When coming up with the idea for Taco Mamacita more than three years ago, Mike and Taylor Monen narrowed their food choices down to tacos or burgers.
Now that they have two successful taco restaurants - one in Chattanooga and one in Nashville - they're ready to try something new.
Early next year, they'll open Urban Stack, a burger restaurant and bar that will feature "very interesting topping configurations," Taylor Monen said.
"We're excited to bring this concept to Chattanooga," Mike Monen said. "It's all about made-from-scratch and quality."
Located on West 13th Street within one of the city's oldest buildings, the restaurant will be in the space that once was home to Revival, Amanda Pinson Jewelry and stationery-shop Dandelion.
But long before those businesses were in the 1870s-era building, it served as the Southern Railway Freight Depot, also known as the passenger baggage building, according to building owner Thomas Austin.
Taylor Monen said when she and her husband saw the space was available, they jumped at the chance to finally start the burger restaurant they'd been wanting to open.
"I would frequently shop at the stores here before us, and we even said a few years ago that if it ever came available what a great space it would be for a restaurant," she said. "It's such a charming building."
The Monens hope to restore some of the building's original charm, and are conscious of its historic value as they renovate the space. They're seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for the project by reusing "just about 100 percent" of what they are adjusting in the building process, they said.
Jared Chastain of the Strauss Co., the project's general contractor, said highly efficient light fixtures and heating and cooling systems will also be used to make the project environmentally friendly.
Within the space's nearly 4,000 square feet, there will be a main dining room, two kitchens and a bar that will seat about 20. The Monens are also adding two covered outdoor patios, giving the restaurant the ability to seat as many as 200 people.
the whimsy of "the stack"
Similar to the uncommon topping combinations found at Taco Mamacita, Urban Stack will specialize in "really cool recipes with crazy condiments," Mike Monen said.
"We like to get creative with our topping configurations, and that kind of is where the name Urban Stack came about," he said. "What stack means is the different combinations of how we think burgers can be stacked. They will have their own identity by what's stacked on them."
But you won't find just your typical ground chuck at the restaurant, he said. The couple will buy meats from vendors who use grass-fed beef, hormone-free chicken and possibly free-range chicken.
They'll also offer burger options for vegans, and have meats such as ground brisket, turkey and American Waygu, Mike Monen said.
"We want a dude that wants to hang out and eat a great, awesome, sloppy burger to love us and we want someone who's vegan who would be scared away from the word 'burger' to come in and enjoy it, too," Taylor Monen said.
As they get closer to the opening date, which will be late January or early February, they plan to move some staff over from Taco Mamacita as well as hiring new staff at both restaurants. They said the success they've had in Nashville over the past year has paved the way for them to open a third location, and despite the tough economic time they think their ability to have "a price point for everyone" has helped them.
They said it's still too early to tell if or when they'll open another restaurant, and right now they're concentrating on keeping Urban Stack on track.
"While part of you wants to look ahead, we've got to focus on the project right now and make sure it's a success," Mike Monen said.