As Old Town descends into a swamp of BroBars™, here’s some sad news. After more than two decades of margaritas and creative upscale Mexican cuisine, Salpicón is closing. Diners will have until the end of the month to get down to Wells Street. Owners Vince and Priscila Satkoff have announced a Nov. 30 closing date as they’ve sold the building.
"It’s been a great ride for 22 years," Vince Satkoff said. "Priscila and I think it’s time we take a little break. And we got a good offer; the timing is perfect."
The Satkoffs plan to move to Priscila’s native Mexico and open a smaller Salpicón in San Miguel de Allende, about 170 miles from Mexico City. They want a restaurant with 60 to 70 seats opposed to the 150 in Old Town. Any opening is still a while away; the Satkoffs still need to buy a house. A new Salpicón could open by the middle of 2018 in Mexico.
When Salpicón opened in 1995, chef Priscila Satkoff brought cutting-edge Mexican food to Old Town. A native of Mexico City, she pushed boundaries and challenged perceptions. Satkoff served as Rick Bayless’ assistant, working at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo and was among the first to break off from the Bayless empire to open her own restaurant. She blazed the path that many have followed.
"Obviously it was Rick that started it, without Rick we wouldn’t have succeeded," Vince Satkoff said. "He broke the ground, introduced Americans to what real Mexican food is all about, instead of just burritos and combination plates."
Salpicón’s beverage program was also ahead of its time. Though they serve beer and wine, visitors wouldn’t find bourbon, vodka or gin inside. They were forced out of their comfort zones to try tequila, mezcal or a sipping rum. American drinkers weren’t used to that 20 years ago. Regulars now gush when talking about the restaurant’s margaritas.
The Satkoffs live on the third floor of the building that houses their restaurant, and they sold the property to R2 Companies. The firm might market Salpicón as a turnkey, so a new restaurant could open quickly in the space. Meanwhile, the Satkoffs have seen first hand how Wells Street has changed in 22 years. Though Vince Satkoff says business was fine, he’s also seen the neighborhood deluged with younger diners more interested in fast-casual options and lots of TV screens. Much of it started when Benchmark opened in 2010. "It’s turning into Millennial City, and they’re not our clientele," he said.
Priscila Satkoff earned further accolades from her contemporary take on Mexican food when city officials declared Sept. 29, 2011 as "Priscila Satkoff Day." The Salpicón cookbook, published in 2009, also continues to be a strong seller with a forward by the legendary Charlie Trotter. Satkoff has also cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and was named a Legacy Chef, also in 2011. The same year saw her inducted to the Chicago Culinary Museum’s Chefs Hall of Fame.
The Satkoffs plan on moving in January, and won’t miss Chicago’s harsh winters. But fans should book a reservation soon, as tables will be hard to secure. Salpicón closes on Nov. 30.