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Cantina 1910’s Anticipated Grand Opening Is Set, Owners Explain The Concept

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Cantina 1910 Rendering

No more scaffolding. No more construction workers. No more wondering what’s going on at the corner of Winnemac and Clark.

Come Sept. 16, there will be another breakfast, lunch and dinner option in Andersonville. Say bienvenida to Cantina 1910, a new restaurant that aims to offer modern Mexican cuisine and an updated approach to traditional and regional dishes at 5025 N. Clark St.

Cantina 1910 is the brainchild of co-owners Mark Robertson and Mike Sullivan. The partners found inspiration for the restaurant from the decade-long Mexican Revolution that began in 1910. The new restaurant is a nod to Mexico’s first major political, social and cultural revolution of the 20th century.

“We looked at Mexico’s history and when Mexico really began to evolve into its modern-day culture, and the Mexican Revolution was when that change began to happen,” Robertson said on Wednesday. The bloody armed struggle was not a pleasant experience, of course. Yet Cantina 1910 seeks to make the most of the revolution’s transformational impact. “We are changing the approach to Mexican food. It is traditional regional Mexican cuisine but changed to be a modern take on that.”

Its menu will be led by a woman who is more than up to the task, Robertson said. Executive Chef Diana Davila’s culinary talents have been recognized in Chicago and Washington, D.C. She was raised just outside Chicago and began her culinary journey at age 10 while working in her parents’ taqueria. By age 20, she was named a “Mexican Marvel” by the Chicago Sun-Times, and by age 21, she had earned a rare, two-star review from Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune, a press release said. Washingtonian Magazine named her a “Rising Star” during her time at Jackie’s and Sidebar in Washington, D.C.

Executive Chef Diana Davila

“She is super, super creative, and her talent level in executing on her creative ability is top-notch,” Robertson said. “We did an international search for a chef. The idea of doing Mexican cuisine, farm-to-table, in Chicago scared a lot of people off because we said you can’t just be farm-to-table in summer. You have to do it all year. Chef Davila embraced the challenge.”

Davila’s menu includes a range of street food classics. Yet the farm-to-table concept means some traditional dishes have had to be changed because certain ingredients can’t be grown by Cantina 1910’s eight or nine primary sources in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and southern Illinois. Robertson said 70 percent of the ingredients in the restaurant’s dishes and beverages will be sourced from these farms that are within a 200-mile radius all year. He and Sullivan “really do want to support the renaissance of the local farmer,” he said.

Practically, this means that traditional dishes using ingredients like cactus are replaced with easier-to-grow-in-the-Midwest ingredients like okra. Taco al Pastor, for instance, is usually made with lots of citrus. Because citrus is so hard to find in the midwest, Cantina 1910’s version is made with spit roasted pork, onions, cilantro and chopped tomatillo and uses what it calls a Midwest adobo of raspberries and golden raisins instead of citrus.

Robertson and Sullivan decided to open their restaurant in Andersonville because they know the area well. They already own Crew Bar & Grill in Uptown and the SoFo Tap at the corner of Clark and Argyle. From talking with the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, they knew the neighborhood was interested in having another Mexican restaurant. Additionally, Robertson said, Andersonville is on the forefront of sustainability and farm-to-table concepts. “Those became the tenets of the concept from Day One,” he added.

This had an impact on the design and construction of the building, as well. Cantina 1910 takes the place of what had been T’s, a well-known lesbian bar. Robertson and Sullivan did their best to salvage the property, a 100-year-old building, but ran into a number of issues. There had been at least three fires on the property that had caused damage that hadn’t been properly repaired, for instance. There were asbestos and building code issues. It took time to obtain the proper city building permits. And then having to work through the winter delayed the building’s completion even more. Construction began in late 2014.

“It would have been easier and faster to tear the whole thing down and start over, but we were trying to save as much of the original building as we could,” Robertson said. The restaurant will have three floors, including a lower level, and will seat 184 people on a 6,700-square-foot interior. Next spring, it will open its sidewalk cafe, which will seat between 80 and 90 people.

Cantina 1910 will be open for business starting at 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., every day, Robertson said. It will offer breakfast, hot lunch and dinner, as well as cantina (bar) service.

Crafted cocktails will include the Cantina Old Fashioned (FEW Bourbon, vida mezcal, mole and aromatic bitters), the Chicago Trifecta (Rhinehall Apple Brandy, FEW White Dog, CH Amaro, and French Oak), and the 1910 Sangria (offering a choice of CH vodka or Key Lime Gin, blueberry, Cocchi Americano, and sparkling wine). Michael Fawthrop created the cocktail list. Among other things, he is a former bartender at Seattle’s canon, recognized by Drinks International as the sixth Best Bar in the World.

For more information on Cantina 1910, visit http://www.rootcollective.com.


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