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Topper's Pizza One of Three New Eateries Coming to Wicker Park

By Alisa Hauser | August 9, 2013 9:32am
 Three new restaurants are coming to Wicker Park.  
 Authentaco will take over the former La Pasadita taco hut at 1411 N. Ashland Ave; 5411 Empanadas will be moving into the former J. Wellington's burger restaurant at 2045 W. North Ave.  Lastly, representatives from the Topper's Pizza franchise say they're close to securing a storefront space in the 1600 block of N. Milwaukeee Ave., just north of the Milwaukee, Damen, North avenues intersection.
Authentaco, 5411 Empanadas, Topper's Pizza
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WICKER PARK —  From gourmet empanadas to authentic tacos and late-night franchise pizza, there will soon be three more reasons to never go hungry in Wicker Park.

Authentaco, 1141 N. Ashland Ave.

In March, it was confirmed that the tiny bright yellow taco hut just south of Ashland Avenue and Division Street that was long home to one of three La Pasadita Mexican restaurants would become a new taqueria from local restaurateur Felipe Caro.

Caro, owner of Picante at 2016 W. Division Street and Delish Diner 2018 W. Division St. Wicker, is heading up Authentaco at 1141 N. Ashland Ave., it was recently announced.

Caro said he has "no plans to change the facade" of Authentaco's building, which is from a 1930s era 5-cent hamburger stand called Snappy Service Station, a discovery that was made in March during renovation of the small 420 square-foot space.

Described as "sleek" and "casual" in a news release, Authentaco's interior will feature reclaimed wood, metal, original subway tiles, and a stand-up counter for dining. During the warmer months, a patio will offer seating for 30 and a foosball table.

True to its name, Authentaco's authentic Mexican menu ingredients will include house-made tortillas, specialty aqua frescas, elotes (corn) and huitlacoche, or "corn smut," which is a delicacy in Mexico.

Diners can also expect to find traditional al pastor on the spit or vegetarian style with roasted camote (sweet potatoes) at Authentaco.  A revolving menu will include Chicharrones con Salsa Roja (fried pork rinds) and Rajas con Queso (roasted poblanos with melted Chihuahua cheese).

Authentaco, 1411 N. Ashland Ave., Hours 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to Midnight Friday-Saturday.

5411 Empanadas, 2045 W. North Ave.

A new tenant has been secured for a long vacant space that most recently housed J. Wellington's, a hamburger restaurant that shuttered in January of 2012.

Real estate developer Steve Lipe purchased the two-story building at 2045 W. North Ave. in July and said Lakeview's 5411 Empanadas plans to use the first floor as a commissary kitchen for its food truck as well as for its restaurant at 2850 N. Clark St., which opened last year.

Nicolas Ibarzabel operates 5411 Empanadas with two other partners, all from Buenos Aires, Argentina, for which the name of the restaurant pays homage. The International calling code for Argentina is 54 and 11 is the code for Buenos Aires, Ibarzabel said at a community meeting Wednesday.

5411 Empanadas, which hopes to open early next year, offer several varieties of empanadas including beef, ham and cheese, barbecue chicken, sweet corn, banana and Nutella, according to its menu.

Topper's Pizza

Topper's Pizza, a Wisconsin-based chain known for its quirky toppings, plans to open three additional Chicago locations soon, including one in Wicker Park, confirmed Franchise director Mark Cairns Thursday.

Cairns said the group is getting closer to securing a space near the Milwaukee, Damen, North avenues intersection.

We've been "actively and aggressively looking for a spot in Wicker Park," Cairns said.  

Topper's currently has 50 locations, primarily in Wisconsin and Minnesota and has doubled the size of its chain in past couple of years, Cairn said. Two existing Topper's Pizzas are located downtown at 120 S. Halsted St. and 727 S. State St.

Cairns said Topper's stores are open until 3 a.m. and 70 percent of the pizzas Toppers sells are for delivery rather than dine-in. With about 30 toppings to choose from, Cairns said the most popular sellers are buffalo chicken, mac and cheese and hand-pinched sausage.