Pavement Whispers: tequila and tacos take centre stage at Rita’s – Teneriffe’s soon-to-open cocktail and snack spot
The street-level strip at the base of the Australian Mercantile Land & Finance Woolstores on Vernon Terrace in Teneriffe is one of Brisbane’s buzziest drinking and dining strips. By October’s end, the building will welcome Rita’s Tequila and Taqueria – a casually approachable cocktail-focused concept boasting some top-flight talent at the helm. Expect an imaginative take on Mexican-inspired snacks and a stellar selection of crafted concoctions – including plenty of margaritas! Here’s what you can expect …
The age-old idiom ‘opportunity knocks but once’ rings true most of the time, but – if you’re lucky – every now and then it comes back around to tap on the door a second time. For Ollie Hansford and Aleks Balodis – former Stokehouse Q alumni and current co-owners of Teneriffe spaghetti bar Siffredi’s – opportunity arrived as an offer to take over the site of wine bar Claret House, which has sat unoccupied next to Siffredi’s on Vernon Terrace since the once-beloved vino spot closed in 2017. The duo initially passed on the proposal when first approached earlier this year, but when recently presented with the chance once more – this time with the summer season looming – the potential seemed more enticing. This offer, however, came with a take-it-or-leave-it caveat – they had roughly 24 hours to accept before the call went out to other potential candidates. Swayed by the idea of opening an approachable bar that put well-executed concoctions first, Ollie and Aleks recruited friend Daniel Pennefather – a hot-shot drink slinger and former bar manager at Blackbird Bar & Grill – to team up on the concept. Rita’s Tequila and Taqueria is the name of the trio’s forthcoming venture, a joint specialising in killer cocktails, bad-ass bites and laid-back vibes.
Rita’s Tequila and Taqueria will take an informal approach to service, with a model geared less towards sit-down dining and more to impromptu visits for low-key libations. That being said, the team also has a long-term goal of elevating Rita’s to the same echelon as Brisbane’s most well-regarded cocktail bars. Daniel and Aleks are currently crafting a beverage list that will feature ten signature concoctions, eight flavoured margaritas and a bunch of classic tequila-based cocktails, with a back-bar selection featuring between 30 and 40 skews of tequila and mezcal. Beyond cocktails, Rita’s drinks offering will also include a clutch of wines, Dos Equis on tap and Tecate tins served with lime a salted rim. Although a standalone concept with its own set of inspirations, Rita’s will share some common DNA with its neighbour Siffredi’s – especially when it comes to offering a playful riff on its cuisine of focus. Much like how the spaghetti bar eschews traditional trappings of Italian food, Ollie is looking to showcase his own take on Mexican-style fare by inventively employing out-of-the-box ingredients. The Rita’s menu will feature snacks such as skewers, tostadas and empanadas, as well as a range of approximately seven tacos – including a kangaroo taco and another filled with spiced tempura soft-shell Moreton Bay bug (a sustainably sourced morsel from Australian Bay Lobster Co. that is exclusive to Rita’s in Brisbane). A DIY fit-out process is currently underway, with Ollie, Aleks and Dan pitching in to transform the venue’s interior into a dark and industrial-inspired drinkery, with timber and gunmetal grey tones softened by a greenhouse’s-worth of foliage. Rita’s will be able to accomodate 70 guests without restrictions, with the spacious street-facing deck offering communal seating and high bars to go with a cluster of bar seats inside.
Rita’s Tequila and Taqueria will launch before the end of October, liquor licence pending. Those eager for a taste of the Rita’s menu will soon be able to book a seat at Siffredi’s for a Sunday session collab on October 17 – stay tuned for more details!
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