Leave it to Dan Salls, who opened Chicago's first cook-on-board food truck in 2013, to not let the loss of a lease slow him down. Just two months after the closure of his food truck commissary and lunch counter The Garage, Salls is revealing a first taste of his newest concept, Quiote. The Salsa Truck owner is working towards signing a lease on a space for the concept.
Quiote will combine Salls' love of Oaxacan cuisine and Chicago's recent affinity for the spirit from the same region — mezcal. It will start as a series of pop-ups, starting with two on Tuesday, May 10 and Wednesday, May 11 from 6 p.m. to "late" in the basement of Bar Marta. These will offer a taste of Oaxacan street food — hamburguesas, tacos, and chapulines — alongside mezcal cocktails by Sportsman's Club's Jeff Donahue and Wade McElroy, as well as mezcal flights from Jason Cox of El Destilado. Cox is in town from Oaxaca and he brought with him rare mezcals, such as ones made with agave blends and others fermented in pine trees or rawhide.
"We want to see what people's tolerance for mezcal is in Chicago," Salls says about the pop-ups, which will influence the final concept when it opens this fall. "Everywhere else is a food-focused concept with a great mezcal menu, we want to do a great mezcal menu with a great food menu that is truly about the regions that produce it and what you eat when you drink it."
To research Quiote, which is also the name for flower stalk produced by the agave plant at the time of maturation, Salls traveled to Oaxaca. There, he not only learned about the making of mezcal, but also the drinking culture that surrounds it — something Salls wants to replicate at his lively mezcal bar. When it opens, it will serve all types of agave spirits, from small-batch mezcals to lesser known agave distillates, as well as regional Mexican cuisine, think moles paired with Quiote's private label mezcal. The Salsa Truck is on hiatus while he prepares the new concept, but Salls says it will return to the streets soon.