Belly Acres founders open Tennessee Taco Company

Overton Square restauranteurs are dipping their toe in East Memphis with a new concept.
Ben McLean and Chef Rob Ray recently opened Tennessee Taco Co. at 3295 Poplar Avenue.

The pair plan to grow the fresh street taco concept to more locations in the future, as well as expand their successful Belly Acres
Citfied Farm Fresh Burger Restaurant, which opened in Overton Square in 2014.

“Ben and I have always wanted to do something else, and we were headstrong on doing a taco shop,” said Ray.

Tennessee Taco Company’s menu includes 24 different kinds of tacos, including beef, chicken, pork, seafood and vegetables, along with burritos, quesadillas and skillets. Other menu options include salads, nachos, "pots o’ tots", fresh guacamole and desserts.

The restaurant’s bar features frozen margaritas and beer from all of the local breweries.

“We’re trying to have as much local products as we can, and even our cast iron is from Lodge out of Tennessee,” said Ray.

The reworking of the layout of the restaurant, which features a wildly colorful Day of the Dead theme, was handled in-house.

“Ben and I really pull in our family whenever we open a restaurant. Ben’s brother, Spencer McLean, did all of woodwork, and my dad made all the tables,” said Ray.

The restaurant has already hired more than 30 employees, and Ray expects to hire a few more in the coming weeks.

McLean and Ray plan to expand Tennessee Taco Co. to more locations in Memphis, in other parts of the U.S., and internationally.

“We want to keep Belly Acres within the Mid-South, but with Tennessee Taco Company we expect to have a much broader reach,” said Ray. “The sky’s the limit. At this point, I’m not sure if we’re going to franchise or own them outright.”

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.