Starting next week, downtown Chicago will have another choice for upscale Mexican food besides Rick Bayless restaurants. Carlos Gaytán, the chef behind Mexique — the West Town Mexican-French restaurant that earned a Michelin star before it closed last year — plans to open the first of his three upcoming restaurants on Monday, September 16 in River North. Tzuco pays homage to Gaytán’s hometown of Huitzuco, Mexico and represents a return to Chicago. He’s the first Mexican chef to preside over a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Tzuco is a 110-seater occupying the majority of the River North space at 720 N. State Street (the former Roy’s). Gaytán told WBEZ that he wants to “showcase his entire country” from fine dining to fast food. A bakery, Panango, will follow Tzuco and open in mid-October at the same address. The final phase is Tales of Carlos Gaytán, a restaurant which the chef called “his baby.” It’s designed as a 16-seat space with a tasting menu. It will also feature Mexican-French touches, just like Mexique. The menu there will be more personal than previous efforts, Gaytán said. Expect the unexpected. Gaytán also told WBEZ he’s trying to import escamole (ant larvae). But on the whole, the chef is keeping his plans for the menu under wraps before the November opening. He did offer one morsel.
“We are working hard all the time to be the best Mexican restaurant in the U.S.A.,” Gaytán told Eater Chicago.
Gaytán will also import foreign talent. Two of his pastry chefs have trained under Jesús Escalera. The Spanish-born Escalera runs a dessert-only restaurant in Guadalajara, Mexico called La Postrería. Gaytán said he’s working on securing visas for his pastry chefs. Mica Rousseau (AZLUK) is a French-born bartender who will train staff at the Gaytán restaurants. He’s recognized as one of the best mixologists in Mexico.
The trio of restaurants are among Chicago’s most anticipated openings of fall. Opening day for Tzuco also coincides with Mexican Independence Day. Looks like the celebration will be on in River North.