Oliver Poilevey, the chef at Le Bouchon, is going from French to Mexican cuisine with the help of a few friends. Poilevey, along with former Le Sardine chef Sotero Gallegos and friend Marcos Ascencio (Bar Lupo, Nomi) are opening a Mexico City-style street taqueria in Bucktown, a five-minute drive northwest from Poilevey’s French bistro. Poilevey says Taqueria Chingón should open in the second week of November inside a renovated space at 2236 N. Western Avenue.
Poilevey says the inspiration for the food comes from Ascencio parties where he’s tasted the chef’s food. The two decided they could add to Chicago’s taco landscape with two trompos. One will be loaded with al pastor. Poilevey says they’re getting their pork from a farmer in the Ozarks. The second will be for vegetarians stacked with celery root, onions, and portobello mushrooms: “It’s really good, I gave them to meat eaters and didn’t tell them,” Poilevey says.
The veggies are marinated in the same sauce used for the meat. The celery root is the blanched for 15 seconds and the mushroom is confit in butter. Sorry, vegans. Pozole will also make the menu.
Other tacos include chorizo, oxtail, pig head carnitas, skirt steak, and blood sausage (morcilla): “We’re pretty heavy on the off cuts, which I like,” Poilevey says.
The space is about 1,000 square feet with a walk-up window. They aren’t any chairs. When indoor dining resumes a full capacity, Poilevey envisions a standing-room only atmosphere where folks can post up at tall tables. There’s also a back patio which will debut next year. That’s where they’ll fire up the band, cook food over an open fire, and throw a genuine “taco party.”
Tacos, like pizza, are good for carryout, but plans for the taqueria were in motion before the pandemic. The public health crisis paused the project and in August, Poilevey closed his West Loop restaurant, Le Sardine, ending 22 years. He’s reallocated resources from Sardine to the taqueria and brought Gallegos aboard. Gallegos worked at La Fontaine, which was Jean-Claude Poilevey’s first restaurant. Oliver Poilevey met Gallegos when he was 13 working for his father. After closing Sardine, Poilevey wanted to rehired some his old employees.
Poilevey’s late parents, Jean-Claude and Susanne, are beloved figures in Chicago’s dining scene, and their son has taken over the family business. Le Bouchon is surviving in the pandemic. Poilevey feels the winter will be kinder, as the colder weather is when he says Chicagoans crave French food. They’re at about 50 percent business of what they expect under non-pandemic circumstances. Even with that uncertainty, he’s ready to open Taqueria Chingón.
“I jumped in, didn’t I?” Poilevey says. “It’s kind of crazy. I lost most of my money (at Sardine) and I spent the rest on this. Hopefully this goes my way.”