UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — A Mexican restaurant specializing in tacos and tortas has opened quietly along the same Western Avenue block that's home to a number of new, trendy spots, such as Leghorn Chicken and Sportsman's Club.
Tatoco opened without much fuss at 949 N. Western Ave. to test the menu and work any kinks ahead of a grand opening, said Ivan Torres, a co-owner. The restaurant started with dinner and recently added brunch hours.
"You really get a feel for what the neighborhood wants and what our customers are going to want," said Torres, whose newly formed restaurant group R.O.C Venues also runs the Lincoln Park taco spot Bodega along with the Loop's Bodega To Go and The Option Room, he said.
Because so many patrons have asked for a fish taco, for example, Torres said one is currently in the works.
"We’ve been doing this for awhile," Torres said. "But with Tatoco, we really wanted to try around with different textures, different flavors [and] combining different influences."
One example is the restaurant's BBQ carnitas, which draw from a Southwestern theme with a combination of braised pork, creamy slaw and crispy potatoes. Another is the P.L.T., made with pork belly, lettuce, tomatoes, sesame oil dressing and spicy aioli.
Every main item on the menu can be made as taco or torta, a Mexican sandwich. Tacos are $3, tortas are $7 and a combo is $10 at the cash-only, BYOB spot.
There's also a variety of sides, including fries with spicy olive oil and cojita cheese as well as pepinos with lime juice, salt and paprika, among others. In addition, the restaurant will usually offer a seasonal, off-menu dish for vegetarians.
Torres plans to have a grand opening sometime in June to coincide with the addition of a patio, he said.
While there are a number of other taco joints in the neighborhood, Torres hopes the torta option will be part of what makes his place special.
"I think a lot of people are scared when they first see torta because they don’t know what it is," Torres said.
For now, much of his business has been from people wandering in, sometimes after getting a drink at Sportsman's Club, which reopened in December at 948 N. Western Ave., or from Stella's Tap at 935 N. Western Ave.
One of the newest, most buzzed about places is Leghorn Chicken, which is close by at 959 N. Western Ave.
"The more businesses that come and really provide something different for the neighborhood, I think it's helpful for everybody," Torres said.
Torres said he was particularly excited to open a restaurant in a growing, up-and-coming neighborhood.
"So far, it’s been fantastic," he said.
Tatoco is open Tuesday- Thursday from 4 p.m. - 10 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. - 11 p.m. Saturday from 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.