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SEPTEMBER 16, 2009
Paul Kahan's Honky Tonk Tacos
Whenever the team behind avec and Blackbird kick off a new project, the rumors swirl. Last fall, news broke that the guys—Donnie Madia, Paul Kahan and Eduard Seitan, along with Terry Alexander and Peter Garfield of the Violet Hour—took over the legendary and much-loved Pontiac space in Bucktown. Construction and renovations soon followed and while many hoped the sprawling front patio would emerge for summer, the rehab work is still going on, but is progressing at a steady clip. And the wait is almost over. 

Recently, Time Out Chicago revealed that the still-unnamed spot will focus on tacos. SomethingGlorious just discovered that this new space, which is on target to open in late October barring any issues, will primarily be a bar with a walk-up taqueria (no exterior door, just a window) and will feature about 10 items on the menu, according to Executive Chef Paul Kahan. Kahan, who embarks on a SoCal "research and development" trip this week, said that he was inspired when he "ate something and loved it." The food will focus on al pastor tacos, much in the vein of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Super Rica Taqueria, of which Kahan is a big fan and says has the best tacos he's ever eaten. While Kahan will pull inspiration from his time working alongside Rick Bayless at Frontera Grill, he wants to experiment with "fun food that tastes good," like eventually having fried chicken and mole—which is something I can definitely get down with.

The overall concept will take people back to Bakersfield, Calif., in the 1950s where people like Merle Haggard and Buck Ownes birthed honky tonk music, where migrant Mexican workers inspired food and where you could get a good, cold beer for $1. The space will have a square center bar and a number of booths, and while the bar will serve vodka, gin and run (only one of each, and I'm happy to report the vodka of choice is Tito's from Austin, Texas), the spirits program, curated by Violet Hour manager Michael Ruble, will focus primarily on tequila, beer and hard-to-find, lesser-known American whiskey (bourbon, rye, etc). Beers will be cheap and will come in both seven- and 12-ounce draft pours, so people can get a quick beer and taco or tostada (maybe even a shot of whiskey) for about $10.

Think the crowds at avec and Publican are crazy? Wait till this joint opens this fall. This will likely become the new hipster Mecca, but instead of it being only a summer spot, the interior allows for hanging throughout the winter. Rack 'em up, boys.

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