Texas Roadhouse will open its first Bubba’s 33 locally on July 25 off Lewis and Clark Parkway — the same road on which the steakhouse chain opened its first store in 1993.

The Southern Indiana Bubba’s 33 is located at 4631 Medical Plaza Way in Clarksville, Ind. near Kentuckiana Medical Center.

Louisville-based Texas Roadhouse owns the Bubba’s 33 concept, a sports-focused restaurant with burgers, 12-inch and 16-inch pizzas, beer and televisions. People can sit in one of three sections — the family dining room, the bar or the outdoor patio. The restaurant will seat nearly 290 people.

“We are not a sports bar. We are a family sports restaurant,” said Tommy Harrell, marketing partner for Bubba’s 33. “It’s not a bar, but if people want that atmosphere, you get a choice as soon as you walk through those doors.”

The bar area is more lively, adult fun, Harrell said, where the televisions are packed in. It is connected by garage doors to the patio where there is added seating and a regulation corn hole is set up. There also are half-sized garage doors that can be opened to connect the bar to the dining room as well during later hours or when a big game is on.

Harrell repeatedly stated that Bubba’s will have a lively atmosphere with country and classic rock music videos also playing on the TVs.

“If you are fan of Texas Roadhouse, Bubba’s is Texas Roadhouse times 10. It’s in your face,” he said. “It’s just a fun, inviting atmosphere.”

Hanging over the bar and the center of the dining room is stage lighting with blue, green, red and yellow filters that will allow managers to change the lighting and ambiance.

“It gets a little dimmer in here,” Harrell said.“It just makes you feel good when you walk in here, and it gives you this vibe of VIP.”

The bar will have 18 beers on tap, including a beer called Bubba Dub, a red ale developed by Budweiser that will cost $3.

The food menu includes items like chicken with two types of bacon on it, chili-rubbed salmon with honey lime sauce, smoked chipotle wings, a spicy Habanero burger, Philly cheesesteak pizza, a pork tenderloin sandwich, shrimp po’boy and more. Most meals on the Bubba’s 33 menu cost $8 to $11 — less per person for pizzas — with the highest priced item being a 14-ounce ribeye steak and two sides for $19.

The restaurant is only open for dinner during the week. Its hours of operation run from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday through Sunday. Bubba’s 33 also offers online ordering and take-out.

Bubba’s is currently looking to hire up to 175 people. About 40 percent of the open positions are full-time.

Bubba’s 33 takes its name from 1933, the year prohibition ended, and the fact that they use 33 percent bacon grind in one of their burger patties. Bubba is founder Kent Taylor’s nickname.

Taylor takes a hands-on approach to his restaurants. As Harrell showed Insider Louisville around, Taylor was measuring different sections of the restaurant, testing out the booths and coordinating where the decorations should go.

At new restaurants, Taylor has management sit in the booths, asking if they are comfortable? Is the seat too close to the table? At the Bubba’s in Clarksville, he pointed out that one table was two inches too close to the wall.

“His attention to detail is incredible,” said Rod Jones, regional manager for Bubba’s 33.

The Clarksville Bubba’s will be only the 12th store for the small chain. However, executives see the concept’s potential to grow as large as its sister company Texas Roadhouse, which has more than 485 stores.

“We are are following the same footprint Texas Roadhouse set forth,” Harrell said.

Taylor in a conference call with analysts back in March 2015 noted that Bubba’s will offer Texas Roadhouse employees another avenue to move up. Harrell, for example, started as a server at Texas Roadhouse in Clarksville.

“We realize that the development of Bubba’s 33 is important not only for the long-term growth of the company, but also for the growth opportunities it brings to our people,” Taylor said.

The company currently is playing around with the size of Bubba’s 33 stores to see if they can cut their investment without affecting the restaurant’s profit margins. The Clarksville Bubba’s 33 is 1,500 square feet less than the early Bubba’s stores, which are closer to 9,000 square feet.

Having a Bubba’s 33 near HQ also will allow the company to play with the concept and test menu items close to home. Texas Roadhouse’s corporate headquarters is located off Dutchmans Lane in Louisville.

The Clarksville store will be Bubba’s first smaller location as well as its first with brick exterior. Other locations were made with similar cedar as Texas Roadhouse. The garage doors between the bar and dining room are also new to Bubba’s at this location. The type of music has changed comes from the early models.

The average Texas Roadhouse build-out that costs $4.7 million, and the average Bubba’s 33 location costs about $1 million more. But Bubba’s also turns a better profit because its food costs are lower and it sells more alcohol than Texas Roadhouse.

“We’re still trying to figure everything out,” Taylor said during a conference call with analysts in November. “We’re very pleased with the performance so far, but yet, a lot of the stores are not even six months old.”

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]