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Your Latin Food Wonderland Arrives: Five Questions With Richard Sandoval About Latinicity

Today is opening day for the massive Latin food hall inside Block 37 shops.

Sarah Joyce

In the works for more than three years, Chicago food enthusiasts officially have massive wonderland of Latin food today. Chefs Richard Sandoval and Jose Garces cut the ribbon on Latinicity at a ceremony and party in the Block 37 shops last night amongst crimson-dressed flamenco dancers and acoustic guitarists, unveiling 12 food stations, a full tapas restaurant and bar, and much more to the masses. Tour the space here and read through all the food menus right here.

Sandoval, who is "super excited" to be in town to open his first Chicago restaurant in many years, answered five questions about what went into opening his largest restaurant yet, what food items you should try first, and hinted at another new project in Chicago.

What went into putting Latinicity together?
It's been three years in the works. We've been working with a designer in Spain, that started about two years ago. Danielle, the chef, I brought in from Colombia. And right now I have my whole team here—everyone I could pull in is here. It's like opening 11 restaurants at the same time. Even though they're small food stations, the same training goes into it. It's taken an unlimited amount of resources, not just money, but hours and time, organization, the retail, the art gallery.

Where do you do the cooking for all the stands?
We have a commissary kitchen in the back so we do a lot of the prep work (there) and we feed a lot of the food stations (there). They're like assembly lines—all the food comes in and then we put everything together.

It might take 20 visits to try everything here. Is there any one stand or one dish that that my readers should try first?
That's a good thing. I'm Mexican and I think the taqueria station is unbelievable. The rotisserie chicken that we've created I think is amazing. It's air-dried, it's marinated, then we have a chipotle butter rub that we rub in, then we roast it.

How does it feel to be finally opening a restaurant in Chicago again after all these years?
I'm thrilled. I love Chicago, it reminds of a New York but a little less hyper. There's great chefs and great restaurants and I'm super excited. I'm already looking at something else here. If the city embraces me then I embrace the city and do more stuff.

Can you say anything about the new project you're looking at?
Not yet. We're just looking at something preliminarily.


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