Jacob Knauth reckons he’s eaten enough fried chicken burgers. Which some would think is a shame when you own Lucky Egg and flip some of the best bird burgs in Brisbane.
“I was just slaving away at Lucky Egg [eating there all the time],” he says. “It wasn’t even the fried chicken specifically, but eating a lot of bread and fried food.”
Knauth’s response? Trash Taco, where nothing on the menu will be fried and just about everything will be gluten free. Trash Taco is due to open in early May inside Barbara in Fortitude Valley.
“It’s well-cooked meat and corn tortillas,” Knauth says. “There are no bad fats, just good fats and some really good wines. It’s a place where you can come and hang, get a big table, get a couple of big taco share plates, and get drunk.
“I used to throw parties like that at my place all the time. We’d put a whole lamb shoulder on the Webber, slowly roast it, pull it apart, get a big stack of tortillas, and a couple of big bottles of wine. Let’s do that, but put it in a restaurant.”
Or in a bar. Barbara is one of the Valley’s best late-night DJ-fuelled boozers, but owners the Happy Horseman Group (who also own Blute’s Bar, which adjoins Lucky Egg and serves its food) were keen to add a snack menu to help broaden their venue’s appeal. They approached Knauth, who instead proposed Trash Taco.
From 5pm to 10pm Wednesdays to Sundays, a chef will set up behind Barbara’s bar, working from a small cast-iron contact grill and bain-marie to prepare a tight menu of tacos, tostadas and quesadillas. “If a punter walks in and sees someone in an apron banging out food and a bartender banging out cocktails, that’s perfect,” Knauth says.
It works for Barbara but it also works for Knauth. The original plan was to open Trash Taco in Lucky Egg’s old spot in The Brightside’s shipping container. Placing it instead inside a bricks and mortar venue with menus and hot sauce on the table allows him to elevate the offering.
Knauth says Trash Taco will avoid the Tex-Mex lean and clanging cultural appropriation that some Mexican venues fall foul of in Brisbane. He’s trying to keep it as authentic as possible while not talking up the authenticity – after all, Knauth says, he has never travelled to Mexico. Instead, he looked at some of the best Mexican he could find locally, including La Casita in Brunswick Heads and La Tortilleria in Melbourne.
Pork is being slow-roasted Al Pastor style (spit-grilled), and he’s mimicking barbacoa (slow-cooked) beef with the Lucky Egg oven. There will also be roasted-vegetable tacos and a weekly special of more unusual meats such as grilled goat. You won’t see any of this on the menu, though.
“If people want to get nerdy about it and ask us they can,” Knauth says. “We know all about it. But there’s no point using traditional Mexican names for styles of cooking because, firstly, we’re not doing it exactly the same, and secondly, it’s going to put up a wall for people.”
Drinks will lean on Barbara’s menu but include rotating natural and biodynamic wines from Naked Bunch, and a selection of mezcals and Margaritas. Happy hour “tipples and nibbles” specials will flip a bunch of drinks and snacks priced between $5 and $7 from 5pm to 7pm Wednesday to Sunday.
Trash Taco is scheduled to open May 1.