By Ingrid Howard
When Bluff Park resident Hal Craig learned that Jackson’s Bar and Bistro would be closing its doors, he said he felt led to open his own restaurant in the location.
Now, he and his wife are renovating the space in preparation for the opening of Tostadas, a Mexican restaurant concept the Craigs created and are bringing to Homewood.
“We prayed about it, and it was one of those things where we felt very led – which I know sounds funny – but we felt very led to come right here and do this concept,” he said.
Craig has spent the past five years working with Sysco as a food distributor. He spent his time helping restaurants get their groceries, come up with menu plans, figure out their costs. He said it was like being a restaurant consultant.
“I love to cook, but I’m not a chef,” he said. “My strengths are more on the marketing, front-of-the-house operations.”
Craig’s Sysco territory was in downtown Homewood, and he came to the area often to meet with his clients. He began to realize that there weren’t any walkable restaurants that served Mexican food. So when Tom Sheffer – one of Craig’s clients and owner of Jackson’s – began hinting that Jackson’s would close in March, Craig expressed an interest in taking over the location.
Craig also helped open a Momma Goldberg’s franchise on 18th Street a decade ago. He said he loves working in the restaurant business.
“It’s a high-risk, high-reward opportunity,” he said. “It has a bad perception sometimes, people owning restaurants. But I just love it. You know, on a Friday night at 7 o’clock, it’s controlled chaos. That’s fun to me. As long as you can make sure all of the guests are having a good time, and the food’s coming out right, and the atmosphere is right. It’s almost like a big puzzle.”
The menu will have tostadas – which essentially is like a flat taco – with tasty ingredient combinations. For example, the Hoke Poke tostada will have yellowfin tuna, grilled vegetables and wasabi mayo. The Touch Down! tostada combines spicy pimento cheese, Wickles Pickles and Conecuh sausage.
Tostadas’ menu also will have small plates and appetizers. Craig said he is excited about having a pomegranate guacamole on the menu. They also will serve quesadillas, fajitas and other typical Mexican restaurant fare.
Craig said he envisions Tostadas to be a restaurant that is friendly for groups. He said people can come by after work and get drinks or come with the whole family and feel comfortable with kids. There will be TVs in the upstairs patio, and Craig said the atmosphere will be open and friendly.
“I’m hoping to show (people) that we’re going to be a different type of Mexican restaurant,” he said. “Because some people are like, ‘Oh, it’s another Mexican restaurant.’ And I want to show them that we’re going to be different. We will have normal Mexican food, but we want to set a gathering place. Mexican food with a flair.”
He said he plans to have Tostadas open this May in time for Cinco de Mayo.
“We’re really excited about being in the community,” he said. “We know there’s big shoes to fill, so we’re going to do our best to fill them.”
Visit theflattaco.com for updates about the restaurant.