Village gets a taste of Mexico in new taco and tequila bar

The Daily News

Red Bird, a new Mexican restaurant in the Village, opened during Finals Week next to Cleo’s Bourbon Bar on Dec. 11, 2012. The bar and restaurant offers a variety of specialty tequilas and is open until 4 am. DN PHOTO JONATHAN MIKSANEK
Red Bird, a new Mexican restaurant in the Village, opened during Finals Week next to Cleo’s Bourbon Bar on Dec. 11, 2012. The bar and restaurant offers a variety of specialty tequilas and is open until 4 am. DN PHOTO JONATHAN MIKSANEK

Chris Ellison turned to the Mayans while searching for a name for his new taco and tequila bar in the Village. Researching their heirographs, he found the red bird.  

“It’s the Mexican cardinal,” Ellison said. “Cardinal is everywhere in Muncie, so we chose the name, Red Bird.”

Red Bird opened on Dec. 11, the start of Finals Week.

“We were slammed from open to close time throughout Finals Week,” he said. “We blew out creating something that didn’t exist. This is an industry that struggles, and you’re more likely to fail than to succeed. No one gets into something to fail, but escaping what could be failure is key.”

Mexican decor infuses the bar’s atmosphere. One part of Red Bird’s wall is made of exposed brick. The bar showcases a wide variety of tequila bottles, some of them quite exquisite. Lights hang from the ceilings and Mexican-influenced paintings hang from the wall.

Although Red Bird is a Mexican restaurant, Ellison brought his background from other areas into the business. Instead of traditional Mexican refried beans, he uses the black beans from his Cuban background. The seasoning in the food is created through a fusion of Cuban and Spanish influences.

“With me being from Georgia, we’re going to have a peach salsa on the menu soon,” he added.

Since Red Bird is opened until 4 a.m., Ellison said he wanted people to come to Red Bird rather than Taco Bell because of the quality of food they serve.

“We wanted a cleaner, healthier menu,” he said.

The business is more than just the food though. It’s specialty is tequila and Ellison made sure to train his new bartenders on the alcohol.

Jaymi Lechlitner, bartender and server at Red Bird, said Ellison sat with the other bartenders and taught them how to take the notes of the tequila.

“He taught us how to smell the tequila,” Lechlitner said. “Inhale through the nose and exhale out of the mouth after the shot. That helped me out to figure out the taste of the tequila.”

Red Bird sells 65 varieties of tequila, ranging from $3 to $50 a shot.

“Every tequila bottle has so much craftsmanship,” Ellison said. “The creativeness that we put in our drinks and the focus we put into designing the menu makes Red Bird so special. We wanted to present a concept of what a Mexican restaurant should be.”

So far Lechlitner said the fish bowl drinks have been a hit with customers. Bartenders make margaritas in large fish bowls with seven different items.

Ellison said business is already booming. Interest began before the bar even opened. Ellison had to frequently turn away customers asking if the bar was open yet.

But even with interest high, the bar still has some kinks to work out.

“My drink was way too strong, and you could tell they didn’t know how to mix it right,” said Michele Murday, a senior geology major who visited the bar the first week it opened. She ordered one of the speciality drinks served in a fish bowl that night.

In addition, Murday said the bar was understaffed for the crowd that was in the bar.

Once they get more into the swing of things, she said the bar has a shot at success.

Ellison said his customers don’t come to Red Bird to sing karaoke or listen to bands, so he plans on setting up events throughout the Spring Semester to bring customers in.

“We are going to plan big St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo events,” he said. “We have trivia night next door at Cleo’s, and we’re going to bring it here.”

With the success Lechlitner said she has already seen at the bar, she is looking forward to see what kinds of people will come starting in this semester.

“Red Bird [has] such a different vibe than what else is in the Village,” she said. “The atmosphere here is definitely going to be a good one, especially with tequila.”




Lindsey Gelwicks contributed to this story.

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