Rodolfo Cuadros wants his new Logan Square taqueria, Don Bucio’s Taqueria, to offer vegans something they’ve never experienced.
But to be unique, Cuadros will use a mold. His vegan al pastor tacos are carved off the trompo and formed using a labor-intensive process. The veggies are processed through a buffalo chopper before being frozen into a mold. The cylinder-shaped concoction is then transferred to a vertical spit where it’s roasted. This gives vegans those sought-after charred bits that pork pastor taco lovers crave.
Cuadros explains that most vegan taquerias are obsessed with soy and seitan. His approach is to use vegetables. The concept shouldn’t sound as novel as it does, Cuadros says, but that’s the trend in a world of mass-produced meat substitutes like Beyond and Impossible. But Cuadros, the former chef at Carnivale in West Loop, wants to give them a thrill. There will be four to five tacos on the menu, along with vegan chicharrones. Cuadros is also hyped for a vegan torta with a talera roll devoid of lard, something that’s a bit of a rarity. The tortillas at Don Bucio’s are ground with blue corn. Hibiscus gives them a dash of pink.
Vegan food doesn’t have to be monotonous. Cuadros is comfortable with a variety of techniques and Latin flavors. The Colombian native began applying them when he dabbled in veganism before the pandemic and opened a virtual restaurant, Bloom Vegan Kitchen, inside his Bucktown restaurant, Amaru. The concept proved so popular that he broke Bloom out as a separate restaurant with fun items like a vegan cheese plate. One of his cooks, Gustavo Ocampo, began experimenting with tacos. The pair liked the result so much that they imagined opening a vegan taqueria.
Ocampo’s story is unusual. Before Cuadros appointed him as executive chef at the taqueria, he was working construction jobs. Grew up around horses. He tended Cuadros’ stall at Time Out Market Chicago which also became a lab to try out new recipes for Don Bucio’s. A visit to LA inspired Ocampo, who is vegan, to create a vegan fish taco out of cacti. The crispiness reminds Ocampo of schnitzel. Cuadros has applied the same technique for the vegan schnitzel at Bloom.
Cuadros’s profile has raised in the last few years. In 2022, he was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes. Along with the food hall stall, Don Bucio will be the chef’s fourth restaurant.
The chef has had time to make sure that the music and decorations are carefully thought out. That mural depicts the restaurant’s namesake, Don Bucio himself. Bucio has worked with Cuadros for years and wanted to do something to recognize his efforts behind the scenes.
Don Bucio’s will serve cocktails and beer, designed to give customers a casual escape from everyday life, and it’s clear to Cuadros that meat should play a smaller part. Walk through the space below. Don Bucio’s is now open.
Don Bucio’s Taqueria, 2763 N. Milwaukee Avenue, open daily from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.