Your first clue that Redheaded Stranger is no ordinary taco is perched on a corner bar stool. He’s a giant stuffed giraffe with braided pigtails and a T-shirt that reads “NO FUCKIN’ CHIPS,” and his name is Willie, in honor of Mr. Nelson, of course.
Your second clue is that for years the not-so-secret order here was the Crunchwrap. “My mom’s favorite restaurant is Taco Bell, so I grew up eating a lot of (Crunchwrap Supremes),” says chef Bryan Lee Weaver. The restaurant initially kept it off the official menu out of quiet fear of litigation.
“We held it as a special and it sold like crazy, so we kept doing it.” Unlike the fast food iteration, the Redheaded Stranger versions include toppings like homemade green chili pork and whipped feta cheese.
When Bryan Lee Weaver and Michael Shemtov opened the restaurant in 2019, they made the decision to make all their own flour tortillas, which meant there would be no corn-based leftovers to make tortillas. . Thus, “NO FUCKIN’ CHIPS” shirts are worn by both employees and mascots.
Weaver, originally from Texas, is fussy about some of the foods he grew up on, but he’s not all about authenticity. Since this is a fries-free zone, he swaps tortillas for tater tots in his nachos — the perfect sheet for queso, pickled onions, chili peppers, and a spicy, tangy mountain of other toppings.
Despite the irreverent and wandering vibes, Redheaded Strangers whips up some sneakily serious food, much of it hard to find elsewhere in Nashville. For example, Weaver is particularly proud of the traditional chili roasts he tosses in the restaurant parking lot.
Hatch chiles are an integral part of New Mexican cuisine rarely seen far from home. Every year, residents from Albuquerque to Santa Fe celebrate this highly seasonal delicacy by roasting over 150 million pounds of hatching peppers in steel drums.
While Hatching Chilies are only available a few months out of the year, other top tier ingredients are constantly on the menu. For example, these warm flour tortillas are often filled with local beef brisket that has been smoked for 12-13 hours.
“It’s a long day,” Weaver says of his commitment to smoking meat out back, even in Nashville’s blisteringly hot summer. “We get all our beef from Bear Creek Farm, about 45 minutes away. It’s really good, but they only have a limited number of breasts, so when we came out, we came out. You heard the man.