Fulton Market’s latest restaurant, Chikatana, debuted Wednesday, a promising chef a chance to show off his talents in one of the city’s most prominent dining neighborhoods. The owners, who are also behind the Robey hotel in Wicker Park, moved to find a replacement after City Tap closed during the pandemic. They brought in chef Guillermo Reyes (Mercat a la Planxa, Mi Tocaya Antojeria), who will compete against restaurants like Kuma’s Corner, Publican, and Time Out Market Chicago in the buzzy neighborhood.
Most recently, Reyes spent two years cooking under chef Diana Dávila at Mi Tocaya in Logan Square. Now he gets to present his own vision of contemporary regional Mexican cuisine. Reyes’ menu includes dishes like king crab chile relleno (banana pepper, king crab salad, heirloom tomato sauce) and pato en mole (duck two ways, mole negro, chili cabbage slaw). Other unique offerings include huachinango a la plancha (whole red snapper, grilled spring onions, herb pepita pesto) and soft-shell crab tacos.
There’s also a special late-night menu after 10 p.m. It features dishes like vegetarian tlayuda (cauliflower chorizo, black beans, red onion slaw, queso Oaxaca) and crispy chicharrón de queso (salsa verde). The restaurant’s namesake ingredient — chicatanas, the flying leaf-cutter ants that are a regional delicacy in Oaxaca — don’t appear on either of the opening menus. Reyes hasn’t entirely ruled out the idea, however, so the insects could still make an appearance once the restaurant gets into the swing of service.
The cocktail menu also keys in closely to Mexico, with a range of agave spirits including sotol, raicilla, tequila, and mezcal. There are also punny drink names aplenty, such as Oaxacan On Broken Glass (mezcal, chile poblano, lime, angostura, habanero bitters) and Cold Snap (snap pea infused cachaca, cocchi Americano, St. Elder, orange blossom water, grapefruit). Non-alcoholic drinks (like horchata and mango limeade with chamoy; the pickled Mexican condiment), wines, and beers are also available.
Chikatana’s space seats 14 at the bar, more than 100 in the dining room, and 64 on an outdoor patio. Avril Zayas, who helped design the decor at prominent local spots including Aba in Fulton Market and RPM Steak in River North, uses natural woods and basket-weave textures throughout the 3,000 square-foot restaurant.
The restaurant is owned by the same management company as the Robey, the hotel overlooking Wicker Park’s six corners intersection, and some of the hotel’s senior staff have worked at both venues in preparation for the opening.
Last year, as restaurants workers began regularly using social media to discuss toxic work places, a Robey manager was accused of sexual and racist harassment by a former employee, with further details published by Block Club Chicago. That manager remains working at the hotel but is not working at Chikatana, according to a rep.
Ownership further disputed the allegations in a statement to Eater, saying an independent, third-party investigation into the incident concluded that the allegations were “baseless and false.” The company also has increased its diversity and inclusion trainings, according to the statement.
Chikatana, 850 W. Fulton Market, Open 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday and Thursday; 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 5 p.m. to midnight Sunday.