Two years of cleaning up water and fire damage gave the folks behind Cantina 1910 in Andersonville a chance to refine their Mexican restaurant's farm-to-table concept. They took ownership of the building in 2013, and intended to open much sooner than Sept. 16, their long-awaited first day of service. During those delays, the restaurant's management tweaked their plans, and now they've added a cafe component and house-baked pastries to their repertoire.
Co-owner Mark Robertson said these changes are the silver linings to waiting at 5025 N. Clark St. They even changed names, as Cantina 1910 was once known as Cantina De La Granja. The 1910 is a nod to the start of the Mexican Revolution. Robertson breathes a sigh of relief, as he can now concentrate on service inside the 6,700-square-foot restaurant. With the addition of the cafe, where they will pour Counter Culture Coffee, there's also the full-service restaurant with a late-night taqueria component.
The al pastor tacos (spit-roasted pork, onions, cilantro, chopped tomatillo and "Midwest" adobo made with raspberry and golden raisins) excite Robertson, whose Root Collective group operates Crew Bar + Grill and The SoFo Tap: "You take one bite," Robertson paused. "I could eat 10 of them."
The challenge was to take the former site of T's Bar and Restaurant and to modernize it without making it feel cold. They've restored some woodworking and added Mexican touches, while trying to ensure sustainability. That's one of Cantina's main tenets, according to Robertson.
They'll open early for breakfast, serve lunch and dinner, plus weekend brunch. It'll even stay open until 2 a.m. for the after-bar crowd. There's seating for about 180 inside, with a rooftop farm planned to open next year. That will add 80 to 90 more seats and make a sweet set up to try some of Cantina's cocktails, including the "1910 Sangria" (CH vodka or key lime gin, blueberry, Cocchi Americano, sparkling wine).
Executive Chef Diana Dávila's menu comes from ingredients procured within a 200-mile radius of Chicago. She cooks using creative ingredients including goat chorizo. Other dishes include sweet potato panuchos (layered sweet potato encased in masa off the plancha), trucha ahumada (cold smoked and roasted wild trout) and shrimp ceviche (shrimp, cured egg yolk, salsa macha, bulb onion, huazontle).
The concept may have expanded, but Robertson's confident that he and co-owner Mike Sullivan have the right people in place. Heck, they've had two years to contemplate.
"All of this is possible because people are able to focus on their own areas which takes this really huge offering and brings it be something manageable," Robertson said.