In February, when a food truck owner and a reporter opened a small-plate Mexican joint/mezcaleria named for the funny-looking stalk on an agave plant, I bet against them. But Dan Salls and Paul Biasco proved me wrong with Logan Square’s stylish Quiote.
They did it by delivering bright takes on chicken mole and churros but also by following the stringent cooking traditions of Mexico City and Oaxaca. Take the miraculous Tamal Oaxaqueño, a highlight of the savvy menu. The kitchen prepares the dough from scratch in a painstaking three-day process called nixtamalization, which involves cooking corn kernels in lye and then soaking, rinsing, and hulling them before forming a dough. Finally, the dough gets steamed and served with mushrooms, salsa morita, queso fresco, and peanuts. “It’s the element of my menu I’m most proud of,” says Salls.
In the morning, the sunny space serves as a mellow coffee bar; by lunchtime, the wood-burning oven sizzles with confit brisket for the tacos and tortas. Then dinner. And in the wee hours, the killer basement mezcal bar overflows with merrymakers who probably never doubted Quiote for a second.
Insider Tip:Every night at 11:30, the chefs send a basket of 20 to 30 special tacos down to the mezcal bar, depending on what inspires them that evening: carne adobada, suadero, calabaza en pipian. “We make one batch,” says Dan Salls. “And once they are sold out, they are sold out.”