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Tipsy Taco standing out with niche menu, vibe

The owner of the new Appleton establishment said she wanted a simpler menu – tacos and tequila

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March 10, 2023

APPLETON – Running a Mexican restaurant is second nature to Sarah Gregory.

She has owned and operated Sangria’s Mexican Grill in downtown Appleton for 12 years (and in Oshkosh before that), starting when she was just 21.

So, when she opened the Tipsy Taco & Tequila Bar in December, Gregory said she had a strong sense of what kind of restaurant and bar she wanted it to be. 

“I always wanted to do a simple tacoria,” she said. “Tacos are definitely in right now and they have consistently been our No.1 seller at Sangria’s over the years. They’re also one of the most efficient menu items you can get out to customers. So, it was a no-brainer.”

Gregory said she wanted to do a simpler menu, doing craft tacos, “because there’s not a whole lot of that in this area.”

“It’s a lot of traditional Mexican options, which are great,” she said. “But I wanted to do something completely different. It’s definitely trendy, and the vibe is completely different.”

Paired with tequila
As far as the establishment’s tequila pairing, Gregory said that was also a completely different, yet deliberate option. 

“You see a lot of whiskey bars or something like that around, but there are not any tequila bars,” she said. “We have a lot of high-end tequilas you can’t find anywhere else. We also have more recognizable brands.”

Gregory said the experience is interactive for customers, because “we get to explore their likes with them and see what kind of tastes they have.”

“It’s something customers will remember, too, trying a lot of cool tequilas,” she said.

Keeping up with demand
Located at 129 S. Memorial Dr. in Appleton, Tipsy is right next door to Gregory’s other establishment, Sangria’s – separated only by a parking lot.

The location, she said, has definite advantages, especially since they had outgrown the space at Sangria’s.

The 8,000 square feet at Tipsy not only affords them more space, in general – allowing for a capacity of 300-plus people – but Gregory said it gives them a bigger kitchen/bar and the opportunity to have a party room.

Plus, Tipsy can get some of the overflow from Sangria’s to lighten the load at its location.  

“Besides that, my catering business has grown so much that with the kitchen at Sangria’s being so tiny, it was difficult logistically to accomplish everything,” Gregory said. “If, on a Saturday night, I have a wedding for 200 or 300 people, to be able to prepare that food at Sangria’s was hard to do. So, what better than to be able to do it right next door? There may be times when Sangria’s has a big order, so we’ll help prep it at Tipsy, and vice versa. It has worked out, especially for those larger orders.” 

Tipsy has a staff of between 25 and 30 people.

But, Gregory said sharing staff between Tipsy and Sangria’s, when necessary, is also possible because the two restaurants are neighbors.  

“If we’re short-staffed in one place, we can borrow from the other,” she said. “So, our team has grown.”

Owner Sarah Gregory said the establishment’s tequila pairing was a deliberate decision. Photo Courtesy of Tipsy Taco & Tequila Bar

Gregory said they were able to train Tipsy’s cooks at Sangria’s before the new restaurant opened.

“So, they had an idea of the flavor profile we were going for, what kind of techniques we use and the overall process,” she said. “That helped with opening this new place.” 

Gregory said Sangria’s staff had a lot of input in the new place and many of Sangria’s long-time customers helped get the place ready for its opening by cleaning and decorating.

What to expect
Gregory said at Tipsy Taco & Tequila Bar “our tacos have personality.”

“Our menu is a simple, one-page menu,” she said. “Everything is a la carte, so you’re not limited to one taco. You can get tons of different options, and there are different sides you can choose from, too.”

Gregory said there are about 15-20 different tacos patrons can choose from, including vegetarian choices.

One of Tipsy’s signature items and top sellers is the Birria De Res, which, according to the menu, consists of three grilled corn tortillas with Monterey Jack cheese, onions, cilantro and authentic Mexican braised beef served with consume (an Au Jus dipping sauce). 

“It’s definitely trending right now,” she said. “Being younger, I understand what trends are modern and how it’s important to stay innovative and not become complacent with standard Mexican food.”

Gregory said she wanted to push limits and do different things.

“We also have traditional flavors,” she said. “You want to keep the meats, flavors, salsas and other things like that homemade and authentic. But it’s also fun to throw in some flair I know our clientele will like – things more recognizable and within their comfort zone.”

Gregory said what also sets Tipsy apart is it makes its own corn tortillas in-house.

“We don’t use any processed tortillas here,” she said. “I think people like that because it adds that element of freshness to it. They’re all gluten-free and allergy-free. We have a lot of people who can’t eat certain things, so we’ll bend over backward to come up with things for people with different food sensitivities and allergies. We’re known for that in the area.” 

Gregory said she does her best to keep things affordable – customers can come in for lunch and get a couple of tacos and a soda for less than $10.

“It’s as affordable as you want it to be,” she said. “But, people can also come in for dinner and have drinks and make a real night of it.”

From time to time, Gregory said Tipsy also offers entertainment.

“There’s always something creative going on,” she said. “I want people to come in the door and wonder, ‘What are they going to do next?’”

Calculated risk
Gregory acknowledged starting a new business on the curtails of the COVID-19 pandemic can be challenging, but said there’s always an element of risk involved in starting something new, no matter when it is.

However, these days, she said, certain supplies or items, including some plastic and glassware, are tough to find.

Gregory said some Mexican sodas have also been hard to get at times – with the soda itself being available, but not the glass bottles it goes into.

In addition, she said many things are constantly on backorder and food costs for some things have gone through the roof. 

“We’ve seen these kinds of trends over the years, but ever since COVID it’s been more so,” she said. “Yes, the food can be an issue and can fluctuate up and down. But the dry goods we use – like the napkins, the to-go boxes, the deli containers and things like that – have skyrocketed.”

Gregory said it was quite expensive to get the new place off the ground and up and running. 

“There were certain pieces of equipment that were on hand, but they might be missing a part or two that we’d have to wait for,” she said. “So, yes, there’s always an element of risk involved. But, we offer something so different that the experiences we offer are actually something people will remember.”

Gregory said when customers walk through the front door, many of them immediately grab their cameras.

“It’s an escape from a long day or whatever, even if for a little while,” she said.

Unlike Sangria’s, Gregory said Tipsy will not have an outdoor patio, as there isn’t enough space for it.

They do, however, have huge garage doors that open in the front when the weather is nice.

“We built a double-decker patio next door at Sangria’s,” she said. “So, if people are looking for that kind of experience, it’s still an option, but not at Tipsy.”

Gregory said the entire place is a vibe all its own.

“The entire restaurant has a Frida-based theme,” she said. “Frida Kahlo was one of my idols. She was the most famous Mexican artist of all time and was constantly pushing social-based norms. She preached that people should be what they want to be and do what they want to do. It was a pioneering concept for her time. We wanted to create that environment as well, where people can get what they want and be what they want.”?

Even though it’s a tequila bar, Gregory said it’s also family-friendly – with a game area for kids and a photo-op area.?

“Everyone is welcome, and we take care of everyone as if they are family,” she said. “It’s a fun experience people will remember. It’s definitely a destination place downtown.”

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