Carlos Gaytán’s new River North Mexican restaurant, Tzuco, looks like nothing in Chicago. Designer Ignacio Cadena has decorated the space with glass cases filled with items that remind Gaytán of his hometown of Huitzuco, Mexico. The room has earthy tones and dark woods that envelop diners inside the former Roy’s on State Street.
Tzuco Is the abbreviated nickname for Huitzuco. The most beloved trinket in the restaurant may be a comal hanging above a booth, just to the right of the kitchen. A comal is the circular griddle used to make tortillas. Gaytán used this comal to make his first tortilla. He’s particularly possessive of it, not wanting any other cook to use it.
The room is also filled with vines that grow in Huitzuco. Agricultural restrictions prevented Cadena from bringing them across the border, but he found the same plants in Texas. Some of the vines contain thorns — Tzuco means “land beneath the thorns” in Spanish.
This was Cadena’s first project in Chicago, but he has fond memories of the city. He spent time here when he was 12 years old. He said his family left him in the city to learn English “the tough way on the streets,” he said with a laugh.
The restaurant is the first of three at the same address. Next door, Panango, a bakery will debut in October. It’ll have breads and sandwiches. In November, the final piece — Tales of Carlos Gaytán — debuts. It’s a 12-seat tasting-menu restaurant. Gaytán has huge expectations for Tales. His goal is to be not only the best Mexican restaurant in Chicago, but the best Mexican restaurant in the world.
Take a tour through the restaurant, which debuts tonight, below.
Tzuco, 720 N. State Street, hours not posted yet.