May 20, 2020 353 PM
MARFA — David Beebe arrived in Marfa in 2007. It would be years before he started Bad Hombres, but he had experience running music clubs in his hometown of Houston and wanted to try his luck on this side of the Pecos River.
At the time, Beebe was a 35-year-old musician who’d recently injured his vocal chords. He figured it to be “maybe the last time I’ll be able to jump off a cliff and see if I land.” And when he got an opportunity in Marfa, he thought, “Man, it sure would be cool to move out here for a couple years of my life.”
Beebe had come through Marfa a few times in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s and was “shocked” to find a small West Texas town with free shows on weeknights. He had been to the Big Bend as a kid and loved it. He always hoped he’d be back.
Under the circumstances, moving to Marfa felt like a relatively low-stakes adventure. “What do you have to lose?” he asked himself. “If it doesn’t work, you can just move back.”
But Beebe didn’t move back. Fast-forward 13 years and he has become equal parts town character and civic leader in Marfa, an affable man in pink-tinted glasses (“like old men wear”) and a red 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass sports car. He served first as a city council member (three terms from 2008 to 2014) and then as a justice of the peace (2015 to present).
The whole time, Beebe kept a toe — or perhaps a whole foot — in the bar, restaurant and nightlife scene. He ran Padre’s, a dive bar in the building of what is now The Sentinel. He started Boyz 2 Men, a raucous food truck that later morphed into Bad Hombres, a brick-and-mortar on U.S. Highway 90.
Hombres soon became a mainstay for locals and tourists alike. It has been a place to socialize, watch Astros games, eat cheap-and-tasty cheeseburgers and maybe even drink some pickle beers.
Now, those days are ending. In a social media post, Beebe said the restaurant is closing permanently at the end of May.
“We’ve had the best run any Boyz 2 Hombres could have had,” he wrote. Business during coronavirus has been “stable,” he explained, but there is a “long-standing problem with our lease.”
The news was met with sadness. “So sad,” The Lost Horse wrote, while The Marfa Line proclaimed it “such a loss” for the town. Another commenter just replied with seven crying-face emojis.
In an interview last week, Beebe said it’s bittersweet closing Bad Hombres but that it’s time for him to move on to other projects.
“Every dog has its day,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of other things to do.”
Beebe’s seen many changes since arriving as a musician 13 years ago. In the time since, he’s become a Marfa businessman and public official. Last year he married Hilary Scruggs, an architectural designer whom he’d met 10 years earlier. Beebe said the marriage also influenced his decision to close; he wants to focus on being a husband — not a line cook.
“When you get married,” he joked, “you need to see your spouse sometime.”
Beebe brushed aside the notion that he might reopen someday in a different place. Still, he stressed that running Boyz 2 Men and Hombres has been an “incredible reward.”
“It’s not the career I ever thought I would have,” he added, “but it turned into a part of my identity.”
He also dismissed another worry Marfans may be having — that the closure is linked in any way to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, he said he’d wanted to buy the lot and his landlord didn’t want to sell.
Beebe understood his decision, but he couldn’t justify paying rent while also paying for “major repairs.”
Hombres’ closure will leave Marfa with vanishingly few affordable restaurants. Excluding chains like Dairy Queen and Subway, there are now just a handful restaurants that offer meals for $10 or less.
Last year, The Big Bend Sentinel reported on the closure of Mando’s, a longtime Marfa establishment. And like Mando’s, Bad Hombres isn’t just a restaurant — it has been a place for locals to congregate, socialize and catch up.
“Hombres was a place you could go by yourself and know that any number of locals might already be there having a bite or watching a good game,” said Cody Barber, a Marfa resident and Hombres regular. “Beebe had a way of sharing not only the food, but the meeting ground that made everybody feel at home.”
Barber stressed that Beebe would still be around in Marfa and that “it’ll be exciting to see his future involvement in the community.” But he sees the closure as part of a larger trend in Marfa, compounded by the coronavirus crisis, that’s making the town a pricier and more difficult place for small businesses to operate.
Beebe arrived in Marfa almost by chance — and it was arguably chance that kept him here. Padre’s, which he opened in 2009, turned out to be a “boondoggle” and a “total disaster,” he said.
“The roof started falling in on us,” he said. “The power used to go out two or three times a week. The internet barely worked. Deliveries were hard to get.”
Collapsing roofs and a shoddy power connections were hardly his only worries, though. “I got picked on by the city when I first got here,” he said. “They didn’t like that I was renovating a funeral home into a bar.”
Partly in an effort to stand up for himself, Beebe ran for city council, taking office in 2008. He won, he says, by just two votes.
While the situation at Padre’s might have pushed him to leave Marfa, his new job in public service kept him around.
“I would never be that disrespectful,” he said of the prospect of leaving mid-term. He knew that “whether I stay or leave, I’m not going to leave until I’m done with what I promised the people.” That put him in Marfa for at least “the next nine or 10 months.”
Searching for another opportunity to keep him afloat, he gathered his savings and borrowed some money to buy an Airstream in Lubbock — a trailer that later became Boyz 2 Men. It turned out to be a defining moment for Beebe, and he soon abandoned Padre’s.
After leaving Padre’s in 2012, “everything was so much better for me,” he said. Boyz 2 Men opened the same year as a taco truck.
And while Beebe sold food out of his truck, he often cooked at the current Hombres building. He shared it with Adam Bork — a college friend who ran the Museum of Electronic Wonders & Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlour out of the building. (Bork also runs Food Shark.)
David Garcia, a local who used to work for Beebe, remembered the time as a “great era.”
“Anything involving Beebe from that era is pretty f—ing notable and funny,” he said. “I just had a great time working for the guy.”
Beebe first hired Garcia as a doorman at Padre’s “based on my attitude or whatever,” Garcia recalled, laughing. Later, Beebe “forced me to do sound.” And when Garcia told him he didn’t know how to work sound, Beebe “just threw me into the deep end.”
At Boyz 2 Men, Garcia recalled, “we’d often drink one too many Lone Stars” and would regularly perform a dance to “Cupid Shuffle.”
“It’s this R&B/rap song,” Garcia explained. “Every time the song would randomly come up — it didn’t matter how many people were there — we’d run outside, we’d suspend everything we were doing, and we would perform a line dance.”
To capture the halcyon days of Boyz 2 Men, Garcia pointed to early Yelp reviews — where tourists apparently reacted with a mix of fury and delight at the off-beat food truck.
A visitor from Minneapolis opined that while “they aren’t the nicest guys,” the tacos were “damned good.” Another visitor from Houston said she “did not appreciate” the food truck’s “sass.” She added, “When asked for my name on the order, the server kept repeating it wrong on purpose.”
“Service is definitely full of sass,” a visitor from Dallas concurred. She called the brisket tacos “a must” and gave it five stars.
Barber, who ate at Boyz 2 Men before becoming a regular at Hombres, remembered those days similarly. “There was this kind of weird Jamaican thing going on,” he said.
“All the different ways that Beebe would present his menus were often confusing to anybody but a local,” he added. “That was kind of a way to have fun with tourism, I think.”
Beebe agreed the original Boyz 2 Men was at times polarizing. “There were people who really didn’t like it, but whatever,” he added. “I mean, come on: it’s a white Airstream that’s called ‘Boyz 2 Men.’ I don’t know what you expect.”
Reflecting back on the Boyz 2 Men ethos, Beebe riffed off a familiar saying in the restaurant industry: that the customer’s always right. On the contrary, “the customer’s almost always wrong,” he said. “And maybe someone needs to go ahead and tell them that.”
In 2016, Bork, the cook/artist behind the Grilled Cheese Parlour and Food Shark, told Beebe he was moving out of the Hombres building. Beebe didn’t want to pay rent on both, so he decided to move in full time.
Over the years, Beebe said, the atmosphere at the restaurant mellowed out. He attributed that to a couple factors, including getting older (he’s 48 now) and to losing the stress of working in a food truck that was scorching in the summers and freezing in the winters.
“By the time the day was over,” he recalled of the food truck era, “it was like you’d gotten in a fist fight.”
But Hombres stayed a popular hangout, a place where locals could see each other and visitors could get a taste of Marfa life. Beebe eventually got a Direct TV subscription, so he could play Astros games. He later even set up an online presence — www.hombresmarfa.com — where people could place food orders and pick up swag.
Now, those days are ending. By losing Hombres, Marfa is losing “an experience,” said Garcia, the former employee.
“David Beebe’s such a character,” he said. He thinks Hombres is a “really fun environment” and a “nice respite from the more austere environments created by more serious restaurants.”
Hilary Scruggs Beebe recently started doing a pop-up dinner, Jackie Pepper’s Thai Night, out of Hombres. In an interview this week, she was getting ready for the last one before the closure.
She was excited for the menu, which she said included some final specials. She’d have two curries instead of one, and she’d even talked Beebe into sharing some of his signature brisket, which she was planning to put on pad thai.
Hilary was open to the idea of someday opening another restaurant. “I’m a little bit more of a novice,” she said. “I’m more enthused and amused by the novelty of it.” She thinks that “once we can kind of settle down and settle in, it might be something we could bring back.”
For now, though, she said the closure is about “making the transitions we need to make to move forward with our lives.”
“It’s been a really fun thing,” she said. “I think we’re going out on a high note. We’re feeling really good.”