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A restaurant with tile floors, brown banquettes, a turquoise back wall, and pieces of rope hanging from the ceiling.
Tabú in the West Loop twists together Latin and American cuisines.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

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Take a Tour of Tabú, a New Latin Restaurant in Fulton Market

The menu blends American comfort food with Mexican and South American spices

A taboo is something that is forbidden, either by social custom or fear of supernatural forces. But Tabú, a new restaurant in Fulton Market from Atomic Hospitality that opens today, May 20, started with the idea that when it came to Latin food, nothing should be off limits.

“It’s a fun, modern twist on Latin cuisine,” says general manager Pepe Fernandez.

A board and two plates arranged on a wooden table; the board holds a pan of baked cheese, while the plates hold a pile of fried tacos and a colorful appetizer.
An assortment of appetizers: queso fundido supremo, lobster flautas, and grilled octopus with manchamanteles.
Two tacos on a gray ceramic plate.
The Que-FC taco: fried chicken with tamarind gravy and aji amarillo aioli.
A crispy tortilla on a plate covered with peppers and salsa; hands overhead hold a small pot of cheese sauce and a painted egg-shaped tool.
Tlayuda “Nachos,” which diners have to break into pieces themselves.

Tabú previously popped up for Taco Tuesdays at Recess, the Fulton Market bar with an enormous patio also owned by Atomic, but now customers finally have the chance to taste all of chef Saúl Román’s work.

Román, who grew up in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and cooked in Mexico City before moving to Chicago, where he worked in the kitchens of Zocalo and Artango Steakhouse, blends American comfort food with Mexican and Latin spices and Mexican food with peppers from South America and the U.S. The Que-FC, for instance, plays with the classic American fried chicken dinner by serving the chicken in a taco with tamarind gravy, aji amarillo aioli, and potato puree, while the Mole Dip is a takeoff on the French dip, only with mole jus.

Román also created his own version of the now-resurrected Taco Bell Mexican pizza, made with tlayudas. Except, says Fernandez, “it’s so much better than Taco Bell.” For dessert, there’s a churroulette, an assortment of churros standing up in what looks like the bullet chamber of a gun. Most of them are in flavors like dark chocolate, guava, and dulce de leche, but one is infused with habanero chile, and diners won’t know which it is until they try it. (The dessert can also be ordered without the extra element of danger.)

Six churros standing up in small ramekins in a metal holder.
Which of these pieces in the churroulette is habanero-flavored?

The grilled octopus, however, is served straight-up, with no twist. Fernandez says Román prepared it so well, it didn’t need any gimmicks, just a side of manchamanteles, a Mexican stew.

The cocktail list is heavy on tequilas and mezcals — management boasts that the bar stocks the largest collection of agave spirits in Chicago — plus Mexican beers and wines from Spain and South America.

A pink drink garnished with a lemon and blue glitter.
The Tijuana Unicorn Show incorporates mezcal, lemon, prickly pear, agave, and blue glitter.
A green cocktail in a tall glass garnished with mint leaves.
Unholy Water is the Tabú take on a mojito.

The main dining room and lounge seat 160, with the bar in the center. Overhead is a rope structure that runs the length of the restaurant. Fernandez says took two months to build: each piece was individually measured, taped, torched, and stapled into place. On the walls hang pop-art paintings, some American culture to complement the Latin American vibe.

Upstairs, on the roof, there’s an 8,000-square-foot patio that will, sometime next month, open to the public as a pop-up serving an abbreviated version of the downstairs menu. Management will settle on a more permanent theme next year.

Fernandez credits Tabú’s ambition to Román. “It wasn’t until chef Saúl came aboard that we decided to go up to another level,” he says. “The first tasting he did, we just realized we had something a lot bigger on our hands than we had anticipated.”

See more pictures of Tabú’s dining room below.

Tabú, 401 N. Morgan Street, Open 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, reservations available via OpenTable.

A pop-art painting of Marilyn Monroe behind a curved booth.
A sunlit bar, behind which are rows and rows of liquor bottles.
A lounge area with benches with with backs made from brightly woven textiles, low wooden tables, and cloth-colored stools.

Recess

838 West Kinzie Street, , IL 60642 (312) 801-1181 Visit Website

Tabú

401 N. Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60642 Visit Website
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