Cinco De Mayo

Food / June 25, 2018

Celebrate in style with Taco Mama

Cinco De Mayo has been widely celebrated in the United States for more than a century, first to celebrate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French in 1862, showing solidarity with Mexico against French rule, then, in later years, as an opportunity to celebrate Mexican heritage and build Mexican-American pride.

May 5 has become a holiday filled with Mexican culture, food, traditions and of course, booze, and Hot Springs will have no shortage of businesses opening their doors to welcome those who wish to celebrate.

One hot spot gearing up this year to celebrate Cinco De Mayo is Taco Mama, located at 1209 Malvern Ave. What better way to celebrate the holiday than with tacos and margaritas?

Owner Diana Bratton has owned the restaurant for nine and a half years, and her passion for cooking and serving the people in her community shines through the product she produces every day, not just on this special day once per year.

Bratton’s love for cooking began at a young age, though she never considered a career in the food industry until later in life.

“I come from a large family, and so my mom cooked three squares a day and we were all

Owner and chef Diana Bratton

involved in that. I didn’t even think about a career in the food industry, though, honestly, because my dad didn’t ever want me to work in a restaurant, for one, so that kind of wasn’t in the front of my mind,” Bratton said.

After high school, she went on to business school and quickly realized her passion was cooking, and she said that’s when her life took a turn.

After moving to Hot Springs, she opened up Café 1217, which she owned for 18 years. She has since sold that business and now focuses solely on Taco Mama, the name of which is an ode to her late mother.

“My mom passed away before I opened it up, but my husband Shane and I, whenever we went down to visit her in Texas, she’d always have something prepared for us when we came. She made the best tortillas. I thought she made the best Mexican food — of course, everyone thinks their mom is the best cook. So, when we decided to remodel the hardware store and turn it into Taco Mama, and thinking of the name, it was kind of just an ode to my mom,” she said.

Her secret to keeping her customers happy, and creating and sustaining repeat customer business, is staying on top of the quality of her food.

“I’m all about it being fresh,” she said, adding that Ambrosia Bakery provides the buns for her burgers — a Taco Mama fan-favorite. “I’m proud of what we do; we put a lot of pride and love into the food.”

Other popular menu items include the fish tacos, street tacos, and hot chocolate cake. Bratton said she makes most of the restaurant’s desserts from scratch.

Another contributing factor to her restaurant’s success is her staff. Most of her employees have worked for her for a long time, some for as long as 18 years, she said, adding that a good work environment carries over into the service they can provide to customers.

“Just keeping my staff happy and creating a good work environment for them so that we can move throughout the day in a positive manner, so it reflects on the service. I try to come in and set the stage for them to have a good day.”

Those participating in the Cinco De Mayo festivities at Taco Mama can take advantage of food and drink specials. Bratton’s birthday, and her mother’s, also falls on May 5.

The restaurant’s daily specials are different, too, depending on what she cooks that day. Bratton said she loves to smoke meats, and some of the specials she will offer include brisket in tacos or empanadas, or Korean fried chicken tacos, and she will even make veggie tamales.

“I just try to do something different, not just to set us apart, but I want people to realize how much care and thought we put into our food,” Bratton said.

Photography by Richard Rasmussen

Lindsey Wells

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June 25, 2018