PLANT CITY — Mike "Uncle Mike" Tolley is home again, and so, too, are his St. Louis pork ribs, half-pound Angus burgers and dance-instructor wife, Simone.
The Tolleys last week signed a lease to open an Uncle Mike's Smokehouse Grill at State Road 60 and James L. Redman Parkway, the site of the former Cowboy's Steakhouse and Saloon.
"To be in our back yard and be around a lot of the people we've developed relationships with over the years, and to have a restaurant there, it really means a lot to us," he said.
The opening, set for Aug. 8, represents the second restaurant for Tolley and marks a homecoming for the 46-year-old Plant City resident.
Tolley managed the steakhouse until a couple of years ago when he parted ways with partner Donald W. Mitchell Jr. He won't elaborate on the split, except to say that it led him to open Uncle Mike's in Brandon at 9847 E Adamo Drive.
Tolley, a 20-year restaurant industry veteran, runs the business with his wife, a former Buccaneers cheerleader. While Tolley focuses on the food and beverage side, Simone oversees marketing and teaches line dancing. They both tend to the customers.
Situated behind a Harley-Davidson dealership, the restaurant has become a hot spot for motorcycle enthusiasts and country music fans. Tolley says he's hoping to bring the same energy, decor and menu to the Plant City location, including his signature boneless short-rib sandwich.
"Everything will be the same," he said. "The only difference is it will be more family-oriented."
The new place will be larger, too. The current Uncle Mike's is 2,000 square feet under roof. It sits next to a koi-stocked pond. The new site, shrouded by mature oaks, is 8,000 square feet and comes with a 2,200-square-foot pavilion for events and concerts.
An 11,000-square-foot store, formerly known as Cowboys World, sits next door, and behind that are two cabins accessible by a covered bridge. All of the structures feature log-construction. The restaurant and store, both painted red, include wrap-around porches.
Tolley said he plans to invest about $120,000 in the business. So far, he has no plans to lease the store or either cabin.
"I'd like to tackle one thing at a time," he said. "There are a few people looking at it. It's a beautiful building and could be used for a lot of things."
Property manager Reed Fischbach said the steakhouse and store closed in mid 2012 after about two years. GH Summerfield LLC acquired the site in 2007.
Rich Shopes can be reached at (813) 661-2454.