Lost in the midst of the excitement over chef Carlos Gaytan’s two new River North restaurants was the fact that Gaytan’s partners are also opening a Mexican bakery in the same space. Panango will be a grab and go where customers can pick up breads, sweets, soups, and breakfast items. The bakery will complement Gaytan’s small plate restaurant (Tzuco) and fine dining spot (Tales of Carlos Gaytan) opening at 720 N. State Street.
Gaytan was the first Mexican chef to preside over a Michelin-starred restaurant with Mexique in West Town. The restaurant, which blended Mexican food with French preparations, closed last year. Gaytan has been working at restaurants in Mexico since.
The bakery’s name is a combination of the Spanish word for bread, pan, and tenango — a Mexican-style of embroidery, Gaytan said. Chicagoans can find Mexican sweetbreads in neighborhoods like Pilsen, Wicker Park, and Albany Park, but the pastries aren’t widely available in areas near downtown. Panango will change that. Gaytan said they’re also looking to serve Mexican coffees. They’re mulling over their coffee roasting options.
Gaytan also shared more details on his other restaurants, saying how in the last year he’s had more time to travel Mexico to taste food and talk with chefs. His menus as Tale of Carlos Gaytan and Tzuco will reflect what he’s learned. He’s keeping the menu for his fine dining restaurant a secret, but the 12-person chef’s counter will be a unique experience. Tzuco will be restaurant where Gaytan hopes customers will visit more than once a week. Steak tartare, mussels, and more will contribute to a menu of comfort foods.
The chef credits his daughter, Caliani, with pushing him toward opening these new Chicago restaurants. There was a train of thought that staying in Mexico wouldn’t be challenging enough for Gaytan.
“You’re not that kind of chef,” Gaytan recalled his daughter telling him. “You like challenges, you like to push forward.”
Speaking of pushing forward, Gaytan said he wants to assemble a dream team of chefs and cooks. He wants to invite culinary students from Mexico and Europe to cook with him in Chicago.
Gaytan is excited about cooking in Chicago again. The restaurants should open sometime this summer. Stay tuned for more as the debut grows closer.