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At Barbakoa: Three Guacamoles, Nine Tacos, and Two Big Names

The well-traveled chef Dudley Nieto teams up with big-time restaurateur Jerry Kleiner for a new place in Downers Grove.

Baja cod tacos at Barbakoa   Photo: Xavier Carlin

Quick-hit trivia for true Chicago food-scene junkies: What’s chef Dudley Nieto’s current project? And what’s the restaurateur Jerry Kleiner’s working on?

Okay, they were both trick questions that share the same answer: It’s Barbakoa (1431 Butterfield Rd., Downers Grove, 630-852-2333), a modern-Latin restaurant that opened this past Tuesday, October 15, at the former site of a Buona Beef.

Nieto (Zocalo, Zapatista, Adobo Grill, Eivissa, etc.) made the acquaintance of Kleiner (Carnivale, Gioco, Marché, Red Light, Club 33, etc.), and “he fit in really well,” Kleiner says—we’re guessing maybe because they could swap war stories all night.

Nieto’s menu features three different guacamoles, five seviches, and nine tacos, including the Barbakoa Short Rib Taco, with short ribs braised for six hours with ancho, guajillo, and pasilla chiles and the Mexican liquor pulque. The busy cocktail consultant Adam Seger designed Barbakoa’s bar menu, including custom margaritas, mojitos, and sangrías.

“The place is beautiful. The outdoor area is beautiful,” says Kleiner, who is known for his restaurants’ dazzling interiors. The outdoor space, on almost two acres, contains a bar and a fireplace that might let them eke out a few happy hours before winter.

Next trivia question: What’s Scott Harris up to? He’s been awfully quiet lately . . .


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