Purple Onion owners stir up a refreshing concept
Saluda’s full-time population is just under 800, and its newest Main Street restaurant is also rather small. And yet The S.P.O.T. can mix a unique adult beverage for almost 2 percent of its locals.
The compact venue’s drink menu numbers no less than nine inspired margaritas. Additional craft cocktails include “The Smoky Mountain Top” featuring Mezcal, blackberries from local Atkins Orchard, and lemon.
Chambli Stuber opened The S.P.O.T. — Saluda Purple Onion Taqueria — with her business partner, Emily Lamar. The two own the Purple Onion, known for its inventive cuisine and as one of the region’s better music venues since the ’90s.
But it just can’t have everything.
“We always wanted a taco place in Saluda — just for us to go eat at. Anytime we would see a new restaurant opening, we would say, ‘I hope they’re doing tacos and burritos,’” says Stuber.
“So in the end, we just decided to do it ourselves.”
Stuber and Lamar grew up together in Saluda, and after cooking around the Southeast, Stuber came back to settle down and returned to the Purple Onion, where she had started out as a dishwasher. Eventually Lamar and Stuber decided to buy the Purple Onion from Lamar’s mother, Susan Casey, in 2020.
“The idea of someone buying the Purple Onion and turning it into something that it isn’t was a terrifying thought — but the other terrifying thought was actually owning it,” recalls Stuber, laughing. “Emily and I are yin and yang, but we complement each other very well. I couldn’t have asked for a better business partner.”
Their new place (“it’s fusion, not Mexican,” says Stuber) makes tacos, burritos, rice-and-bean bowls, salads, and quesadillas that are “[consistent with] our philosophy at the Purple Onion: fresh, quality ingredients, locally sourced as much as possible — just wrapped in a tortilla.”
But the restaurateur also wants The S.P.O.T. to have a clear identity. “We really wanted to stand out against our competitors. We wanted people to say, ‘Hey, do you remember that taco we had at The S.P.O.T. in Saluda?’
“We have our own signature way of eating a taco, which we call getting your taco ‘Spotted,’” Stuber goes on. “[It’s] taking a flour tortilla spread with our black-bean spread, wrapped around a crunchy taco shell, and stuffed with your taco fillings.”
“During the pandemic, when things were tough, we’d get together with a few of our friends, make tacos, and drink tequila and margaritas,” recalls Lamar. “So Chambli started making those ‘Spotted’ tacos then —and that quickly became how we eat our tacos now.
“You get that crunch, but it’s held together by that fluffy flour tortilla,” Lamar explains. “Once you’ve had it, it’s the only way to eat a taco.”
The S.P.O.T., 101 East Main St., Saluda, 828-769-9100, thespotsaluda.com. Generally open Monday and Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday, 12-5pm. Also on Facebook: The SPOT.