Arts & Entertainment

Irving, the new Deep Ellum? Suburb wants to lure locals with live music around the clock

Toyota Music Factory, as the name suggests, is big on concerts. Since opening last fall, musicians such as ZZ Top, Harry Styles and the Roots have graced a stage that anchors the Irving entertainment complex.

But with the number of bars and restaurants expected to open there in the coming months, could the Music Factory's focus shift away from music? Not a chance.

In fact, the area is doubling down on its musical mission with the opening of Big Beat Dallas, a network of five new bars and restaurants where experiences are almost always set to a melody.

Think of it as though a little slice of Deep Ellum nestled its way into the suburbs.

"Music is a big component to what we've always done," says Billy Bob Barnett, one of the owners. Country music fans might recognize his name from Fort Worth's best-known honky-tonk, Billy Bob's Texas. (Barnett is no longer affiliated with the venue.) Since many of the individual restaurants at Big Beat Dallas have small stages, a trip there means seeing more than just one show, Barnett says — most times for free.

"I can see some blues, I can see some jazz, some country," Barnett says of the venue, which is expected to open in March. "And I can go into where the DJs are playing and have a whole experience while I'm shopping and eating."

And it doesn't matter which day you decide to visit, Barnett adds. Big Beat Dallas plans to host live music every day it's open. The 90,000-square-foot addition revolves around the outdoor Texas Lottery Plaza, which has two built-in stages where artists will perform Monday through Friday beginning at 3 p.m., and evenings throughout the week. Patrons can post up there, or grab a bite at one of the restaurants, which will serve cuisine ranging from tacos and burgers to barbecue, Southern cooking and upscale international fare.

Thirsty? All the concepts under Big Beat Dallas share a liquor license, so you can grab a drink from one place and bring it with you to another, including the outdoor plaza. In addition to concerts, the area plans to host daily artisan markets, fashion shows and themed weekends that pair a genre of music with food and drinks.

Organizers want to host free outdoor concerts at Big Beat Dallas every Monday night with bands beyond local and regional offerings, says marketing director Jake Thompson. The goal is to offer Irving residents and business travelers coming through DFW International Airport reasons to spend their time (and money) in the local community, he says.

To that end, Big Beat Dallas' ambition seems to be competing with the music scene in Big D and luring suburbanites away from hot spots in Deep Ellum as well as the House of Blues and Granada Theater. Whether there's demand for live music 'round the clock in Irving remains to be seen, but there's no doubt Live Nation, which brings acts to the Music Factory, will help introduce the area to ideal customers.

Big Beat Dallas is still very much under construction, but here's what you can expect when it opens in March:

  • Texas Jam House, a 24-hour diner serving Southern plates in a rustic atmosphere. The enclosed patio, or "porch" as owners call it, faces the plaza where musicians will perform. Windows can transform it in open-air space.
  • Bar Manzanilla, a tacos-and-tequila joint with a small stage for DJs to play.
  • Martini Ranch, a "little bit of Vegas brought to Dallas," as Thompson explains. The nightclub has an elevated dance floor, DJ booth and patio overlooking the plaza. Drinkers can expect cocktails and bottle service.
  • Texas C-Bar, where the "c" stands for "cigars." Patrons can grab a drink in the Scotch lounge and take it the cigar patio that overlooks the plaza. Or sit in the adjacent dining room where the menu features cheffy plates to pair with dozens of wines. It's expected to be one of the more upscale establishments.
  • Highway 61 South, a blues bar specializing in burgers and barbecue.

Visitors can also do some shopping at BB's Marketplace, a retail store selling Lone Star State-inspired items such as jams, leather goods, salsas, T-shirts and more. According to a statement, Big Beat Dallas will also have two outdoor bars on the Texas Lottery Plaza serving beer, cocktails and frozen margaritas during shows.

Stay tuned for details of a grand opening celebration that will include — you guessed it! — live music.

Alejandro Escovedo, right, performs with his band at Toyota Music Factory in Irving. The...
Alejandro Escovedo, right, performs with his band at Toyota Music Factory in Irving. The entertainment complex is doubling down on live music with the opening of Big Beat Dallas, a network of five bars and restaurants that each have a stage. (Jason Janik / Special contributor)
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