Loco Burro, a Tex-Mex restaurant and rooftop bar opening at West Town Mall, won't just be a dining experience. It will supply jobs for an estimated 200 people, with positions still available.
But don't let the name fool you. The people behind Loco Burro, which translates to "crazy donkey," will tell you the concept isn't crazy at all.
Sure, there are mechanical donkey rides and, at the flagship Gatlinburg location, bar stools resembling donkey rears.
But those who prefer sipping to shopping can unwind at the restaurant when it opens later this month, spokesperson Brittany Singh said, while those who spend all day in line will have a fun place to dine while visiting the mall.
Singh, marketing director for restaurant owner Kennedy Concepts, gave Knox News a sneak peek of the forthcoming restaurant, complete with two bars, colorful art, a tortilla-making display and ice cream station.
The restaurant is nearly 13,000 square feet, including a roughly 5,000-square-foot rooftop.
'Sexier' look than Gatlinburg location
Loco Burro is located in the former home of Forever 21, which closed in January 2020.
Singh said West Town Mall reached out to Kennedy Concepts about bringing a local food concept to the property, rather than another national concept like The Cheesecake Factory.
Chad Kennedy, owner of Kennedy Concepts, thought Loco Burro would be a great fit. The Gatlinburg restaurant, which opened in 2011, has been a big hit with tourists.
"At the end of the day, everybody loves Mexican food," Kennedy previously told Knox News. "It's a comfort food."
Singh said the company is going for a "sexier" look at West Town Mall.
"If you go to the Gatlinburg one, it's really touristy," Singh said. "It fits with that demographic. So here, we wanted to add some homey touches and have more comfortable bar seating so you can lounge a little bit longer."
Only a handful of donkey stools were brought to the new location and will be located in a designated "donkey area" near the mechanical ride.
The first-floor bar has garage-style doors that will allow customers to shoot the breeze while catching some air, and bars on both levels will have a special "bar bites" menu.
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Menu: 'Scratch' items, table-side guac
The full menu features a variety of Tex-Mex staple including tacos, burritos, quesadillas and enchiladas, in addition to soups, salads and sweets.
"We freshly squeeze all of our margarita juices," Singh said. "All of our agave syrups are all house-made. Everything is house made. Nothing is frozen. Everything's from scratch."
An ice cream bar has been installed for children to enjoy a sweet treat — served inside a taco shell, of course. For adults, Loco Burro has its own Tex-Mex lager made in partnership with Yee-Haw Brewing Company, Singh said.
A roped-off tortilla station will allow customers to watch food preparation in action, Singh said, and the table-side guacamole service should be a customer favorite.
"It's just for the interaction," she said. "People want to experience different things. ... Our tequila selection is going to be pretty nice. We're going to be doing huge margarita pitchers, margarita sangrias, frozen Mai Tais. Lots of good food, lots of good drinks and a pretty environment. The ambiance is half of it."
Donkey rides and rooftop views
Knoxville muralist Curtis Glover has added his own touch to a wall on the ground level, while famous painting subjects have been replaced with donkeys in framed artwork lining the staircase. An elevator also been installed for second-floor access.
Artistic touches continue on the rooftop, which will include a waterfall feature and fire pits in lounge areas. The views are prime for people watching, Singh said, as many mall guests will walk past the restaurant to enter the building.
Because Loco Burro has a door leading directly outside, the restaurant and bar portions will stay open later than the mall — 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight or later on the weekends.
Singh said Loco Burro could have DJ nights and other forms of entertainment. But the biggest entertainment draw likely will be the mechanical donkey on the ground level.
"As soon as one person gets on it," Singh said, everybody wants to give it a try.
Need a job? Want to visit?
Kennedy said hiring is still taking place, and roughly 75 positions are available.
Kennedy Concepts recently acquired Café 4, a longtime Market Square staple previously owned by Jim and Lori Klonaris.
Loco Burro will host a soft opening Jan. 18 before an official public opening the following day. The restaurant plans to offer brunch in the future.
"Everybody is like, 'Oh, what's your demographic?'" Singh said. "I mean, everybody. ... We feel like we're going to get slammed when we first open because this has been anticipated since last year."
Ryan Wilusz: Knoxville's downtown explorer and urban reporter
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Loco Burro restaurant prepares to open at West Town Mall in Knoxville