LOGAN SQUARE — It's been a busy four months for acclaimed Mexican chef Diana Dávila, who's gearing up to open her first restaurant at the corner of California Avenue and Logan Boulevard.
Since November, Dávila has been hard at work transforming the former home of Catalpa Kitchen, 2800 W. Logan Blvd., into Mi Tocaya, a cozy Mexican restaurant with colorful tiles and clay light fixtures.
Just last week the restaurant cleared city inspections, which means Dávila can finally start cooking potential dishes in the kitchen and nail down a menu, which will include everything from taco campechano (tacos filled with several different meats) to family-style entrees.
"Now it's full on," she said. "Seeing all of this come together, with the cooking and hiring ... It's a really special time."
If all goes according to plan, Dávila is aiming to open the restaurant in the middle of March. The chef is planning to open the outdoor patio, which looks out onto Logan Boulevard, once she feels comfortable with how things are going inside.
Over the last few months, Dávila enlisted a couple industry friends to help run the restaurant, including Charlie Viaud, whose resume includes restaurants like Brasserie 54 and Troquet River North.
"What an amazing space. It's just a blessing," said Viaud, who is handling the front of the house and other business-related tasks.
Behind the drink menu is Matt Frederick, the beverage director at EZ Inn in Ukrainian Village. Frederick will be serving up everything from classic margaritas to Cuba libre cocktails.
In the coming weeks, Dávila will be bringing in local artists, including her 29-year-old brother, to paint murals on the walls, bar and in the bathrooms.
Dávila was raised outside Chicago and began her culinary career at age 10 in her parents' taquería. She studied at a culinary school in Oaxaca, Mexico. By the time she was 20, the Sun-Times dubbed her a “Mexican Marvel." At 21, she received a two-star review from Phil Vettel of the Tribune.
Before a stint in Washington, D.C. — where she served as the head chef of Sidebar, a contemporary cocktail bar, and Jackie's, a contemporary American restaurant — Dávila fell in love with Logan Square, where she and her husband bought their first home.
Dávila officially began her tenure as executive chef of the upscale Mexican restaurant Cantina 1910 in Andersonville. After working for almost two years on helping launch the restaurant, she left just three months after opening citing "irreconcilable differences" with the co-owners of the eatery, Mark Robertson and Mike Sullivan.
Ahead of the opening, check out photos of the restaurant below:
The white walls will be covered with murals in the coming weeks. [All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]
The chef installed colorful tiles and kept Catalpa Kitchen's ornate floors.
Clay light fixtures from Pennsylvania-based designer Clay Cafe.
The painting belonged to Dávila's grandmother.