Immensely popular Midtown taqueria, Mercadito, expands its evolving empire by adding a new restaurant concept to the roster. Tavernita, a Spanish-style gastropub opening this summer in Chicago, will arrive on South Beach by the end of 2011. An eclectic mix of small plates will encourage sharing, as socialization is the theme of any corner "barcito" in Spain. The tapas offerings incorporate an array of Latin and Mediterranean flavors, with "platos" ranging from grilled baby octopus to vegetables a la plancha. Executive Chef Ryan Poli announced his departure from Chicago's Perennial in February to take on this new venture as a partner alongside the Sandoval brothers -- Alfredo, Felipe and Patricio -- and managing partner Larry Silver.
The menu is still in development, but Chef Poli plans a cured selection of house-made charcuterie in addition to "parilla" with everything from grilled beef to chorizo, infused with smoky goodness courtesy of a wood fire grill using a blend of "alder, grapevine, hickory and mesquite." The Tippling Bros, who currently oversee the beverage program for the Mercadito Hospitality Group, are working on a cocktail concept to match. They are the glorious inventors of "big nose goes to Mexico" with tequilla, rum, and fire, literally (lit for spectacle before serving).
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Plans are to have Tavernita operating in time for Art Basel, but we will hope for sooner, rather than later. Located on Española Way and Drexel Avenue, they will be in direct competition with neighborhood favorite of many, Tapas y Tintos. Yet Tavernita aims to raise the bar, which may be a bit detrimental for the local Spanish tavern that recently expanded into Midtown.
A group from Mercadito recently took a trip to Spain to eat, explore, and seek out culinary inspiration. Tune in next week when we ask Chef Poli about his favorites, and get the inside perspective on how this will influence his selections at Tavernita.