Tailgate Tacos Brings Restorative Street Food, Good Company, and Frosty Beverages to Remote Oliver Springs, TN

As I squeezed a thin slice of lime into a cold Mexican lager, I couldn’t help but smile. I was lucky to find an actual seat for my weary body at an unassuming taco spot in Oliver Springs, TN.  The décor was convincingly “dirt baggy”, featuring gravel floors and open-air seating accented by muddy bikes leaning against 4×4 vehicles.  Those seeking a trendy, upscale experience should look elsewhere as this tiny bistro does not cater to nattily clad socialites and Insta-foodies.  Patrons should be aware of a strict dress code consisting of riding gear, bike shop t-shirts, fleece jackets, denim and flannel.  Just in case you forget, the proprietors offer a beach towel and rubber mat for easy wardrobe adjustments.

If you can snag a spot on a busy weekend day, you’re in for a restorative evening of culinarily delights and camaraderie.  Your fellow diners provide the entertainment by recounting the day at Windrock Bike Park while stretching and massaging sore muscles.  Tall tales of big sends and close calls on the steep, unforgiving trails are shared over chips and salsa and washed down with cold brews.  The good-natured bragging and subsequent ribbing are only interrupted by requests to pick up the appetizers and grab another frosty can from the well-stickered cooler serving as a bistro table.

Chef Strom is as spicy as her food—quick to heckle her guests with verbal jabs or award them high-fives while holding court over the flat top camp grill perched in a kitchen eerily resembling the tailgate of pickup truck.  The highly-self-trained cook generously skipped the last shuttle in order to make final preparations to ingredients that were chopped and marinated in advance and transported in Tupperware and reusable Ziploc.  With a margarita in one hand, tongs in the other and dried mud in her hair, she wowed her guests with heavily seasoned chicken thighs seared next to piles of peppers, onions and chiles.  As the food was served, hungry patrons crowded around the gear tub buffet to assemble monstrous fajitas topped with fresh herbs, onion, cheese, hot sauce and guacamole.  Before long, animated conversations faded into quiet, happy munching. 

I can’t recommend Tailgate Tacos highly enough and look forward to capping off future adventures with Chef Strom at a different trailhead or campground. Her riffs on street tacos and fajitas provide the perfect mix of carbohydrates, protein and vegetables to restore bruised and weary bodies and is guaranteed to bring bonked-out riders back from the dead.  The family style meals cater to small riding groups but can easily stretch to account for new friends drawn to the delectable scents and joyous atmosphere.  While the ambiance and locale may not be chic or trendy, if you’re reading this, I guarantee it’s right up your alley. 

4.5 / 5 Stars (docked a half star because they ran out of chips …). 

Kate’s Incognito Parking Lot Margarita

A great day on the trails is best capped off with a cold drink in the parking lot.  Keep your post-ride celebrations on the down low as you sip Chef Strom’s Incognito Parking Lot Margarita: 

1 Can/Bottle of Fresca Grapefruit Soda

2oz Tequila

½ Lime, Squeezed (or a splash of bottled lime juice)


  1. Sip or pour out a few ounces of Fresca from the can.
  2. Replace with tequila
  3. Squeeze half of a lime into the can
  4. Swirl together, and enjoy.
JONATHAN STROM – Mr. Strom has served as a dirtbag eatery critic and consultant for the Kona Cog since 2020.  He’s the first Cog correspondent to give starred reviews to dining concepts in trailhead parking lots across the Southeastern United States. His preferred focus is on the genres and methods widely seen as outside the scope of modern journalist food reviews such as post-ride eats and quick trailside cocktails.