Scott Wallace is starting a mini-food revolution in the Rankin Vault's very lightly equipped kitchen, and he's building it tortilla by tortilla.
The Vault, with its serviceable $2 tacos, has stepped it up a notch or two, and the still-low prices are beginning to look more of a bargain.
Patrons of the Vault may remember that the tacos used to necessitate either lightning-speed eating or a sloppy-looking palm-to-mouth shoveling maneuver to help keep the inevitable taco disintegration mess to a minimum.
Under Wallace's direction, the kitchen's now getting tortillas from Mr. Suave, a Patton Avenue business that sells them fresh by the kilo, and toasting them crisp to keep the taco meltdown at bay. Pork and chicken tacos are still available, but the meat has been upgraded to Hickory Nut Gap pork belly and free range chicken from Ashley Farms — and still cost $2. For a buck more, you can now get a fish taco with baja sauce and shredded napa, or an Ashley Farms duck breast taco.
Wallace was the executive chef of Mr. Friendly's in Columbia, S.C., a destination for casual but updated Southern cuisine, before he joined the line at the Admiral. Perhaps influenced by the late-night menu there, Wallace has added a very good, perfectly messy bahn mi-style hoagie with a choice of either HNG pork belly or Smiling Hara tempeh with spicy aioli, shaved jalapeño and carrot, cucumber, daikon and cilantro. That, served with herb-roasted potatoes, costs $7.
While it's not mind-blowing stuff, it's a solidly good upgrade from the menu before, without costing any extra money. As Wallace aptly puts it, "It's simple food that's good to eat, whether you are or aren't drunk."
The Rankin Vault Cocktail Lounge is located at 7 Rankin Ave. For more information, visit http://rankinvault.com.