Logan Square will see a second modern Mexican restaurant open tonight, a three-minute walk from each other. Mi Tocaya Antojeria will debut Diana Dávila’s assortment of Mexican small plates, taking Dávila’s lessons she learned from her mother and aunt. No, it doesn’t include a mezcaleria like Quiote, but there are cocktails that will let diners let their hair down if they want.
Dávila’s restaurant opens at 5 p.m. on Wednesday for walk-ins, and patrons can make reservations online for Friday and beyond. To celebrate opening night, here’s a few facts about her new restaurant. Click here for photos.
• This is the first restaurant Dávila has owned. She cooked in Washington, D.C. before returning home to Chicago, as she grew up on the South Side. Dávila would visit Mexico in the summers to cook with her aunt, one of her biggest influencers.
• The arts are important to Dávila’s family. Her mother’s a painter, her sister is in film, and her brother is a musician. She brings that artistic attitude to Mi Tocaya, telling her kitchen staff to take care while plating.
• Though, overall, Dávila feels that the culture of most kitchens is inclusive, she did face sexism at the restaurant management level:
I’ve actually always had a pretty good experience—you know how they say it’s a male-dominated industry, blah, blah, blah—I’ve always had a really good experience with cooks and chefs—sometimes I feel like in good kitchens there is no gender, it’s what you put out there. I’ve never kind of experienced [sexism] in that setting. But when looking for jobs—and it’s not in the kitchen—that’s a little bit different. It’s really, really hard. Here I thought that I had a good résumé, that I’ve got the eye of the tiger, but then they look at me and are ‘nope; little girl!’ It would always be the first question that they’d ask me, how I would think I’d do directing men...I feel like sexism is so embedded in men and women that a lot of time they don’t even realize it.
• Mi Tocaya’s menu isn’t region-specific. Dávila describes her cooking style as mixing several ideas. She hopes these combos will give anyone of Mexican descent a taste of home, wherever they were raised.
• Cantina 1910’s failure took a toll. Dávila was the opening chef at the Andersonville modern Mexican restaurant. She lasted three months in its kitchen, while the restaurant closed after 11 months. When she started at Cantina, Dávila experienced her epiphany that she wanted to dedicate her life to cooking Mexican food. But then she saw her momentum come to a screeching halt with problems at the restaurant. Dávila said she was depressed for three months following her departure. But it was a positive experience, and there are Cantina connections at Mi Tocaya. The dessert recipes are from ex-Cantina 1910 pastry chef Andrew Pingul, and Dávila has hired a cook and a few servers from the restaurant.