Date: August 26, 2014 | Story: Tiffany Burgess Adams | Styling: Mandy Keener |
As they prepare to open the doors of Heights Taco & Tamale Company, the culinary geniuses behind the brand give us a glimpse into the test kitchen where a bevy of soon-to-be-well-loved recipes are under development
“Mexican food is in my blood,” says Scott McGehee, executive chef of Yellow Rocket Concepts and one of four owners of the group’s newest venture, Heights Taco & Tamale Company. “I was raised eating at Browning’s [the restaurant that previously occupied Heights Taco & Tamale Company’s soon-to-open space], so the whole experience is very meaningful to me,” he adds. McGehee had two overarching thoughts when the opportunity to open a restaurant in the historic Heights location presented itself: “First, I thought that doing anything other than Tex-Mex would be a disservice. Second, we really wanted to do something unexpected—just as Browning’s did with their original Tex-Mex concept when they opened their doors in 1946,” McGehee says. He also notes that the menu will differ from the coastal-inspired fare at Local Lime, one of Yellow Rocket Concepts’ three other ventures, which also include Central Arkansas’ ZAZA and Big Orange.
On this particular day, McGehee and chef Ben Brainard, who along with John Beachboard and Russ McDonough comprise the restaurant’s four partners, were working to perfect a few much-anticipated menu items, including Delta-style, pulled-pork tamales, Arkansas heirloom tomato pico de gallo, and a Paloma cocktail for those stopping in to visit the bar. Each dish has a strong, Deep-South-meets-Texas-meets-Little Rock flair. Brand Manager and Marketing Director Amber Brewer promises the restaurant’s fully renovated space will have a similar vibe, making it a casual, comfortable place to drop in for lunch or dinner. Heights Taco & Tamale Company is set to open later this fall.
Celebrating a Classic
After the initial opening of Heights Taco & Tamale Company, McGehee plans to host monthly Browning’s throwback nights where the landmark restaurant’s most celebrated dishes will be served. “We aren’t including these on our regular menu, but I want to pay homage to the institution and give people a chance to experience that menu,” McGehee says.
Try the Recipes
While the chefs hadn’t settled on the exact resturant menu the day of our shoot, they are allowing us to share recipes from the test kitchen with you before Heights Taco & Tamale Company opens its doors. Follow the At Home in Arkansas blog throughout the month of September to find the recipes for the pulled- pork tamales, Arkansas heirloom tomato pico de gallo, and Paloma cocktail.
Special thanks to Kim & Russ McDonough for the use of their home for this recipe development party and to Tipton + Hurst for the succulent floral arrangements on the table.