Your first clue that Redheaded Stranger is no ordinary taco joint is perched on a corner barstool. 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 low-key fear of litigation.
“We ran it as a special and it sold like crazy, so we just kind of kept doing it.” Unlike the fast-food iteration, Redheaded Stranger’s versions include fillings like house-made green chile pork and whipped feta.
When Bryan Lee Weaver and Michael Shemtov opened the restaurant in 2019, they made an executive decision to make all of their own flour tortillas—meaning there would be no corn-based leftovers for making tortilla chips. Hence, “NO FUCKIN’ CHIPS” shirts are worn by employees and mascots, alike.
Weaver, a Texas native, is a stickler when it comes to some of the foods he grew up with, but he doesn’t get completely hung up on authenticity. Since this is a chip-free zone, he swaps tortillas for tater tots in his nachos—the perfect foil for queso, pickled onions, chiles, and a spicy, tangy mountain of other toppings.
Despite the irreverent-erring vibes, Redheaded Strangers dishes up some sneakily serious food, much of which is tough to find elsewhere in Nashville. For instance, Weaver is particularly proud of the traditional hatch chile roasts he throws in the restaurant’s parking lot.
Hatch chiles are an integral part of New Mexican cuisine seldom seen far from their home turf. Each year, locals from Albuquerque to Santa Fe celebrate this highly seasonal delicacy by roasting more than 150 million pounds of hatch chiles in steel drums.
While hatch chiles are only available for a few months each year, other next-level ingredients are perennially on the menu. For instance, those hot flour tortillas often come filled with local beef brisket that’s been smoked for 12-13 hours.
“It’s a long day,” Weaver says of his commitment to smoking meat out back, even through Nashville’s punishingly hot summer. “We get all our beef from Bear Creek Farm, about 45 minutes away. It’s really good stuff, but they only have so many briskets, so when we’re out, we’re out.” You heard the man.
Know Before You Go
Daily specials range from a smoked brisket burger to pancakes, depending on the availability of seasonal produce and whims of the staff.