For months it’s seemed something has been happening in the Century Building in the ground-level space to the right. It turns out we’ll soon have a restaurant there, with a hoped for opening date of early December. Cholo Taqueria will be dedicated to two things: great tacos and great tequila. It’s a simple formula by design brought to you by some of the same investors who brought you Stock and Barrel with its beef and bourbon focus.
Chef Niko Angelos of Stock and Barrel will also take on those duties at the new restaurant, though the kitchen at both places reflects a group effort including his brother, Bill Angelos. The two are joined in this project by their brother Dino Angelos as well as Ben Austin. Bill said they had the idea in mind since they opened Stock and Barrel over two years ago. This specific space has been leased for a year as the group has worked through the challenges – like installing a large oven hood and a large grease interceptor – of converting a space in a 130-year-0ld building to a restaurant.
It’s the conversation about the food that gets the group most excited. They will take most food products directly from the source to your table themselves. Ben’s family owns a 1200 acre farm in Grainger County which will be a first source for much of the food. The tortillas will be made from corn – not flour – so they will be gluten-free.
Additionally, the group will make their own masa directly from the corn, starting with a process called nixtamelization in which the corn is soaked in an alkaline solution making it both more easily ground, but also increasing its nutritional value. There is only one other restaurant they’ve found (in Charleston) that is doing this entire process through to their tortillas. Bill noted that they, “want the tortilla to be party of the culinary experience,” not simply a structure to hold contents.
Much of those contents will be sourced from Ben’s family’s farm, including meat from pigs, lambs and goats. They will also source meat from other area farms, but stress that all their meat will be taken from animals they select, not ordered from a slaughterhouse. They also emphasize that they are part of a growing trend to attempt to utilize as many parts of each animal as possible, such as skin and bones. Niko called it, “nose to tail.” They will make their own chorizo.
They intend to use as much local produce as possible when it is available and even mentioned the possibility of greenhouse farming in the future to have a year-round supply of local, fresh vegetables. While the tacos will be offered in beef, pork, lamb and even wild game varieties, including bison and elk, they also made the point that they will definitely have vegetarian options. All tacos will be a la carte, meaning patrons buy one (around $3 -$4) or as many as they like and may mix and match the different types of which they plan to have around a dozen. The queso and guacamole will be homemade.
Similarly to their approach to bourbon at Stock and Barrel, their focus on Tequila will be to provide a large selection of excellent tequila at a range of price-points. Bill pointed out that tequila is for more than just taking shots in college, noting that there are many fine tequilas and mezcals of which many people are unaware. They’ll offer flights and a wide range of tequila-based craft cocktails. The cocktails will rotate based on seasons, featuring fresh juices and berries.
A bar is currently under construction toward the front of the space. The restaurant will be significantly wider and larger than Stock and Barrel, offering the opportunity to have booth seating along with traditional tables. Outside seating will be available and a back room, featuring large communal tables, will be available for larger groups of people and it will be available for rental for small private events. The lighting is being imported from Mexico and is ornate, Moroccan in style. Katrinas are also being imported for decoration. The basic look, however, will be a similar rough-cut, industrial look similar to that at Stock and Barrel.
They are proud of the business and the loyalty they’ve built at Stock and Barrel and want to replicate that in the new restaurant. They are proud to point out that most of the original kitchen staff, bartenders and wait staff have remained the same from the beginning at Stock and Barrel. They want the new place to be a place where the workers are happy and people enjoy meeting friends, laughing and having a good time.
Plans call for opening at the beginning of December – about six weeks from now. The restaurant will be open every day for lunch and for dinner and while hours aren’t completely set, the indication is that it will be open until about 10:00 PM on weekdays and 11:00 PM on weekends. Noting that sometimes patrons leave shows at one of the theaters late and want something to eat, they laughed and pointed out they will continue to serve as long as people continue to enter.