Support Local Journalism. Join Riverfront Times Press Club.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

First Look: Rock Star Tacos Brings Music, Mayhem and Margaritas to the Hill

Posted By on Tue, Nov 30, 2021 at 6:07 AM

 
click to enlarge Rock Star Tacos brings its musically-influenced menu of tacos and more to the Hill. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • Rock Star Tacos brings its musically-influenced menu of tacos and more to the Hill.

A few years ago, chef and guitarist Wil Pelly was hanging out with his bandmate, Matt Arana, one night after a gig; a couple of hours and several shots of brown liquor later, the two hatched a plan to open a music-inspired taco counter out of a concession stand in New Town. To their surprise, it was a roaring success — so much of one that Pelly, together with his partner Rebecca Schaaf, now boast a second, larger location on the Hill.

The new Rock Star Tacos (4916 Shaw Avenue) opened on November 19 inside Gaslight Studio, the recording studio and gathering space on Shaw Avenue, just west of Kingshighway Boulevard. Replacing J. Smug's Gastropit, which operated out of Gaslight for roughly two years, Rock Star Tacos builds upon the recipes and rock and roll attitude that gained it such a loyal following at its original St. Charles County location for an audience on the east side of the Missouri River.



"We're building community," Pelly says. "It's fast and friendly; every person who came up to our window [at the New Town location] was greeted with 'Hi, welcome to Rock Star. Can I get your name?' People would come from far away once or twice a week because they felt welcome at this little shack. The food is great, but the biggest success we've had is that we've made our community feel important. This location is a little different and will take time, but if people come in and have a great experience, they will want to keep coming back."

click to enlarge The "Applause" sign is from the K-SHE studio. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • The "Applause" sign is from the K-SHE studio.

Pelly's menu, which is heavily influenced by Tex-Mex as well as his mother's Cuban culinary heritage, draws upon his decades in the St. Louis food scene. Having worked in several of the area's prominent kitchens, including the Libertine, Nudo House and Boundary at the Chesire, Pelly brings his higher-end dining background to casual fare with outstanding results. Though the food at Rock Star Tacos appears simple, it is anything but. Pelly makes nearly everything from scratch, putting the same care into what gets tucked inside a flour tortilla as he did constructing elaborate plates at his former gigs.

And he does this while having fun. Though the food is certainly a major draw, the irreverent, playful vibe at Rock Star Tacos is part of its charm, including the hilarious, music-inspired names he and Schaaf have come up with for their dishes. These include items like the "Skinny Puppies," which are hush puppies made from his signature "Street Korn." Shrimp tacos, comically named "Shrimp Bizkit," feature plump, pan-seared shrimp dressed with sweet peppers and onions." Another favorite, "the Number of the Beef," is Pelly's nod not merely to Iron Maiden, but to the classic gringo taco. Here, seasoned ground beef is adorned with lettuce, cheese and a sour cream-based condiment called "Fancy Sauce."

In addition to the food offerings, Rock Star Tacos has a full bar and plans to offer some form of entertainment — whether that be a trivia night, or live music — every evening it is is open. This commitment is what makes the partnership with Gaslight Studios so natural; patrons of Rock Star Tacos can even watch musicians and podcasters record in Gaslight's glass-enclosed studio, which sits just off the main dining area.

click to enlarge Owners Rebecca Schaaf and Wil Pelly know how to keep it classy. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • Owners Rebecca Schaaf and Wil Pelly know how to keep it classy.

The new Hill location is the latest effort Pelly and Schaaf have taken to grow the Rock Star brand. In addition to the New Town shack (which is temporarily closed for the season) the pair have found success in selling their seasoning blend, "Rock Star Dust," online and in Schnucks stores. They also just inked an arrangement to provide food for the Factory music venue in Chesterfield and hope to continue catering for the musicians who come through the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater when its new season begins next year. As Schaaf explains, the reason for the success is not simply the approachability and fun branding, but that they have been able to create something that is resonating with people beyond the plate.

"The food is really good and not pretentious," Schaaf says. "It's no-frills, just Wil doing his thing as he always has."

Rock Star Tacos is open every day except Mondays from 5 p.m. until midnight and serves food until 11 p.m. Scroll down for more photos of Rock Star Tacos.

click to enlarge The bar at Rock Star Tacos. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • The bar at Rock Star Tacos.

click to enlarge Music memorabilia fills the space. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • Music memorabilia fills the space.

click to enlarge The bar. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • The bar.

click to enlarge Some signed memorabilia from bands like Alice in Chains. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • Some signed memorabilia from bands like Alice in Chains.

click to enlarge Rock Star Tacos serves a variety of beer and cocktails. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • Rock Star Tacos serves a variety of beer and cocktails.

click to enlarge A selection of dishes from Rock Star Tacos. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • A selection of dishes from Rock Star Tacos.

click to enlarge The "Skinny Puppies" are street corn-filled hush puppies. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • The "Skinny Puppies" are street corn-filled hush puppies.

click to enlarge "Street Korn" is a signature dish. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • "Street Korn" is a signature dish.

click to enlarge A selection of tacos including the "Livin' on the Veg," the "Amy Swinehouse" and the "Shrimp Bizkit." - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • A selection of tacos including the "Livin' on the Veg," the "Amy Swinehouse" and the "Shrimp Bizkit."

click to enlarge Gaslight Studio is the perfect fit for the musically-inflected Rock Star Tacos. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • Gaslight Studio is the perfect fit for the musically-inflected Rock Star Tacos.

We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected]


  • Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest on the news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.
  • Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 26, 2022

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2022 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation