In recent months, Vestavia City Center’s courtyard has gained AstroTurf, Adirondack chairs, string lights, funky red swivel chairs and an Instagram account, and it’s started hosting tailgates and other events. Its cool factor will ramp up all the more when Taco Mama opens in the spring too. To learn more about what the restaurant will be like and what’s new with the concept, we chatted with the man who first dreamed it up almost a decade ago.

How did you land on this location next to Zoes Kitchen in the Vestavia City Center?

Vestavia has always been on our radar because we have so many friends and family members from there. The right location never came up before, but when they redeveloped the city center, they did a fantastic space with the green area. With that and being around like-minded restaurants with Zoes and Panera, it was a great fit for us. It was pre-COVID when we signed up, and now that COVID is here, there is need for larger outside dining. We are going to put large picnic tables outside, and we’ll have a garage door in the front that we can use for open air.

Remind us of the back story on the start of Taco Mama.

In 2011 we started in Crestline Village. I had Otey’s Tavern in Crestline, and the drive to open Taco Mama was to support my young family. By the grace of God we made it. We are all about relationships in the community, and we have organically grown. We want it to be laid back and fun and funky. We work hard at recruiting people with positive energy and integrity. With the music and atmosphere and colors and open air, it gets to be a lot of fun.

How has Taco Mama grown since then?

We thought, “Let’s try another,” and we did it in Tuscaloosa. Then someone would come up and say, “I have a location, and I want you to put one there.” And then you go and say, “I can relate to this place.” It clicks when you know the area and you know the people. Those things have to present themselves. We are in Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina now, but we try to keep the local feel. It’s a labor of love and passion by many.

What do you like to order?

If I am going steak, the steak bowl is my favorite. If I am going barbacoa, I am going barbacoa quesadilla. If I am going pork, I am going pork tacos. If I am going ground beef, I am going burrito. And for me always queso, queso, queso. For the margaritas I love the watermelon, blood orange and the Mercedes, our house margarita. With the build your own, I can eat as dirty as I want or as clean as I want. To eat clean I put chicken, steak, tuna or shrimp on a bowl with romaine lettuce, black beans, cilantro, fresh jalapeños and the mild ranchero salsa. Sometimes I’ll do chicken with cilantro lime rice and pico too.

What’s new or coming soon to Taco Mama?

This spring we will introduce street corn. We are shucking it in-house, grilling it and making a paste with chipotle powder, queso fresco, cilantro and lime juice. We have a new sangria with a recipe a friend of ours from Spain gave us: high-end Spanish wine with fresh peaches, apples, grapes and oranges, and all those juices come together. It is so refreshing. We are also doing a Double Hatton cocktail with Campesino Rum and Bamamosa from Back Forty atop of simple syrup that we will push in the spring.