It was more than a year ago when Short Order announced the team behind Haven would open a fast-casual taco shop called Huahua's on Lincoln Road. The expected opening date: late May or early June at the latest. Of course, back then, Todd Erickson meant June 2012.
Erickson explains that his team encountered a few setbacks with permitting and some issues with the grease traps. "There's always a surprise. It's been taxing because the way the buildout works is that there are so many things that have to fall in line in absolute order. If one part falls through, you have to reschedule every other contractor and do it all again. So it's constant logistics. It's just a challenge."
Flash forward to 2013, and Huahua's Taqueria is really, truly opening soon. The restaurant is fully operational, save for a few middling touches. For instance, when we walked into the little restaurant a few days ago, brown butcher paper was still covering the windows, the cooler that houses the Mexican beer and Jarritos needed an infusion of Freon, and the margarita machine was just getting new signage. Even the menu was still being tweaked.
Erickson and co-owner Mike Boles invited us to "test-drive" a few items that needed a second opinion. Before the cooking commenced, Erickson walked us through the restaurant. Dark wood, repurposed from a barn in Pennsylvania, lines the walls. Cactus plants sit on a group of shelves. Mexican jumping beans rattle in their little plastic boxes, and a chalkboard waits for the daily specials to be scrawled. Erickson explains there will be a "blue basket" special, maybe a special fish, and perhaps an "offal Monday" taco.
The chef's tour is thorough as he takes us through the brand-new kitchen, where a large pot of queso is cooking, and all the way to the bathroom, where he shows us the most awesome Chihuahua Day of the Dead prints on the walls.
The Chihuahua is Huahua's mascot. The restaurant is named for Boles' little dog, Jalapeña. Boles takes out his phone and pulls up pictures of the tiny gray creature, who bears a striking resemblance to the cartoon mascot, a blue Chi with long eyelashes and a sombrero.
The restaurant will be dog-friendly, down to a "canine oasis" -- a custom stainless-steel tower of doggie bowls of various sizes and heights to accommodate the teeniest toy to the largest beast -- and complimentary doggie biscuits. Patrons will also find Huahua's hospitable with powerful Wi-Fi and a cell-phone charging stand so you can feed your iPhone while you feed your face. The idea is to take your dog, your friends, and your phone to grab a taco and a beer. Huahua's wants to become the new neighborhood hangout.