In October, Ryan Poli stepped down from the chef half of his chef/partner position with Mercadito Hospitality, the owners of Mercadito, Tavernita, and Little Market Brasserie, locally. Joining the team as partner and taking up Poli’s spatulas is Guillermo Tellez, a longtime Chicagoan returning for this gig.
After getting his restaurant-world start as an IHOP short-order cook, Tellez worked his way up through Charlie Trotter’s kitchen, becoming his chef de cuisine and opening Trotter’s erstwhile Cabo San Lucas outpost, C Restaurant. He has left his job heading two hotel restaurants in Philadelphia to oversee the Mercadito stable, including two in-development Chicago projects, Mercadito Counter and Tippling Hall. “It’s a great company and a great fit,” Tellez says.
“We got lucky that [Tellez] chose us,” says Alfredo Sandoval, Mercadito Hospitality managing partner. “He had many, many offers.” Mercadito Counter (738 N. Clark St., River North, no phone yet), scheduled to open in early 2014, will serve fast-casual “Mexican deli” food, such as Mexican-style hamburgers and hot dogs, tacos, and nachos. “The best you ever tried,” Sandoval says. Tippling Hall (646 N. Franklin St., River North, no phone yet), also slated for early 2014, will serve comfort food until very late at night, having inherited a 4 a.m. liquor license from the space’s previous occupant, Hop Haus.
Sandoval says Poli is heading to New York on good terms with his Mercadito partners. “More of a one-restaurant type is the way he sees himself,” Sandoval says. Fair enough. We’re crossing our fingers that Tellez is the five-restaurant type.