Southwestern Flavors for Midsouth Tastes 17

Sopapilla’s delivers a fresh taste of authentic New Mexican cuisine

Playing in a popular band is something that many dream about, but only a few get to experience. Bassist Steve Dale is one of those lucky enough to live life on stage. However, after spending years on the road with Little Big Town, he felt a calling to something more permanent. With multiple Grammy and Dove Award nominations in hand, he had a taste of entertainment industry success. But he was hungry for something else.

While on tour, Steve often prepared New Mexican specialties during post-show “Fiesta Nights.” Little Big Town and other tour-mates encouraged him to cook and cater those events. Their enthusiasm inspired his culinary vision. As the tour bus rolled across the country, Steve spent months in the back lounge, creating a menu and crafting a business plan for his own restaurant, one that recreates the flavors of the Albuquerque native’s former home.

“I opened up Sopapilla’s because I wanted to come off the road, be with my kids and share the food that I love with others,” he says.

Open since 2010, Sopapilla’s is currently owned and operated by Steve and his wife, Emily. Together, they are dedicated to running a restaurant featuring upscale New Mexican cuisine that is chef-driven and service-oriented. Located off Franklin Road, Sopapilla’s straddles the line between Franklin and Brentwood and has become a popular neighborhood hangout, and destination for others.

“We absolutely love Williamson County,” says Emily. “This whole community has been so supportive of us and what we’re doing.”

The inspiration for the restaurant’s name comes from an old Albuquerque tradition. For more than 200 years, sopapillas have been served hot with meals, where they are drizzled with honey and eagerly devoured. At Sopapilla’s, these little fried pockets of dough are served at the conclusion of every meal.

“We have both traditional New Mexican dishes as well as other popular Southwestern dishes,” says Steve.

With slow-roasted chicken and meats, table-side guacamole and house-made tortillas, both New Mexicans and fans of authentic Southwestern fare will feel right at home. Steve enjoys putting his unique spin on the classics.

“Steve loves to challenge people’s palates a little bit,” says Emily.

Sopapilla’s also features a solid lineup of classic and unique margaritas. In addition to local beers and a deep cocktail menu, guests at the restaurant’s popular Happy Hour can sip a signature Sopapilla Margarita, along with Cucumber, Sweetheart and Hibiscus Margaritas; as well as their famous El Primo Margarita. Drinks can be enjoyed at one of the two indoor bars or on the brick patio, with scenic views of the surrounding hills.

Many menu items feature New Mexico’s favorite ingredient, the Hatch chile. Both red and green Hatch chiles flown in directly from Hatch, N.M. The double-roasted chiles factor heavily into one of the most popular dishes, Tres Enchiladas. The colorful creation features a slow-roasted chicken enchilada with Baja sauce, a shredded beef enchilada with green chile and a cheese enchilada with red chile.

“I came into this wanting to share New Mexican food with others,” says Steve. “I truly have a heart and passion for this cuisine.”

As a staple of modern New Mexican cuisine, the Green Chile Cheeseburger holds a revered spot in the hearts of New Mexicans everywhere. Naturally, you’ll find it on the menu at Sopapilla’s and it is considered one of the best-kept food secrets in Middle Tennessee.

Many of the recipes were tested and perfected on the road. The house salsa was developed while Steve was on tour. It took about 20 tries to nail down the perfect blend of heat and flavor.

“All of our foods are road-tested and roadie-tested,” says Steve.

However, one signature dish was created in his sleep.

“In Music City, certain songs take you a while to write and certain songs just come out,” he says. “Recipes are the same way. The Blue Corn Chicken Tacos were an easy one for me. I just woke up one morning with the recipe in my head. I call them my ‘dream tacos.’”

It’s dishes like these that keep customers coming back for more. “It’s a good feeling to have people really enjoy the food I’m making,” he says.

With a recent expansion, a popular Happy Hour, live music on Tuesday nights and a new Sunday Social Brunch buffet, it’s safe to say that Middle Tennesseans will be getting their Southwestern fix at Sopapilla’s for many years to come.

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