LOGAN SQUARE — A multilevel restaurant/bar focused on regional Mexican cuisine and mezcal has taken over the former home of Letizia's Fiore.
Dan Salls, who successfully ran the Mexican food truck, the Salsa Truck and the Garage lunch counter, teamed up with former DNAinfo reporter Paul Biasco to open Quiote at 2456 N. California Ave.
It will function as a sit-down restaurant, mezcaleria, tacqueria and coffee bar, depending on the time of day.
The sit-down restaurant, serving everything from aguachile ($14) to chicken en mole ($24), will have a soft opening Friday at 5 p.m., but starting Monday, Quiote will officially open, catering to breakfast, lunch, dinner and bar crowds.
At 7 a.m. Friday, Quiote will start coffee bar service, offering special blends by West Loop-based Sparrow Coffee Roastery and pastries from Lincoln Park-based bakery Floriole like Mexican sweet buns, or conchas. On Monday, Quiote will roll out counter lunch service, featuring a menu of tacos, tortas and other Mexican street food items.
The sit-down restaurant [All photos Courtesy/Quiote]
Both the dinner and the lunch menus were crafted by Salls and chef de cuisine Ross Henke, who have spent time traveling and dining in Mexico. The pair found inspiration everywhere from a stand at a Mexican airport to the small Mexican city of Toluca.
"We tried to unturn every rock and not fall within one certain classic paradigm," Salls said.
The result is a mix of traditional and updated regional dishes using fresh ingredients. Diners can expect tortillas made from scratch and fillings cooked in a wood-burning oven. Henke said the team wants Quiote to feel like a reflection of Mexico City, a place that's widely considered the melting pot of Mexican cuisine.
Salls said he fell in love with Mexican food years ago when he realized how many variations of traditional dishes were out there.
Quiote's wood-burning oven
"The national dish in Mexico is posoles. If you go to a thousand villages in Mexico, and talk to a thousand different grandmothers, you'll get exactly a thousand different recipes," he said. "That was what drew me to Mexico food — finding these super, super traditional things, things that don't exist anywhere else. With Quiote, we've allowed ourselves to open up and find inspiration in it."
In addition to casual and refined Mexican fare, Quiote also has a full basement bar, which opened earlier this week. Down a flight of stairs near the dining area, the bar has shelves lined with dozens of varieties of mezcal, a spirit made from the agave plant in Mexico.
The bar is focused on the smoky alcoholic beverage, which is continuing to gain popularity in the neighborhood and beyond. To start, Quiote is offering more than 80 varieties of mezcal, and the team plans to bring in new brands — all ethically sourced — as others sell out.
The basement bar
Cocktails at Quiote
Behind the drink program is beverage director Bobby Baker, whom Biasco and Salls met during a trip to Oaxaca. Baker said patrons can expect a cocktail menu full of riffs on classic gin drinks, but with mezcal.
"I don't think there's a spirit that compares to mezcal," said Baker, who worked as a bartender in Oaxaca and in the Bay area, but is originally from Chicago.
The Quiote team loves the spirit so much they put together a book with details on each variety of mezcal served at the restaurant. Bottles of mezcal, plus local beer and wine, will be sold daily in the front of the restaurant in the coffee bar/lunch counter area.
The team published a book full of information on each mezcal at Quiote. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]
Quiote is the latest restaurant/bar to focus on mezcal, which is having a moment in the neighborhood. There's Mezcaleria Las Flores, which opened next to Johnny's Grill in March; Masa Azul, which opened with a deep tequila and mezcal list in 2011; and Mez Agave Lounge, which operates out of the basement of Mercadito.
The team hopes Logan Square's concentration of mezcal bars makes the neighborhood, already known for its Mexican food, a destination for the spirit.
"It's a not a fad. It's something that's here to stay. It's centuries old," Salls said.
Henke agreed, saying, "Mezcal is the epitome of a hyper-regional spirit. One bottle can come from two different types of agave and can be totally different" than the next.
Starting Friday, the restaurant will open at 5 p.m. every night except Tuesdays. The basement bar is open 5 p.m. - 2 a.m. Sunday through Friday, 5 p.m. - 3 a.m. on Saturdays. For more hours and information, visit Quiote's website.
A neon sign of an agave plant above the bar entrance
Aguachile, a type of Mexican ceviche, is one of many regional dishes on the menu at Quiote.