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Chicago Taco Authority On Track For Fall Opening

By Patty Wetli | October 10, 2017 9:31am
 Chicago Taco Authority
Chicago Taco Authority
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OLD IRVING PARK — When Jose Bustos dreamed up the name Chicago Taco Authority for his coming-soon restaurant in Old Irving Park, he had two choices: distance himself as much as possible from the city's famous transit agency or embrace the heck out of the shared initials.

He opted for Door No. 2.

For the past several months, Bustos has been scouring eBay and traveling as far as Wisconsin to track down Chicago Transit Authority memorabilia — "Anything I can get my hands on that's cool that's CTA-related," he said.

His haul so far ranges from vintage photos to old rail spikes to one of his favorite discoveries: a 70-foot-long scroll of route names, which was once mounted in buses where digital information now flashes.

"People who used to work for the railroad or CTA, they just have it in their garages collecting dust," said Bustos, a 2002 Lane Tech grad and Marine Corps veteran.

Bustos has also picked up discarded parking meters, a phone booth and "so many surprises," which he's gradually teasing on the Taco Authority's Facebook and Instagram pages.

The intention, he said, is to create a wholly immersive experience for customers, one that will prompt either a nostalgic "Hey remember that?" response from older patrons or a "Hey can you believe that?" from the younger crowd.

And yes, he checked: The Chicago Taco Authority name and CTA theme are legal.

"We're not in the same business," said Bustos.

His business, decor aside, is tacos. And possibly salads, tortas and burritos, though Bustos said he's still finalizing his menu and deciding how much to tackle when he opens and what to roll out later.

He promised some traditional, some modern and some good throwback tacos, including a family recipe he's keeping close to his vest but has dubbed "not your ordinary crunchy taco."

A neighborhood guy through and through, Bustos said he's excited to fill a gap in Old Irving Park, where he grew up and still lives.

"If you want to go out, you have to drive," he said. "People want to walk to places."

With his heart set on Old Irving, Bustos said one of his biggest challenges was finding the right storefront for his restaurant.

"Funny story," Bustos said of the way he landed at 4219 W. Irving Park Road, formerly Berrista Coffee.

He had initially toured "the green building" at the corner of Irving Park and Keeler — a rental property perfectly situated across the street from Metra and CTA rail stations — but was overwhelmed by how much work it would need to realize his vision.

Standing across the street, he stared at the building, debating whether to take a chance or not.

"I was leaning against a window, turned around and saw a 'for lease' sign," Bustos recalled.

The Berrista property had been recently renovated and, most importantly, already had a kitchen.

"I called the broker the next day," Bustos said.

Though the storefront only required cosmetic changes, progress has been slow given that Bustos is not only putting thought into every detail but is doing all the work himself, on top of his day job running a small freight delivery business.

"I'm coming up with the ideas and building it," he said. "It's me, putting in the sweat equity."

There's no specific timetable for when the Taco Authority will be ready for passengers, er diners, but Bustos said he's aiming for "maybe late October."

Unlike the other CTA, eating will most definitely be encouraged. Just don't try to pay with a Ventra card.

The storefront at 4219 W. Irving Park Road is the former home of Berrista Coffee. [Facebook/Chicago Taco Authority]

One of owner Jose Bustos' vintage finds — an old bus route scroll. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Memorabilia is intended to prompt either a "Hey remember that?" or a "Hey can you believe that?" response. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Bustos is putting the "Taco" in CTA. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Bustos is thinking through every detail of the restaurant's decor. [Facebook/Chicago Taco Authority]