Quay Tao, the owner of Community Tavern, the Portage Park steakhouse that opened last year, and The Portage, the recently-shuttered neighborhood eatery, has a dynamic vision for his Northwest Side neighborhood. He's working on two restaurants that he hopes will open by the end of May, and they couldn't be anymore different.
Wanting to appeal to fine diners, he's opening Joey & Elissa, a reservation-only space neighboring Community at 4042 N. Milwaukee Ave. The second spot is a revamp of the Portage space, Cochinita, a taco-focused casual spot.
Both names are working titles, Tao said. Joey & Elissa refers to chef/partner Joey Beato and Community's new pastry chef Elissa Narow. They'll team up to offer prix-fixe dinners Thursday through Friday, giving the duo a space to better showcase their talents. Narrow started at Community this week, and her hire is key, as Tao wants the menu to showcase sweet items, not just savory. The three-day-a-week schedule will allow Beato and Narrow to work at Community and the new spot. Chicago magazine first reported the projects.
"We're still filing in the niches for cool, hip, young places that you would find in some of the other neighborhoods," Tao said.
Tao wants meals inside the 1,000-square-foot space that houses about 25 seats to be interactive. They're still working out details, including the number of courses and if they'd be using a ticketing system, but he'd like it if guests could show up before their meals and perhaps help prepare the food as an educational component: "I kind of say it's Schwa meets Chopping Block," Tao said.
Inside the former Portage, Cochinita represents Tao and Beato attempt at a restaurant with a lower price point, compared to Community and Joey & Elissa, for the neighborhood. Danny Tolentino, a line cook who'd worked at The Portage for years, will provide inspiration. Tolentino's Mexican heritage helped convince Tao and Beato to pursue tacos, and they're giving him a bigger role. They also want to better utilize their patio, seeing that tacos and the outdoors worked so well over in Wicker Park and Big Star. It's another move toward fast casual, and Tao believes it will be a boon for Portage Park.
While Beato and Tao progress with their projects, they're planning even more under a formal name for their alliance. It's a play on their names: BeaTao. Tao remains reluctant to use the moniker until spring: "You can't have a restaurant group with only one restaurant," he said.