Preview: Antique Taco in Wicker Park

Husband-and-wife team prepares to open taco restaurant/antique shop combo

  • Rick and Ashley Ortiz plan to open Wicker Park restaurant Antique Taco in May.
Rick and Ashley Ortiz plan to open Wicker Park restaurant Antique Taco in…
March 20, 2012|By Lisa Arnett | RedEye

It’s not impossible to find a taqueria and an antique shop on the same street. But how about in the same storefront?

That’s what husband-and-wife team Rick and Ashley Ortiz are envisioning with Antique Taco, a new restaurant/retail hybrid slated for a May opening at 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park. “I tell people it’s like a taco stand meets farmers market meets Anthropologie … while drinking a canned beer,” said Ashley.

The two met while working together on events at Soldier Field, he as executive sous chef and she in catering sales. Not only did they fall in love, but Rick’s aspirations to open his own restaurant meshed with Ashley’s creativity and knack for event planning, and last year they quit their jobs to start their own business. You might recognize their picture-perfect smiles from the Randolph Street Market or Renegade Craft Fair, where they doled out tacos from their similarly named catering company, Antique Kitchen.

Rick, 29, who worked at Courtright’s in Willow Springs before landing at Soldier Field, describes his tacos as farmers market-inspired, from tempura-battered fish with smoked cabbage to sweet-and-spicy chicken with honey yogurt. The restaurant’s quaint look (think tea towel napkins, berry baskets and vintage dishes) will be the work of Ashley, 30, who most recently catered weddings and events with Food For Thought.

The restaurant’s counter-service set-up will be similar to Xoco and Urban Belly and will also have a retail section dedicated to the Ortiz’s shared love of antiques. “I think we’re going to be 80 years old and still going to antique malls, and just loving to find that one piece after looking for three or four hours,” Ashley said. “We’re going to focus on kitchen antiques, so I’m going to sell everything from a kitchen scale to blue mason jars to a vintage ice pick.”

Other dishes planned for the menu include chorizo chili with cheese curds, cauliflower elote, a mole meatball sandwich and a modernized taco salad with kale, tortilla chips and pomegranate vinaigrette. “For sweets, we’re going to do a cilantro-mint chocolate chip ice cream and then we have an abuelita, like a Mexican chocolate-style pop tart,” said Rick. To drink, they’ll be pouring horchata milkshakes, rosemary margaritas, vodka-spiked aguas frescas and beer by the can.

Both admit that the restaurant’s name may raise a few eyebrows. “You know how many times we’ve gotten, ‘Oh, Antique Taco. You’re gonna be serving old tacos?’” said Rick. “It may sound like … a strange name, but once you get in, you’ll really understand what we’re doing.” | @redeyeats

RedEye Chicago Articles