While Chicago’s food truck scene hasn’t quite taken off like in other cities, it hasn’t been a total bust either. There’s Phillip Foss, who channeled his Meatyballs truck and its fun, pun-filled vibe into prix-fixe restaurant EL Ideas. And more recently, there’s Quiote, which grew out of Dan Salls’ Salsa Truck and, later, his lunch counter at the Garage. After my visits to the Logan Square modern Mexican restaurant, I feel remiss for not trying his food sooner. I plan on making up for lost time in a vigorous manner and suggest you do too.
Like so many Chicago restaurants these days, Quiote has a wood-burning oven, best viewed from one of the front area’s eight counter seats. The main dining room, with its barrel-vaulted ceiling, cushy banquettes and black-and-white photos taken by Salls when he and his business partner, Paul Biasco, a former DNAinfo reporter, traveled through Mexico, offers a more sedate ambiance. (If you’re looking for a superchill space, head downstairs to the cozy, dimly lit lounge, where you’ll find a small selection of bar snacks and an outstanding mezcal program.)
No matter where you sit, order the crab tostada. A crispy housemade corn tortilla, topped with radish slices and dollops of uni-spiked hot sauce aioli, serves as a shield of sorts for the crab underneath, delicately garnished with pickled mustard seeds. Give it a gentle whack with your spoon like you would with creme brulee. You’ll also need to order the chorizo verde, an Instagramworthy green—yes, green!—sausage paired with bits of crispy potato.
By now you’ve finished your hibiscus mezcal margarita—delicious, wasn’t it?—and would be smart to order the celery shrub made with mezcal and mango vinegar. It pairs nicely with another must-order dish, cabbage—trust us—that receives a slow roast in the wood-burning oven until it’s black on the outside and tender on the inside, then gets paired with charred sourdough puree, pumpkin seeds and pickled serrano peppers.
Meatier options include bone marrow that gets extra points for its plate-mate of beef fat-drenched bread slices. Fork-tender pork collar turns up the heat with a dark pasilla chili sauce and perfectly cooked pinto beans. Odds are there’ll be a taco special. If you want the full breadth of Quiote’s taco offerings—and you really do—come at lunch when there are six or so available, including a tasty roasted pork, along with a handful of tortas. Or, head to the mezcal lounge at 11:30pm. That’s when Salls and his kitchen crew send down a creative mix of 20 or so tacos on a first-come, first-served basis. You’d be wise to arrive early.
2546 N. California Ave., 312.878.8571, quiotechicago.com
Open for light breakfast and lunch Mon.-Sat.; dinner Wed.-Mon.; brunch Sun.
Shareable dinner plates: $5-$24;