While Tulum, Mexico is a hot spot for Instagram influencers into travel and yoga, Chicagoans won’t need a blue tick to partake in the beach town’s cuisine and vibes when Costera opens in 2023 in the Fulton Market. A follow-up to Nisos, his Mediterranean restaurant along Randolph Restaurant Row, owner Brad Parker hopes to capture the Bohemian energy of the seaside Mexican town while also serving up a vibrant menu of traditional flavors and ingredients.
“Tulum has what I call a heartbeat,” Parker says. “It gets inside you when you go to dinners there. It’s a vibe. It’s a pulse... It’s every element when you sit down at a restaurant that makes you go, ‘Wow. I am feeling this place.’ That’s what Tulum does over and over again.”
It’s the third restaurant in four years at 850 W. Fulton Market. City Tap opened in 2019 before COVID arrived. Chikatana, a venture backed by the Robey hotel’s owners, took over in June 2021 before quietly closing after about a year.
Now, Parker Hospitality, known for its Hampton Social chain of bars, is having a go. Parker says will offer a more elevated experience than your typical Mexican restaurant. The menu will showcase a wide breadth of flavors including a raw bar with coastal dishes like ceviche and oysters, Caribbean and rock lobsters, barbacoa de pueblo, and showstopper entrees like whole-roasted fish. The cocktail program will predictable lean heavily on tequila and mezcal.
Parker says that he’s spearheading the interior design of Costera and will feature a “simplistic Bohemian design that makes you feel almost at one with your surroundings.” The restaurant will also be showcasing custom rope artwork from artists from Querétaro, Mexico, and furniture designed and built in Guadalajara. Customers will be able to enjoy a four-season patio along with outdoor seating when the weather starts to feel a little closer to the coast of Mexico than it does a frozen Chicago winter.
“When you dine with us, the goal is to make you feel immersed in your surroundings,” Parker says. “Not just from a food standpoint, but from lighting, music, decor, and furniture standpoint. What’s the texture of your seat? What’s the texture of your table?”
It’s what Parker describes as “destination dining” that goes beyond just offering the foods and drinks of specific locales and immersing you into its world. This ethos plays out at Parker’s other restaurants including the Nisos and Hampton Social.
Like the latter restaurant, though, Parker is planning on expanding Costera into other regional markets. Currently, there are nine other Hampton Socials in cities like Nashville, Denver, Orlando, and Naples, Florida. The idea, according to Parker, is to be able to grow Costera into the same regions, offering a different dining experience from the faux-Long Island affair.
“We’re looking for other opportunities of concepts we can develop and open not only in Chicago but across the country,” Parker says. “As we go to places like Denver, Nashville, and Atlanta we’re building these operational presences there but sometimes you can’t open another Hampton Social two or three blocks away.”
With such a model, though, Costera won’t be banking on the strength of a big-named chef like Nisos has with Greek native Avgeria Stapaki to draw in customers. Instead, it’ll rely on Parker’s team and his experience traveling and working in the food and drink business to build the final menu and kitchens.
Tulum, a town known for its beaches and jungles, right off the coast of the Caribbean, has become a celebrity magnet, marked by stockpiles of Instagram posts from the same type of influencers Parker would like dining at Costera. Or at least generate enough buzz to bring a Costera to their hometown.
Parker says the restaurant will be a destination dining experience after all — immersing you in the sounds, tastes, and smells of Tulum.
“Tulum’s just one of those places for me,” Parker says. “I love the culinary scene. I love the vibe. I do not believe that the street and neighborhood has what we’re about to bring and offer with Costera. It’s going to be great.”
Costera, 846 W. Fulton Market, planned for a spring or summer opening.