A new authentic Mexican taco shop and cantina is opening mid-February at 525 S. Highland Street near the University of Memphis. Maciel's Highland marks the second Memphis-area location for Manny Martinez, owner and developer Downtown’s Maciel’s Tortas & Tacos at 45 S. Main Street.
For the new restaurant, Martinez teamed with the ITS Fine Restaurant Group, which includes Railgarten, Loflin Yard, Bounty on Broad and Rec Room.
“Manny and I became friends over the last couple of years as I totally fell in love with his food,” said Taylor Berger, one of the principals with ITS. “We had talked a while back about maybe doing something in Midtown and then this spot became available.”
Maciel's opened Downtown in 2015, and it soon suffered a setback. The roof caved in the summer of 2017 and the restaurant was closed for three months. The Downtown location will remain open during the expansion.
“I love that we’re right in between Midtown and East Memphis, which are my two favorite markets” said Berger. “Downtown’s great too, but to be in a place that can cater to both of the best markets in Memphis was a great opportunity. I signed a lease on this space before I even knew what we were going to do because I believe in this neighborhood and this particular building.”
The new 3,000-square-foot restaurant is bigger than the original Maciel’s, and it includes a full bar along with a 1,500-square-foot indoor/outdoor patio. Work on the interior and patio was done by contractor Perry Sponseller, architect Peter Warren, and interior designer Jessica Elvert.
The building was previously RP Billiards and before that Highland Cue.
The menu features authentic Mexican food as Martinez was born and raised in Michoacan, a western state of Mexico.
“Manny has a real meticulous focus in the kitchen,” said Berger. “He uses very high-quality ingredients, both the meats and the vegetables. His salsas and marinades were prepared this morning, and they will be from here on out. That’s why it’s just so good and why I fell in love with it – the quality and the freshness and the simplicity of these recipes from his region.”
Staples like soft and crispy tacos, nachos, quesadillas and fajitas are features, and customers can cool off with a wide variety of cantina cocktails, Mexican beers, wine, Jaritos sodas or horchata.
The new location is open for lunch and will cater and deliver to Midtown and East Memphis. Eventually, the restaurant plans to expand the menu with brunch and late-night offerings.