Mercadito Owners to Open Tavernita in River North
Six Questions for Alfredo Sandoval
Sandoval, Larry Silver, and Felipe and Patricio Sandoval (Alfredo’s brothers) are opening Tavernita (151 W. Erie St.; no phone yet), the fifth restaurant for the partnership, this summer. They also own the Mercadito restaurants in Chicago, New York, and Miami. As reported by Eater, the Sandoval brothers just named Ryan Poli (Perennial) as their chef. Check @PennyPollack and chicagomag.com tomorrow for a Q & A with Poli.
Dish: How will Tavernita differ from Mercadito?
Alfredo Sandoval: The way it is broken down, [Tavernita is] three different experiences. [First,] a corner bar somewhat separate from the restaurant with a menu more conducive to bar dining. [Second,] the dining room, more for a serious diner. The full dining experience. [Third,] the dining lounge will be more loud than the dining room. More loungey in terms of seating arrangement but more comfortable than most dining lounges.
D: What will the food be like?
AS: There’s a raw bar in the dining room. A crudo bar [is served] from there [also]. There’s what we call en pan: homemade toasts with things served on them. Like bruschetta but a little more creative.
D: Oysters and flatbreads are trendy. The press release also mentions house-made charcuterie. Are you consciously following trends with Tavernita?
AS: In the last two years, there’s definitely a huge trend of restaurants that serve a little bit of many things. As opposed to Mercadito. If you don’t like Mexican food, you won’t go to Mercadito. We want to make [Tavernita] foodie in the sense that it appeals to the majority of people that go out to dinner.
D: What about drinks?
AS: We are going to have a draft system that will serve about 20 different beers on draft. Fifteen to 20 wines are also served on draft. Also about eight of our signature cocktails are coming from the draft system.
D: Wine on draft?
D: Does the opening of Tavernita mean that there won’t be more Mercaditos?
AS: We do have plans to open another Mercadito in Chicago. This location was too close to the other one.
“I can tell you why God did not want me to like bell peppers. It’s necessary that there’s something I do not like.” —Ferran Adrià (1962–), the chef at El Bulli in Roses, Spain, in an interview in Esquire
Don’t Touch That Dial
Like in a spinoff TV show, two main characters have left A Tavola to open their own place, Antico (1946 N. Leavitt St.; 773-489-4895). Brad Schlieder—A Tavola’s ex–general manager and Antico’s owner—and the chef Audias Gutierrez plan to open Antico with an Old World Italian menu in early March. “It is matriarchal Italian cooking, not head-down knife skills,” Schlieder says. In the morning, Antico will be a European café with house-roasted coffee. For dinner, the menu will be built around what’s fresh at the market or from the restaurant’s 150- to 200-square-foot garden. “I didn’t put a lot of refrigeration in [Antico],” Schlieder says. “It dictates that we do our shopping pretty much every other day.” Solid concept, but spinoffs are risky. Here’s hoping it’s more Frasier than The Tortellis.
Today, the (large) family that owns La Casa de Isaac and Isaac & Moishe’s Deli, Fruits & Vegetables is quickly opening a restaurant called La Casa de Isaac & Moishe (2014 First St., Highland Park; 224-388-9486) in the space that until February 4th housed That Little Mexican Café. The menu at Isaac & Moishe will be a little fancier than La Casa de Isaac’s, Isaac Nava says, including filet mignon fajitas, a salmon and goat cheese burrito, and a whole grilled red snapper marinated in salsa. Nava hopes to bring in his mother from Mexico soon to create new recipes, train staff, and visit the Chicago branch of the family. “She has to come in and meet three grandkids she doesn’t know [yet]. She has, total, so far, 42 grandkids,” Nava says. Forty-two grandkids? If they all go into the family business, eventually they will own every restaurant in Highland Park.
Pollack’s Dinner at Bistronomic in 86 Words
I expected Bistronomic (840 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-944-8400) to be good, with Martial Noguier (One Sixtyblue, Café des Architectes) as chef/partner, but given the four-week whirlwind morph from Eve and its contemporary American menu to French bistro, I was prepared to cut the place a little slack. Then I started eating. From the artisanal cheeses and rustic pâté through the delicate gnocchi and savory poulet, I was floored. My meal was fab, the prices were friendly, and I really wanted Bistronomic to remain my little secret.
We Wool Rock You
Although it’s already gone through the names Gabba Gabba Hey and James Toland (after its chef/partner), the restaurant now called The Black Sheep (1132 W. Grand Ave.; 312-997-5100) seems to have settled into plans to open in the old May Street Market space by early April. Toland, a Lockwood vet, has been hiring in the kitchen. The chef de cuisine will be Dustin Osuch, the former executive chef at Joël Robuchon at the Mansion in Las Vegas, and the pastry chef will be Sarah Jordan, who was number two on the pastry team with Patrick Fahy at Blackbird. Close followers of this place will already have heard of the secret menu that goes into effect after 10 p.m. and the rock ’n’ roll vibe—which extends even to Toland making a record available for purchase in the restaurant. “We’ve got pretty strong independent music credentials behind us. It differentiates us from other restaurants.” Toland says the project reflects him and his business partner, Tony Cournia (L2O), and their passions. “I hope in a couple of years that Michelin recognizes that,” Toland says. Now that they’ve settled on the name Black Sheep, we’d like to suggest baba for the dessert menu.
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On the Blog
From miracle berries to pay-per-hour dining, Dish and Homaro Cantu talk Ing.
Things to Do
1. Toast George Washington’s birthday Tuesday at Ai Japanese Restaurant & Lounge (358 W. Ontario St.; 312-335-9888), where you can nab one of 20 select food items for a single Washington (i.e., one buck—not a quarter, unfortunately) with each drink purchase.
2. Now that football’s over, spend Sunday nights promoting family values with a $24 five-course family-style feast at Pensiero Ristorante (1566 Oak Ave., Evanston; 847-475-7779)
3. Unleash your sweet tooth—and your pup—Thursday at the Hotel Allegro (171 W. Randolph St.; 312-236-0123) for a complimentary wine and chocolate soiree, featuring chocolate marshmallows created by Kim Schwenke of 312 Chicago. (Don’t fret; there’ll be carob treats for Spot.) Donations will benefit the Anti-Cruelty Society.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
José Hernández and Doroteo Rodríguez, former employees of Osteria Via Stato, have opened Restaurant Buen Gusto (1636 W. Howard St.; 773-274-2570), a taquería in Rogers Park. Steak, beef tongue, ground beef, al pastor, chicken, and chorizo tacos run $1.95 each, and guacamole is made to order. . . . With the opening of Greek-inspired morning spot Kanela (3231 N. Clark St.; 773-248-1622), it’s back to breakfast as usual in the former Lake View Orange space. . . . Everest Burger and Bakery (91 Green Bay Rd., Glencoe; 847-242-0909) debuts Monday, aiming to boost the North Shore burger scene to new heights. . . . A fresh outpost of Hot Woks Cool Sushi (312 W. Adams St.; 312-220-0011) rolls into the Loop on Tuesday. . . . Girl & the Goat is the recipient of Saveur’s inaugural restaurant review (March 2011)—and it’s a good one.