The owner of the latest highly anticipated new restaurant on West Town’s burgeoning Chicago Avenue strip thinks there’s nothing like it in Chicago. Porto, a restaurant and wine bar opening tonight, will be the first in the city to focus on product from Galicia, Spain and coastal Portugal — which some believe to be the most sought-after seafood in the world — owner Dani Alonso says.
“There’s no true and blue Atlantic coastal restaurant [in Chicago] focused on the products of Portugal and Galicia, and the wines of Portugal and Galicia,” Alonso says. “There are a few folks that have touches of Portuguese cuisine in their menus, they have seafood on their menus, but no one has planted a flag saying ‘we’re working with the best companies, the best producers, the best fishmongers, the best fishing companies from coastal Iberia,’ like we have.”
Diners can expect an array of hot and cold seafood dishes at Porto, sourced from Galicia and the surrounding area, in both tasting menus and a la carte. A deep selection of Spanish and Portuguese wines and sherries are available to pair with them, or for folks just looking for drinks and snacks. Chef Marcos Campos and his staff will cook all hot items on wood-or-charcoal-powered grills and ovens in the open kitchen in one corner of the space. All cold dishes — many of which focus on imported canned fish (conservas) — come from a prominent 26-seat chef’s island and bar that occupies about half of the restaurant and sits in the center of the space. Full menus were not available by press time.
“We want to be in that pantheon of great places to go and have an extraordinary meal in Chicago and I think the chefs have done that,” Alonso says. “But in addition to that, recognizing that we’re a neighborhood place, we want it to also have another facet of the menus and of the restaurant itself.”
Porto will also function as a wine bar, catering to those who want to sit at the bar or tables and have drinks. From glass pours to vintage bottles prominently displayed in cabinets opposite the bar and chef’s counter to flights of sherry, Porto is also an homage to the winemakers of Portugal and coastal Spain. It will even be open late for drinks and cold food items. “If somebody wants to come and have a glass of wine at like 1 in the morning, good,” Campos says.
Alonso’s other businesses — including Beatnik next door as well as Black Bull, and more — are arguably as well known for their creative design as much as their food and drink. Porto is no exception, piecing together a variety of imported items and other features such as wood from Spanish fishing boats, granite from the Iberian Coast, wall coverings that are “an ode to the graphic design history in Portugal,” arched metal window coverings, and a library bookcase from a Belgian university that Alonso’s team repurposed into part of the wine gallery.
“We like to create our own kind of patois a la Wes Anderson, a la Quentin Tarantino, where there’s an experience when you’re coming in,” Alonso says. “This is an amalgamation of flavors and colors and textures that you’ll see sprinkled throughout history in the Iberian Coast.”
The focal point of the space is the 26-seat chef’s counter and bar. Multiple other cozy tables of multiple sizes fill out the rest. A large all-year patio with skylights, retractable windows, and communal tables should open soon in the rear of the space.
Porto adds to the draw of the burgeoning strip of Chicago Avenue in West Town that’s developing into another restaurant row. Its neighbors include German-Southern hotspot Funkenhausen nearly across the street, new chicken sandwich draw Fry the Coop on the other side of Ashland, and Alonso’s own Beatnik next door.
“I think Chicago Avenue is well on its way to becoming a great stretch for food and beverage,” he says. “I’m a big fan of critical mass, especially when it’s achieved through really talented individuals.”
This new Spanish and Portuguese seafood spot adds to that critical mass starting tonight. Take a virtual spin around the space and a look at some dishes below.
Porto, 1600 W. Chicago Avenue, Open 5 p.m. until close on Tuesday through Saturday, Reservations via Resy.