Irving Harrell is the type of guy who could make friends with al Qaeda. Meaning that, to him, strangers are not strangers but people he hasn't charmed yet. He's the guy who greets friends with patient hugs or fist daps and who's got a story for everything. Like the one about how his family, most of them expats from southern Louisiana, came to open a Southern-food restaurant in Summerlin:
"It's really funny," he begins, telling an unfunny story about tragedy.
Displaced by Hurricane Katrina, a contingent of relatives moved into a house he and his wife Sharon owned in the northwest part of town. With them came time-honored family recipes for everything from potato salad to barbecue sauce.
"We used to drive around looking for something to eat, so inevitably we wound up going to the grocery store and coming home to cook," Harrell says. "My relatives loved cooking, and I loved their food so much that I told them if they cooked, they could stay for free. When I mentioned that we should open a restaurant, everyone looked at me crazy."
Tucked within a shopping center on Desert Inn just east of Durango, T.C.'s is, in a word, quaint. Food is served on plastic plates and eaten with plastic utensils. For the main décor, family photos have been hung on the walls-Harrell's parents with Sammy Davis Jr., his sister with Bill Cosby, a niece with Tupac Shakur and, of course, "the cutest baby boy the world has ever seen." That'd be Harrell.
Each meal here, particularly the side dishes, is a story in and of itself.
"Everybody thinks they can cook," says Sharon Harrell, Irving's wife and daughter of the T.C. in T.C.'s Rib Crib.