NEW RESTAURANT BRINGS FLAVORS AND TRADITIONS OF MEXICO TO HHI
The owners of Hilton Head Island's Charbar Co. have opened a new taco and tequila restaurant, just a few doors down from their popular burger restaurant in Park Plaza.
Holy Tequila's focus is innovative gourmet tacos to eat and plenty of premium tequila to drink - more than 40 varieties.
"It's a full-sensory dining experience," owner Nick Bergelt said. "The visuals, flavors, smells and music represent all the best that Mexico has to offer."
Bergelt opened Holy Tequila with the same three partners he opened Charbar Co. with: his wife and director of operations Andrea Bergelt, executive chef Charles Pejeau and a silent partner in Charleston.
After coming up with the concept, the four took a road trip to Mexico. They spent several days walking through agave fields and the streets of several cities, learning the art of cuisine and tequila from local chefs, farmers and generations of families.
Traveling farm to farm, the trio found themselves sampling up to 25 different tequilas in just one sitting.
"Almost every day ended the same - with us buzzed and happy," Bergelt said. "Every tour ended in some sort of extravagant tasting. It became a running joke. We were like, 'Holy tequila!.' We didn't have a name for the concept yet, and when we got back, my wife suggested we go with Holy Tequila.”
Customers walking through the front door of the restaurant are greeted with a floor-to-ceiling bar, stocked with every type of tequila available. To the right, tequila bottles appear to be floating, forming another wall. The architecture features rounded arches with two levels overlooking both the bar and kitchen.
"You can watch your food being prepared or your drink being mixed with fresh squeezed juices," Bergelt said. "You are right there watching every step of the process."
The owners honored the open air storefronts of Mexico by installing a massive garage door, which opens to a garden. Stainless steel beams, steel tabletops and simple-yet-stylish chairs give the interior a modern-ranchero look. Massive tin stars with lighted sea marble hang from the ceiling, splashing color onto the surrounding walls.
"The goal was to make people feel like they are far from Hilton Head Island," Bergelt said. "We took all of the best features we found in Mexico and modernized them a bit. We put a lot of effort into the design."
Much effort has also gone into the menu. The group is using the same approach it did with Charbar Co., combining fine dining techniques with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. Corn and flour tortillas are made fresh each day. Like Charbar, the menu is creative. The Roasted Veggie Taco, for example, features roasted brussel sprouts, peanuts, chili aioli and pumpkin salsa. The Pork Belly Pastor Taco is made of grilled pork belly, habanero pineapple salsa, cilantro, onion and cotija.
The Taco Trio Sampler lets customers choose any three tacos along with a choice of a side for $11. Starters range from $5 to $8, soups and salads are $9, quesadillas are $10 and individual gourmet tacos are $4. Desserts are $5.
"It's superior quality food at a price point that is palatable," Bergelt said. "We are in a space where you would expect the cost to be $30 per plate. Why would you make tacos at home when you can come here and have this cool experience?"
The experience is enhanced by tabletop tablets. Eventually, customers will be able to order from the entire menu using only the tablet. If a server is needed, simply pushing a button on the tablet will eliminate the annoying process of waiving an employee down. Bergelt hopes the tablets will eventually help combine the convenience of a sit-down restaurant with the efficiency of a counter-service restaurant.
"We are calling them 'connected tables,'" Bergelt said. "I've always been fascinated with technology and I'm involved in some computer software products. I do believe these 'connected tables' are the future. Ultimately, they will provide a much better experience for the customer."
Then of course, there is the tequila. An entire room - the Patron Lounge - is dedicated to tastings and all things tequila. Rotating house infusions such as vanilla bean and lemon grass tequilas are offered each day. Tequila flights are available for serious spirit connoisseurs. Don't like tequila? Bergelt feels Holy Tequila can change your mind.
"I was not a tequila fan before I started this project," he said. "Everybody has that one experience where they've had a little too much at a party or whatever. I was that guy. It always made me wince. After I started touring all the farms (in Mexico) and started understanding the nuances of it, I acquired a taste for it. Now I can sit and sip them, not even chilled, and enjoy them. It is going to be a lot of fun for us to expose that side of tequila to our customers."
In addition to the tequila bar, the restaurant offers a list of Mexican-inspired signature cocktails along with Mexican and craft beers on tap. The owners also put a lot of time into the wine list, finding the finest Spanish and South American labels available.
While Holy Tequila's soft opening was in June, the grand opening is set for Thursday, July 24 (National Tequila Day). The kitchen is open from noon to 11 p.m., seven days a week. The bar stays open until midnight. The daily happy hour is 4-7 p.m. with a bar and cocktail menu ranging from $3-$5. Live Spanish-influenced entertainment will be played from 9 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
The official address is 33 Office Park Road, Suite 228, where the Alligator Grille was located.
"We have a lot of cool stuff going on," Bergelt said. "We really wanted it to to be a representation of that vibrant, energetic vibe you get on the streets of Mexico. I think we have captured that."