Local chef, Bruce Bogartz, new pop-up restaurant TATA Creole Corner is bringing a missing ingredient to the Knoxville food scene if only for a short while. And we got to try out the food at friends & family night before opening!
After leaving Primo in the Sunsphere. Bruce decided his next endeavor needed to have a super casual feel like a food truck, but with the stability of a brick and mortar building when the ideal space opened up. What was previously a local coffee shop featuring a TATA truck as the face of the serving counter, is now an urban Creole pop-up restaurant.
The space is small intended to be a quick counter service experience with no seating – it’s a grab and go concept. Again think stationary food truck here with a commercial kitchen off-site to prepare everything. Hours will be 11:30am-8:00pm or until the food is sold out.
TATA’s regular menu features Gumbo done three ways – traditional, vegetarian, and roux-less seafood for those desiring gluten free. There is a daily Jambalaya, Boiled Shrimp, Hot Quail, the Legendary Duck Club, and a Brown Butter Crawfish Ceasar salad. I did not get pictures of the Ceasar salad, but it was out of this world and honestly might have been my favorite thing from the evening. The prices on the menu are set so that when tax gets added the total is an easy rounded whole number for those paying with cash – again intended to reflect the food truck concept to make things easy on the guest and the staff.
Bruce is all about using local ingredients and making friends in his neighborhood, so he will be serving rolls from The Breadshed Cafe and working with them to come up with a few desserts to also offer. The rolls are phenomenal though, so can’t wait to see what they come up with for a sweet treat.
First up, the other “salad” option at TATA are the greens – what we tried was a slightly different twist on the Beans and Greens listed on the menu. These were wilted with stewed tomatoes, garlic, and smoked neck meat. They had a deep, rich and meaty flavor thanks to the smoked neck meat. The greens were tender and full of acidic bite from vinegar and tomatoes. Remington loved these greens and felt like they hearkened back to an age old classic southern greens recipe, but my preference was for the Browned Butter Crawfish Ceasar salad, although he served it with shrimp cooked to tender perfection that night.
His traditional gumbo is a meaty version that starts with a golden brown roux full of spice and gets filled with classic ingredients like stewed tomatoes, okra, and Andouille sausage, and a not-so-classic ingredient in the form of duck confit. This gumbo was incredibly flavorful with hints of spice. What I appreciated so much about his gumbo recipes was that they were not overly spicy, they had a very subtle kick of heat so that it did not overpower the nuances of flavors found in them. The duck confit here brought a wonderful richness to the gumbo and really elevated the flavor.
The vegetarian version was chock full of potatoes and mushrooms. I was unsure of what to expect with a vegetarian gumbo, but this was on point and I thoroughly enjoyed the overtly woodsy flavor from the mushrooms, which substitute for meat in something like a gumbo so well. I found myself not even missing it here. So again, a delicious take on classic gumbo even if you are a meat-eater!
Finally, the roux-less for those looking for a gumbo made gluten free without flour is also his seafood version with tons of shrimp and oysters. Because this is roux-less, while the flavor is very reminiscent of a seafood gumbo, the textures had my brain thinking vegetable soup. The loads of chunky veggies and thinner base lends itself to that kind of texture. While I loved the seafood in this version, the texture and lack of rich meaty flavor meant that it was my least favorite of the three gumbo options.
Finally, the Hot Quail is a crispy fried pressed quail coated in a sticky sweet corn syrup vinaigrette loaded down with hot pepper tomato jam. The tomato jam had a subtle heat to balance out the sweetness of the corn syrup and candied tomatoes, which paired beautifully with the crisp fried quail with it’s gaminess. This is finger licking food that you pretty much have to eat directly off the bone.
It was good to see Chef Bruce back doing what he enjoys most – having the freedom to create big bold flavors and spending time directly with his customers. You can tell he’s happy and thoroughly enjoying this resurgence and opportunity to create and interact. He really finds his genius when left to his own devices to come up with new things on the fly like his daily jambalaya or daily specials. I love that he will also have the flexibility to change up regular menu items based on what is in season or what is available at the market. He clearly loves it too and the chance to surprise his customers each day with what’s available seems to keep him churning out ideas.
We hope you will go check out TATA Creole Corner while it’s available – just like the elusive Oktoberfest or PSL that are only around for a short while – this pop-up restaurant will only be open through the end of the year! So get your delicious creole fix and support a great local chef while you can! You will not regret it!
Hours: Tues – Sun 11:30AM – 8:00PM or until sold out