Monday, March 11, 2013

Sneak Peek: ¡Chiwawa!

Posted By on Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 9:14 AM

When the weather is as dreary as it was yesterday, it's hard not to imagine sunnier days, lounging on a fancy new patio, tequila sno-cone in hand.

Chiwawas sleek raised patio gets a rain rinse.
  • Chiwawa's sleek raised patio gets a rain rinse.
Enter: Chiwawa, the buzzy new spot on Madison in the former, long shuttered Chicago Pizza Factory. Oh yes, they will have "adult" sno-cones with tequila and whiskey. They'll also have boozy popsicles and cheap and tasty street foods and small plates (all between $3 and $8) by Chef Crash Hethcox, formerly of Revival Southern food truck, and Travis Tungseth. They'll be plating a variety of hotdogs and brats (including some veggie dogs!), french fries and sweet-and-spicy ketchup, elote (grilled corn covered with spicy mayonnaise and sprinkled with cotija cheese), quesadillas, tacos, homemade chips and salsa, and their signature "Juantons," a chicken and cheese mix stuffed into wonton wrappers and fried.

This, the handiwork of Yolo founder and general entrepreneurial guru Taylor Berger, was on display briefly yesterday for a menu tasting, and we liked what we saw. After quite a bit of renovating (moving the kitchen, bathrooms, staircase) Berger unveiled a hip, multilevel bar and restaurant reminiscent of some of the cool spots you'd see in Austin or Chicago. Exposed brick, industrial steel staircase, distressed wood — you know the drill.

Here's a few snaps of the upstairs space, including the expansive bar modeled by local blogger extraordinaire, Stacey Greenberg.

Downstairs, the open kitchen looks out over another dining space, this one a little smaller and cozier.
Downstairs dining.
  • Downstairs dining.
Downstairs dining.
  • Downstairs dining.

Chiwawa got some attention in the last few weeks for its giant lighted sign that reads "Midtown is Memphis" — borrowed from the bumper sticker catchphrase that has been circulating Memphis since 1993 (coined by our very own John Branston and his friend Tom Foster.) The arched sign leads onto Chiwawa's patio and sits directly on Madison Avenue.

(Normally I would complain about the a-hole who ruined my shot by parking directly in front of the sign. Except that is my car parked directly in front of the sign — I am the a-hole — so we'll let it slide.)

I asked Berger how he would describe Chiwawa's menu.

"Badass?" he said.

Go see for yourself this week, as Berger hopes to have the place up and running by Wednesday. Chiwawa won't have its beer license right away, so you'll have to stick to liquors and high gravity beers at first. Once the doors are open, Chiwawa will be churning out cheap eats and drinks from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Chiwawa, 2059 Madison Avenue, 517-6518,

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