By ALLEN RAU
Many folks walking through downtown may have noticed activity around the building space that used to hold the “Courthouse Diner”.
Mary and Roger Sipple are bringing “A Taste of Texas” to 109 Courthouse Square within the next month. Mary’s daughter, Myra Cardenas, is also on the team alongside their marketing guru, Amber Waninger.
Their initial plan is to stay open from breakfast to dinner.
“We’re trying to shoot for the next couple of weeks (for the opening). Depending on if everything goes well,”
Cardenas said recently. “We’ve gotten all of our equipment in, we’re getting menus, social media, websites and vendors lined up.” Cardenas will be a chef and will design dish presentations while Mary Sipple will be head chef.
Mary Sipple has a long history in the restaurant business, having run three eateries in their home state of Texas before becoming a nurse and moving to Tennessee.
“I am from Texas. My husband and I met in Texas when he was in the Air Force. His family lives in Tennessee, so we decided one day to move up this way. That’s what brought us here.
“I ran restaurants before. My kids were little, and I got tired of it and decided to be a nurse. My kids have grown up and (Myra) wants to help now so we plan to do it again. I have a lot of support now. When I had the other ones it was just me and that was difficult to do.”
Mary Sipple drove from Morristown to the Veterans Assistance Hospital every day, an extra long commute, which led to the move to Jonesborough.
“We looked around the area and Jonesborough was just beautiful, I just loved it, the downtown historic feel. I wanted to find something around Jonesborough.”
Cardenas added that her mother was also drawn to the location by its history, and her love of all things antique.
“When we found this location she was like, ‘It’s my dream. It’s beautiful’. And we’re trying to keep that history. We are Tex-Mex and we do Mexican food, but we’re also trying to keep the integrity of downtown Jonesborough.”
The decision to stay open for dinner was assisted by folks who have walked by the building and requested they stay open for evening eats.
“We are considering different hours. We don’t know what the town’s looking for yet. We’re thinking maybe 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to start out and to play it by ear and change our hours to 7 p.m. to start out and to play it by ear and change our hours according to what the people are looking for. Maybe they want us open later. Or maybe earlier, as we’re going to specialize in breakfast burritos,” Sipple said.
While their specialty will be breakfast-fare, the burritos may be ordered at any time of the day. And Cardenas said that their Tex-Mex inspired meals are different from typical Mexican restaurants.
“They tend to have a bigger menu, so you’re kind of overwhelmed. We’re trying to customize it to be our Tex-Mex. It’s not traditional Mexican food. For us, we use a lot of natural ingredients. We have our own spices and seasonings. Tex-Mex style is cumin-based. We don’t do too much with the ingredients because simplicity is key whenever you’re trying to create something that tastes wonderful.
“Queso will be cheddar-based. Growing up in Texas, we always like to add things to our cheese. Again, it’s just simple ingredients but when you mix them all together it creates this wonderful design.”
Cardenas certainly has the background for the task at hand.
She earned her Bachelor’s Degree at Full Sail University and ran the kitchen at the Winter Park, Florida Olive Garden.
Waninger earned her Masters at Full Sail in Marketing and Design and was also a culinary professional at Olive Garden.
According to Cardenas, the initial plan includes a beer license and a “quick service” style restaurant.
“We’re not going to have serving staff or anything. Up front will be three chalk boards. You come up to the counter, order, sit down and we’ll have someone bring your food out to you. You’ll go up and get your own drink.”
She added that to-go service would also be available and that they plan to source locally and stay as fresh as possible (including homemade chips).
“Everything we’re making is basically fresh. Beans will be made fresh. Rice will be made fresh daily. Ground beef, all of that. We’re trying to stay away from as much frozen food as possible by sourcing locally.”
Other features will be a salsa bar, limited seating outside, vegetarian options and gluten-free dishes.
“We know what it takes to keep our customers happy,” Cardenas said. “We know what it takes to make sure everything in the back is functioning right. ‘These are my standards. This is where they are, and they’re not going to drop because there’s no reason for them to go below that’.
“We never want to be inconsistent, it’s the key to everything.”
“A Taste of Texas” will have phone service on Sept. 7. Their website will soon be online at www.atasteoftx.com.