MEDICAL DISTRICT — The brothers behind the La Adelita torta truck have left the mobile food game for something they hope is more permanent.
Teddy and Alexis Vejar are getting ready to open Jarabe at 2255 W. Taylor St., a counter-service restaurant where they will cook Mexican street foods, some of which they weren't able to make on the truck.
They passed their inspection last week and plan to open on Sunday.
"'Jarabe' means a syrup, a tonic, something you put in your body to make yourself feel good, which is what food is for me, something that make me happy," said Teddy Vejar, a Logan Square resident.
The Jarabe menu makes him happy: tacos, tortas, burritos, agua frescas and a handful of breakfast items including chilaquiles and tacos filled with machaca, or dried cured beef.
"Mexican breakfast is so underrepresented," said Alexis Vejar, who lives near the restaurant.
Their food truck customers might recognize occasional specials such as dobladita, a fried quesadilla of sorts.
"It was popular but didn't hold well on the truck," Teddy Vejar said. "It's my grandma's recipe. It's so flaky."
In time, they plan to make their own flour and corn tortillas. A hand-cranked tortilla machine in the front window will let customers watch that process.
Tacos will range from $2.25 to $2.50. Tortas and burritos will average $7.
The Vejars started the La Adelita truck four years ago, selling tortas filled with braised meats. It was a career switch for both. Teddy Vejar, 32, was a conductor and engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad. Alexis Vejar, 31, built theater sets after art school.
The food truck life was fun and exhausting while it lasted, and not without "drama," Teddy Vejar said.
They built up a following, especially around Hyde Park near the University of Chicago, one of their go-to spots. While they relished the initial camaraderie among fellow food truckers, Teddy Vejar said the vibe has changed, with the city's restrictive ordinances making it tense for all.
"It's so hard to make a buck out there. When we first started, I could name every single food trucker out there. I had their phone numbers. We'd hang out, block spots for each other. It was more of a community," he said. "Now, people seem to be butting heads more."
At one point last winter, the truck and both brothers' cars broke down within the same week.
Still, the Vejars were able to build up their catering clientele to a point where they took the truck off the road last summer to focus on catering and opening a storefront, which had been their goal all along.
Street food is in their blood. Their mom ran a food cart and a sandwich shop at a bus station in their native Morelia.
"My father took us all over Mexico trying all sorts of foods" like brain tacos and exotic-to-them Chinese egg rolls, Teddy Vejar said.
At Jarabe, they're using their dad's recipe for calabacitas, a jumble of summer squash, tomatoes, corn, epazote, onions and poblano peppers.
Huitlacoche, a fungal delicacy, will make an appearance, likely as stuffing for tamales or Mexico City-style quesadillas, thanks to a contact of theirs with access to the fresh stuff as opposed to the more available canned or frozen.
"We want to be the coolest little taco counter in town," Alexis Vejar said.
The brothers already have their eye on the vacant storefront next door. Their dream is to knock down the wall and convert the space into a Texas-meets-Mexico cafe with live music, Mexican movie nights and such.
Jarabe will seat about 20 people at tables built by Alexis Vejar. He also built the long copper counter where customers order and can pull up stools to eat.
The restaurant will be open from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
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