By Rima Austin, contributor SPARTA LIVE | April 5, 2018
Great migrations have had an impact on the American culture, which usually involved families moving from east to west. Thirteen years ago however, a great migration took place from west to east, at least for one family.
Robert and Tammy Hysell were both raised in New Mexico. Both sides of their family had deep Southwestern roots, with Robert Hysell’s heritage tracing back to Mexico and Spain. Even though they loved their native state, they were looking for a change, so they packed their belongings and followed other family members to the Southeast where they say they fell in love with everything Tennessee.
“First my parents came out here, then the grandparents followed, then an aunt and uncle, then my brother and then finally we came out,” Tammy Hysell pondered. “When we came out here, we fell in love with the scenery and water, and we thought that this would be a good place to raise our children.”
Family ties were not the only thing that the Hysells brought with them, however; they also brought the rich culture of New Mexico as well, especially by way of New Mexican cuisine. Being that both Tammy and Robert Hysell are from New Mexico, it almost goes without saying that, just like a Tennessean knows how to make biscuits and gravy practically with their eyes closed, they are experts on the rich flavors of New Mexican food. Robert Hysell makes it clear that although Mexican and New Mexican food may seem the same to the public at large, there are subtle differences that separate the two.
“When the Spanish-American war happened, Mexico wasn’t even there; that was New Spain,” says Robert Hysell. “When Mexico was finally formed and the border was established, the Native Americans already had their food, which had a lot of Mexican influence. Then when the west was won, here come your cowboy chuckwagon meals.”
Robert Hysell explained that the main ingredients that make New Mexico cuisine different from its Southern neighbor are the rich, flavorful chili peppers that are indigenous to New Mexico, such as the Hatch Chili, Pueblo chilis, and the spicy, smoky flavor of the Rio Grande chili, the kind that Tammy Hysell’s aunt ships to them from the Albuquerque valley, as well as the namesake for the restaurant.
When asked why they wanted to open their own restaurant with a southwestern flare, Tammy Hysell explains, “We love our New Mexican food, and we miss it. I would always cook New Mexican dishes for friends and family, and I have always loved the restaurant business, so I thought, why not open my own?”
Tammy and Robert Hysell plan to keep the business small for now and only offer breakfast and lunch. Deliveries to businesses in the White County area and possibly catering business functions as well are just two of the many plans that they have in store for the future.
Rio Grande is located at 340 North Spring St. in Sparta, and will be having their grand opening April 9. While they do not have a sit-in establishment, they do offer two ways to order, and that is going through the drive-thru, and walking up to the take-out window. Robert Hysell explains that your time to receive your food can be cut down even further by calling in your request ahead of time at (931) 256-8114.