Dudley Nieto is no newbie to tacos. The Puebla, Mexico, native has been in the restaurant business for over 35 years now, most notably at Barbakoa, Xel-Há, and Adobo Grill. This past month the restless chef opened his own 80-seat taqueria and bar, Rojo Gusano (3830 W. Lawrence Ave., Albany Park, 773-539-4398), giving the old Mayan Sol Latin Grill space a facelift while resurrecting a few of Nieto’s fan-favorite dishes.
Nieto and the Moreno family (Mamma Mia Restaurant) co-own the casual neighborhood joint, which serves up three versions of guacamole: spicy pumpkin, fiery habanero, and a traditional serrano pico de gallo ($5.50). As far as tacos go, Nieto brought back a Xel-Há signature—crispy tortilla and tender pork shanks slathered in salsa ($2.50 each). Other tacos include guajillo-braised short ribs and charred butternut squash.
For now there won’t be any grasshopper tacos, a Nieto specialty. However, the chef has resurrected his tlayuda dish, a massive house-made tortilla topped with black beans, chorizo, Oaxacan string cheese, avocado, radishes, and roasted cascabel salsa—the original recipe, minus the bugs ($10.95).
If all goes well, you might see more Rojo Gusanos around town. The Morenos own prime real estate near Quenchers Saloon in Bucktown which may soon serve as a second location.