“My heart is in it!” Tanya Hassell made the comment about her passion for cooking, but the statement holds even more true regarding her plans to open a new restaurant on the west side of the Memphis city square.
Tanya and her partner Bobby Bair plan to open Grill Me, the community’s newest eatery, in mid-August.
“This has always been a dream of mine,” said Tanya, whose excitement for launching the endeavor is tempered by the tragedy that she says ultimately led her to take the significant professional leap.
“I lost my son Gavin earlier this year in a traffic accident,” said Tanya. “Just like me, he was so enthusiastic about food and it brought him a lot of joy. He knew this is what I wanted to do, so it is my way of honoring his memory. I’m pretty sure he would have been proud of this.”
Earlier this year Tanya and Bobby launched Grill Me as a food truck service, most recently serving at the NEMO Fair in Kirksville.
While they plan to continue to offer that service, the new storefront will allow them the opportunity to expand their menu and serve an expanded customer base back here at home.
“I grew up as an Army brat, so I have lived in a lot of different places,” said Tanya. “Because of that I want the menu here to offer some of that same variety.”
The restaurant will feature four different types of cuisine, adding Mexican, Asian and Italian foods to the traditional Midwest menu of burgers, tenderloins and sandwiches.
“We plan to offer one or two really good items from each of these styles, making sure there is something for everyone,” she said. “When families go out to eat it can be hard to agree on where to eat based on the menu. Here you will be able to have choices that can hopefully make everyone happy.
The menu variety has led the owners to consider the possibility of a name change for the restaurant in the near future.
“We definitely are considering transitioning into something more appropriate, but for right now we just went with what was associated with our current customer base,” said Tanya. “We’ve even talked about some type of promotion or contest that will allow customers to help us come up with the new name.”
But for now, Grill Me will be open Tuesday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. They hope to open sometime next week, but are awaiting the finalization of some legal paperwork. Tanya said she will post more information on the opening date in the storefront once the work is completed.
“Cooking has always been my passion,” said Tanya, who credits her father as an inspiration for her culinary pursuits. “He loves to cook and has always been very good at it. I believe I inherited his joy for being in the kitchen.”
That passion let to a variety of experience in the culinary field. Most recently, Tanya spent five years as the director of the dietary department for the nursing home.
“That time truly cemented my love for doing this,” she said. “I always enjoyed cooking, but that experience allowed me to witness how much joy good food can bring to people. When it is done right, food can bring a lot of comfort to people.”