Dos Rocas, which opened at 1220 S. Main St. in January, officially relaunched as Mockingbird Bar and Tacos on Thursday. Jack Sundell and Corri Bristow-Sundell, who own The Root Cafe, are now the sole owners of Mockingbird, which Sundell said will be taking an Arkansas local food approach to Latin American cuisine.
Cesar Bordón and Adelia Kittrell, who co-owned Dos Rocas along with Jack and Corri, are leaving the business for “personal reasons,” and Sundell said he and his wife are in the process of purchasing the couple’s half of the business. Sundell said that because of this transition in ownership, it was important for the business to “rebrand.”
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“Dos Rocas was really about Cesar,” Sundell said. “He was from Paraguay, [and] the name and the menu were really his story, and the food was authentic to his heritage and his childhood. With him not part of the business anymore, we felt like we needed to do something that was more authentic to us. So that was where Mockingbird Bar and Tacos came from.”
Sundell said the restaurant has been “sprinkling in” new items for about a month, and Thursday marked the official rebranding. Mockingbird offers many of the same pan-Latin American items from Dos Rocas’s menu — including guacamole, queso, tacos, empanadas and salsas — but some of the “specifically Paraguayan” street food dishes, such as the pastels and pupusas, have been removed. Instead, Mockingbird is “shifting the focus” from those traditional street foods to the emphasis on local and sustainably sourced foods that Sundell said is “the foundation of everything we do at The Root.”
Mockingbird will continue to serve “100 percent” local meat, as Dos Rocas did, and Sundell said the culinary team has made some menu changes that allow the restaurant to source more produce from local farmers with whom they already have relationships. A rajas taco, made from roasted poblano peppers that Sundell said can be locally sourced 9-10 months out of the year, will replace the nopales cactus taco. They’re adding a sweet potato adobo empanada, which will be made from sweet potatoes that can be sourced 12 months out of the year from Matthews Ridgeview Farms in Wynne, Ark. — the same farm that supplies The Root Cafe for its sweet potato fries.
The Mockingbird menu will offer a new taco lineup, including a fried fish taco made from “masa-breaded striped bass” from Arkansas Aquaponics in Lonoke and served with tomatillo chow-chow — a pickled relish — and chipotle crema. Other taco choices include chorizo, grilled chicken, carnitas and spiced braised beef, all from Rabbit Ridge Farms, along with slow roasted lengua — beef tongue — from B & C Farms, seasonal grilled vegetables, rajas, and smoked tofu. Sundell said all the corn tortillas will be made from scratch before every shift, so all tacos will be gluten free.
“We’re definitely saying farm to table tacos, or even farm to taco,” Sundell said. “Something we’re really wanting to make sure people know [is that] we’re as serious about our local sourcing here as we are at The Root Cafe.”
They’re also adding “wings salsa macha” to the menu, which offers eight pieces of fried, crispy wings and drummettes from Rabbit Ridge Farms tossed in “guajillo pepper salsa” and served with tomatillo buttermilk dipping sauce. A favored Dos Rocas dish, the nachos rocas, will stay on the menu, as will $5 margaritas made from fresh lime juice.
Sundell said Jonathan Arrington, dinner chef and kitchen manager at The Root Cafe, has been a “driving force and creative force” behind much of the menu redesign at Mockingbird, and he’ll be spending time at the re-envisioned restaurant as well. Sundell said a “large majority” of the kitchen staff from Dos Rocas will remain at Mockingbird, as will much of the front of house staff.
Changes have been made to the restaurant’s interior design as well. Sundell said the pool table, which formerly occupied space by the bar in the space’s back left corner, has been removed and replaced with additional bar seating, and the “dining room layout is a lot more comfortable.” Corri Bristow-Sundell, whom Sundell said does all of the “design and atmosphere work,” has moved away from “traditional Latin American iconography” and instead “put together a really nice, eclectic combination of lot of Arkansas artists, [with] really nice pieces from various places that we’ve traveled, and a lot of Mockingbird images from different artists.” Sundell said the new decor also includes drawings, watercolors and oil paintings from his grandfather, who spent a lot of time in Mexico, and many more live plants.
“We really want to bolster the partnership between Mockingbird and The Root,” Sundell said. “We want to make sure that anyone who enjoys coming to The Root Cafe for a meal, whether it’s for finding sustainably sourced food, a family friendly atmosphere, great customer service, [or] our focus on scratch cooking… are gonna find the same things here at Mockingbird, just with slightly Latin American influence.”
Mockingbird is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. Happy hour specials run Tuesday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and include $2 tacos on Tuesdays and $2 empanadas on Wednesdays.