The Bashful Bandit has far fewer bras hanging from its ceiling these days.

None, actually.

The neon signage and pool tables with faded green felt, where many a biker found themselves stuck behind the eight ball, are mere memories at this point, giving way to communal tables for family dining and a front counter for ordering chile relleno sausages, green chile pulled pork and a healthy selection of other meat-driven dishes.

Now called Bashful Bandit Barbecue, at 3686 E. Speedway, the space’s new owner, Toby Kyte, has traded in its rough-and-tumble reputation for Arizona-inspired barbecue.

Kyte is a Tucson native. He was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The Bandit was a rite of passage for him growing up.

“It was one of those places that I snuck into on a dare,” Kyte said. “I had my brother’s fake I.D. I thought it was going to be really rough and everyone was going to be mean. They ended up being really nice.”

It wasn’t until Kyte lived out of state, as a student at Texas A&M, where his interest in barbecue, and making barbecue in spaces like the Bashful Bandit, began taking shape.

Kyte’s professional background is in industrial psychology, but learning about how barbecue was made in Texas became a second education for him.

“They are pretty serious about it,” Kyte said.

One of the things that Kyte appreciated about Texas’ barbecue scene, besides the slabs of mesquite-smoked meats meant to fill bellies and make mouths water, was the atmosphere.

“These old-school barbecue places had open pits, where you would walk by and say, ‘Holy cow, you can see them actually cooking.'”

Places like Snow’s BBQ, a back-to-basics, backyard barbecue joint in Lexington, Texas, a town with a population of roughly 1,200, halfway between Austin and College Station, appealed to Kyte.

“The old buildings and the old divey places that had great barbecue, I kind of fell in love with,” Kyte said. “It’s an experience as compared to just what’s on your plate.”

Kyte wanted to recreate that experience here in Tucson when he returned in 2015, but with an Arizona twist.

“I didnt just want to open a Texas barbecue place,” said Kyte, whose family owns the Bisbee Breakfast Club brand. “I wanted to open my own thing. I said, ‘Lets try to get some of those flavors in barbecue and make it a Tucson thing.'”

When a friend mentioned that the Bashful Bandit was up for sale in 2021, Kyte was all in.

“The history of the bandit, the roughness of it, is kind of what we were trying to do,” he said.

Fast forward to 2023, following a complete redo of the building, and Bashful Bandit Barbecue is ready for its official opening this Wednesday, Dec. 27.

A soft opening last week saw folks lined up to try plates of chile relleno sausages, smoked chicken, pork ribs, green chile pulled pork and prime brisket with mole barbecue sauce.

Kyte said the secret is in his staff, folks like pit master Jesse Aguirre and kitchen manager Ivor Cryderman.

“I would try to make some things, me not being a chef but being pretty good at barbecue,” Kyte said. “I would tell Ivor what I was trying to do. He would say, ‘Let me show you how to do that,’ make a recipe, then bust it out.”

While the restaurant is a far cry from its previous incarnation, elements of the old Bandit remain. Motorcycle fuel tanks still sit among the bottles of liquor at the bar. A large Bashful Bandit Western scene that once hung behind the stage, now decorates the southern wall.

As for the bras, given up willingly by female customers back in the day and hung up in the rafters like the ties at Pinnacle Peak, most were donated to a local women’s shelter, Kyte said.

“I kept a few that had some famous folks’ signatures on them,” Kyte said. “I am going to find a place for those.”