clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

First Look Inside Tavernita, Officially Opening Jan. 23; "Soft Opening" Tonight

New, 2 comments
Artist Erni Vales hand-painted murals throughout the restaurant.
Artist Erni Vales hand-painted murals throughout the restaurant.

[Photo: Tim Hiatt Photography]

It was originally supposed to open late last summer, but between construction, permits and other setbacks, Tavernita's debut had been pushed back. But come Jan. 23, nearly a year after the original announcement, the restaurant will finally—officially—be open. However, if you're able to get one of the few reservations (hit OpenTable), you can get in for the soft opening, which kicks off tonight. Just don't expect to hang out in the late-night lounge or at Barcito for pintxos quite yet, as those areas are still being finalized (hence the lack of photos in our gallery) and likely won't open until the official opening.

Eater got a first look at the space and it's beautiful. Having removed all traces of former tenant Martini Park, Tavernita has a rustic yet refined aesthetic that will pair well with chef Ryan Poli's Spanish-influenced menu. Mercadito Hospitality once again enlisted Seed Design to do the restaurant and the team created an inviting, open space.

Tavernita, while a new restaurant, draws on Old World elements to give the 122-seat main dining room a more lived-in feeling, like reclaimed wood flooring with a worn-in look; thin filament pendants hanging from the ceiling; an angled copper ceiling that reflects light to give off an amber glow; subtle Spanish tiles backlit above tufted leather seating throughout the room; and copper piping dotted with small acrylic orbs that create a natural, yet flowing separation throughout the space.

Globe lights hang above a two-inch thick white marble slab bar that's fronted with framed rattan on the lower half of the bar wall. But behind the bar you'll find 48 wooden numbered taps, with only 12 dedicated to beer, including the staple in many Spanish bars: Estrella.

The remaining taps are used for four homemade sodas (Valencia crush; uva pop; ginger chile ale; cola nita), two types of vermouth (sweet and dry), two sangria (red and white, naturally), one Isastegi Sagardo cider, 21 keg wines from Spain, Oregon, California, New York, Italy and beyond; and six taps for the Tippling Bros. keg cocktails. The Tippling Bros., Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay, crafted an entire system that feeds from the restaurant's lower level in a state-of-the-art, self-cleaning cooling system with gas-powered tanks that delivers a fresh cocktail in moments because "Who wants to wait for a great cocktail?" Tanguay asked.

A centerpiece of the restaurant is the marble-topped crudo bar where a chef will plate one of seven crudos: oyster cocktail, fluke, hamachi, Faroe Island salmon, ceviche, tuna and oysters. Poli created a menu based on his experience working in Spain, but also from inspiration gained during a research trip the whole team took to Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian last May.

It was during that trip that Poli, who designed an Uruguayan-style wood-burning, brick-based grill in the kitchen, fell in love with the idea of having a stand-and-eat pintxo bar. That will eventually be Barcito, which will have its own entrance off LaSalle and is divided from the dining room by a glass case displaying vintage finds from around the world, like an ivory sailboat, a globe, well-worn books, an old camera, tarnished brass candlesticks and more.

Whether in the dining room, Barcito or the lounge, which has a 12-top communal table that converts into a late-night bar, similar design elements run throughout: wood panels, antiqued mirrors, hand-painted murals and rotating shades by graffiti artist Erni Vales, copper piping, cast iron hand rails, leather and wood seating. And remember, even though this is a project by the same crew behind Double A, Tavernita will not be clubby, but rather will have a more laid-back sexy vibe where you can sit at the bar for a glass of wine on tap or hang in the lounge and have late-night small plates.

While Tavernita will only be open for dinner during the soft opening, the restaurant will eventually start serving lunch and weekend brunch. To stay on top of news happening at at the restaurant, follow its mascot, Pintxo, a small French bulldog who tweets in Spanglish.
· Mercadito Opening Tavernita in Former Martini Park Space [~EChi~]
· Ryan Poli Reveals First Menu for Tavernita, Opening Soon [~EChi~]
· All Tavernita Coverage on Eater Chicago [~EChi]

Tavernita

151 W Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60654 312 274 1111 Visit Website

Barcito

151 W Erie, Chicago, IL 60654 312 274 1111

Mercadito

108 West Kinzie Street, , IL 60654 (312) 329-9555 Visit Website

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Chicago newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world