Spain is a long way from Rainey Street, but Tapas Bravas, a literal labor of love, has firmly planted the Spanish zeal for passion and great food in an unassuming backyard food trailer court just south of downtown.
What is Tapas Bravas? Well, literally translated, the name of the big, gunmetal gray food truck emblazoned with an image of a bright red bull means “brave appetizers.” Tapas aren’t exactly appetizers, though, they’re more like a series of small plates served during a long, slow evening sharing with friends and lovers, enjoyed with sangria and conversation. The translation for bravas deserves a little leeway, too. “I like an alternate translation of fierce,” Alex Hord, Tapas Bravas co-owner said.
Fierce is a fitting word for the endeavor. The animated Hord and his partner, Jed Holdredge, jumped in feet first just over six months ago, building this remarkable new business from the ground up. “Professionally speaking, we opened a truck within 30 days, which is crazy,” Hord said. The couple opened another truck less than half a year later next to East Austin’s Weather Up bar, and they are just getting started. “We’re really not stopping to breathe and take a break,” Hord said.
Spain is also a long way from east Texas, where Holdredge, who complements Hord’s vigor with a sense of coyness, was raised. “I really didn’t know much about Spanish food until I went to do my senior year of high school in Spain,” he said. “I lived in Valencia, the home of paella, the national dish of Spain. People there are very passionate about their food.” As Holdredge was raised on an Athens, Texas, meat-and-potato diet, exposure to Spanish culinary tradition was an eye- opening experience for him. “It was quite an extreme and immediate kind of slap-in-the-face transition,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in the kitchen of the home I lived in. They had a cook (named Sylvette) who was from France. She was one of my best friends there, and I would spend time watching her and taking notes. When she had time off, we would go to all the little tapas bars in Valencia.”
Both Holdredge and Hord (a Brownsville native) come from Aggie families and, 18 years ago, each moved to College Station to complete his studies. It wasn’t as difficult of a transition as conventional gay wisdom might predict. “Actually, I think it’s not what a lot of people would expect,” Holdredge said. “Because the student body trends conservative, your more like- minded people tend to gravitate and there’s a really close-knit community.” The couple met at the student health center where Hord worked the admissions desk, and after a few days, they had their first date. Years later, Holdredge requested his health records from A&M. That November 2, he surprised Hord by wishing him a happy anniversary, years after their first meeting in the health center.
The couple agreed that they wanted to make a move to Austin. Two cats, a dog, an advanced degree, and several retail- and office-jobs later, Holdredge and Hord have built a solid life together in the capital city. After years in the corporate world, their latest enterprise suits them. “We live Spanish hours,” Hord said. “We have a siesta and are up until the wee hours of the night.”
And their regard for each other is apparent. “I’m the chef and food truck operations guy,” Holdredge said. “Alex is an electrician, a graphic designer, and pretty much everything else,” he added, clearly still enchanted by Hord. “I’m also free labor in the truck,” Hord said with a smile. And while what’s next might not be readily apparent, the couple is clearly in step with each other, both professionally and as a pair. “The one thing that we do know is that the food is really good,” Hord said. “Jed is an amazing chef. After 18 years, I still never get tired of his food.”