile, Tomlinson said he hopes to reopen a Johnny T's BBQ in Round Rock next year.

"I've lived and worked in Round Rock since 2000; I do miss being in that market over there," he said. "I've built so many relationships with people over there; we'd like to get back."

Barbecue and Sauce

Johnny T's BBQ owner John Tomlinson said he slow-smokes the restaurant's brisket and pulled pork for about 16 hours on a grill with oak wood.

The other meat options such as St. Louis ribs, chicken breast and turkey breast are also grilled with the oak wood.

Johnny T's BBQ sauce options include a spicy, Texas-style sauce with chipotle peppers and black pepper; a North Carolina sauce with apple cider vinegar and red pepper flakes; and a slightly sweet sauce made with brown sugar.

The sides

Tomlinson said he takes the sides seriously.

Three of the most popular sides are:

The Tamale Potato Casserole, which blends mashed potatoes and pork tamales, is layered with sour cream and cheese.

The green beans are flash-fried with onions, red bell peppers and Texas sea salt.

The pinto beans are seasoned like chili, blended with onions and contain bits of brisket.


Tomlinson said he can cater events for 20 to 600-plus people.

The catering options include a two-meat or three-meat barbecue buffet, which comes with three sides, sauce, and eating and serving utensils. The two-meat barbecue buffet costs less than $10 per person, and the three-meat buffet costs less than $12 per person.

"We try to keep our prices as competitive as we can," he said.

Tomlinson said he also offers a fine-dining option different from the barbecue buffet.

1202 FM 685, Ste. B5-B6, 512-852-1535,, 11 a.m.–9 p.m., daily.