Team Taco Doug Riddle

Doug Riddle is part owner and beverage director at Team Taco.

Mezcal mania has descended upon Springfield, Missouri’s Rountree neighborhood, and Doug Riddle is to blame. Riddle is part owner and beverage director for Team Taco, which opened to immediate acclaim on Aug. 6. Since then, Riddle has debuted an agave-centric cocktail menu that can only be described as “patio-friendly,” encouraging guests to shimmy out of the pint-sized building and enjoy their beverages al fresco. Options include a Mezcal Mule and a Oaxacan Old Fashioned, both of which pair beautifully with chef Daniel Stern’s innovative takes on street tacos with ingredients like pork belly, zucchini and duck confit.

Before diving palate-first into the world of Southwestern spirits, Riddle spearheaded the beverage program at the now-shuttered Social on Patton. While he keeps busy behind the bar at Team Taco, he still finds time to experiment with his craft, whipping up home-brewed beer and loaves of sourdough in his spare time. Now that Team Taco is underway, he’s not sure what’s next. “It would be great to get a larger kitchen area to expand on our Team Taco abilities,” Riddle says. “It would also be really fun to turn all of the extended fermentation sourdough baking I was doing into a business. I would also like to keep making beer with my friends.” Whatever his next move is, it’ll reflect Riddle’s focus on a quality product – and a wickedly good time.

What is your favorite ingredient to work with, and why? Fresh thyme. It goes so well on so many things. I love to fry bacon with a bunch of sprigs and sprinkle some on soft-boiled eggs and crispy pizza.

What's your perfect day of eating in Springfield? Blueberry donut at St. George’s, pig ear taco at Farmers Gastropub, carne asada taco at Elotes Don Toño, espresso and amaro at Cherry Picker, fried tofu noodle bowl with whatever secret hot sauce Joe has available at Skully’s, the mussels in escabeche at Best of Luck [Beer Hall]. It is not an unreal possibility for one of my days to actually go like this.

How has the local food and drink scene evolved over the past year? I believe there is more tangible camaraderie in what the new businesses are doing. There is more willingness to talk shop and work together to solve the problem of bringing new food ideas to Springfield.

What do you like to cook at home or on your day off? I used to cook a lot at home before Team Taco opened. Now, I genuinely don’t feel like cooking much of anything. If or when I do, it’s very simple – like crispy skin salmon with white rice or a fried bologna sandwich a lá Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans. Usually, I just get something to go or eat sardines and saltines with hot sauce and lemon. Do not knock it until you have tried it.

What is your first food memory? I’m not sure of my first food memory, honestly. Even if I did remember it, it’s something I didn’t choose and is entirely too 1980s Midwestern – ground beef spaghetti, stuffed green bell peppers, et cetera. The first food memory that matters to me is the first time I went to Chicago a decade ago and had the foie gras and duck sausage at Hot Doug’s. It is literally the best thing I have ever eaten to this day and it honestly changed my life. It made me look at food – and the people who run restaurants – in an entirely different manner.

What’s the most intriguing thing you’ve made recently? At home, I haven’t made anything inherently intriguing recently – unless you count putting Hatch chile mayo on top of sardines and saltines. I also put an egg on top of frozen pizzas in the last three minutes in the oven. If you aren’t doing that, get on board. At Team Taco, I’m messing around with some frozen boozy popsicles that will hopefully be ready [soon], but they will probably be a limited supply for one day only.

How do you approach R&D for Team Taco, and what inspires that process? Inspiration comes from all over. It’s weird. Most of the time, it sparks from me or one of my other business partners saying something random – i.e. “I had this [dish] the other night. Or I was traveling and had [this dish] to eat or drink.” And then I immediately extrapolate that into our little Team Taco box and go from there. That’s really how R&D works at Team Taco. Something catches our eye or ear and we go from there. But more and more, we find that we can only pull something off because it literally fits into our little space. We do not have a whole lot of room for extras outside of our current offerings. Come to the shop and you will totally see what I’m getting at.

Team Taco, 1454 East Cherry St., Springfield, Missouri, facebook.com/teamtacosgf

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