“And the marriage! I know most marriages don’t work, but that one does.”
We're dining with emerging country music singer Whitney Rose, and this is her take on Goodnight Charlie’s hot chicken taco, an unexpected but welcome union of American soul food and Mexican cuisine. Rose is commenting on the taco, possibly her favorite from a menu full of them, but she could also be describing the co-existence between fine food and good music found at the newish Montrose-area honky tonk.
Goodnight Charlie’s opened December 2017 and has brought in exciting country acts since, including Rose, an Austin-based musician whose work has drawn kudos from Rolling Stone and the New York Times. She was on hand to close the club’s summer concert series when we tapped her for a special taco tasting. Her brand of music, dubbed Ameripolitan, is an enticing mix of country sub-genres. Since she knows a thing or two about winning combinations, we invited her to comment on the bar’s food and drink choices.
She begins with the hot chicken taco’s spicy fried chicken served on a bed of chorizo-braised collard greens.
“This is the first taco that I’ve ever had with collard greens. I want every taco now to have collard greens,” she notes.
We're joined by Felipe Riccio, chef/partner at Goodnight Hospitality, and the architect of the club’s taco-centric menu. He tells Rose some eaters pluck the spicy tenders from the filling, then tightly roll the homemade tortilla so its greens sop in like melted mantequilla. Rose balks, saying she prefers all the flavors in one bite.
Her tour manager, Mike McKeown, shares details of the band’s travels and her spot on Tennessee’s Pilgrimage Festival next month, alongside acts like Chris Stapleton. McKeown has just finished his taco of choice, the lamb barbacoa.
“It was great. Loved it,” he says of the mix of Mexican chile adobo, lamb, grilled pineapple and cilantro. McKeown, like Rose, is a native Canadian, but both have lived in Texas long enough now to know their tacos.
“They are up there,” he says, ranking Goodnight Charlie’s offerings. “I believe they make the tortillas in house, which is a nice touch and they’re really good. And, you don’t see lamb barbacoa too often. I’m a fan of lamb.”
Rose raves over the market veggie taco, a meatless option made from farmers’ market fresh vegetables (this evening: cauliflower, carrots and roasted corn tossed in a green mole sauce constructed from green tomatoes, tomatillos, jalapenos, cilantro and epazote). That’s all topped with crema, queso fresco, and sesame seeds for an amazing bite, according to our singer turned food critic.
“I’m not vegetarian but I try to not eat meat once or twice a week. I often fail because I just really love meat, but I wouldn’t have known that it wasn’t meat-based,” she says. “It wasn’t tofu or even tempeh, it was just veggies, but it was so flavorful and the texture—I wasn’t missing anything, whereas normally when I eat a vegetarian meal, I feel like I’m definitely missing something.”
We wait for Rose’s bandmates to arrive to assist in tasting all that Riccio regales us with—cheesesteak tacos piled with thinly shaved beef and adorned with queso Oaxaca; shrimp that’s blackened on a grill instead of a flattop to kick the flavors and textures up a notch; beef and chicken flautas, which are headed to the growing menu soon; and, cochinita pibil, with pibil sauce made in-house from ground annatto.
We ask Riccio why he and co-owners David Keck and Peter McCarthy settled on a taco menu. Cowboys love barbecue. The club might have gone with traditional pub fare.
“Tacos just seemed very logical to me for a honky tonk in Montrose. The South obviously has a very strong relationship with Mexico, and I think the flavors match well,” Riccio says. “And tacos, they’re hand food, they’re street food, so you can order, they come out quickly, you can scarf ‘em down and get back to dancing.”
There’s ample seating inside the venue, which was built from the ground up to resemble a chic, high-ceilinged barnyard. Rose opts to dine on the oversized outdoor patio. The August heat means cold Lone Star is required. We also sample Gordon’s TerroirForm, a limited-edition Saint Arnold beer brewed from Texas mustang grapes. Proceeds from its sales benefit the Grant Gordon Foundation in honor of the late Houston chef. Gordon was slated to open a restaurant with Keck and McCarthy before his untimely passing.
Keck stops by our table, so we ask the master sommelier about the bar’s wines and learn it carries a bubbly rosé. It’s an exclusive from an Austin favorite, the critically-acclaimed June’s All Day. Keck’s friend, June Rodil, makes it with an Austrian winemaker, and Goodnight Charlie’s is the only place it can be tasted outside of her restaurant group.
“June’s is one of my favorite places to go in Austin,” says Rose, sipping her sample. “I didn’t even know she was doing her own rosé, but it’s not too sweet, which is one of the things I normally don’t like about rosés, specifically sparkling rosés. It’s just insanely refreshing. I think it’s what, like 101 degrees right now? And it’s just perfect, it’s so delicious. And I love that June’s and Goodnight Charlie’s are coming together.”
We stick around to boot scoot to songs from Rose’s latest album, Rule 62, and are joined by friends who ask what we recommend. We consider Rose’s critiques and suggest the hot chicken.