James Beard Award-nominated chef Rodolfo Cuadros, owner of Bloom Plant Based Kitchen and Amaru, is opening a third restaurant — a vegan taqueria Logan Square.
Bloom Plant Based Kitchen opened in 2021 in Wicker Park, spun off from a ghost kitchen established in 2020 after COVID restrictions suspended indoor dining this spring. Cuadros first ran Bloom from his Bucktown restaurant, Amaru, a Latin American eatery that draws on many influences and serves meat and dairy. Little did the chef realize that his pandemic survival pivot would be a smash hit that would form the backbone of his second restaurant. Both health conscious and environmentally conscious people have taken advantage of the international influences offered by Bloom.
Cuadros has been hesitant to call his restaurants vegan, he describes his third venture, Don Bucio Taqueria – or DBT – as “a humble Mexican restaurant that serves vegan food”. The restaurant is named after a cook Cuadros has known since arriving in Chicago nine years ago, an immigrant from Colombia. Bucio, originally from Mexico, spent nearly 30 years in Chicago and followed Cuadros de Carnivale to his other restaurants. Cuadros says he feels responsible for taking care of him and notes that Bucio has a talent: “He cooks like a grandmother or a mother would,” Cuadros says, giving him a compliment.
There’s a sense of deja vu, with Bloom coming from Amaru and Don Bucio coming from Bloom’s opening menu, one featuring two tacos, Asado mushrooms and another with banana blossoms. The tacos’ popularity sparked many jokes between Cuadros and a young Mexican American cook named Gustavo Ocampo: “It got to the point where we were like ‘Okay, when are we going to do this?’ said Cuadros.
This conversation inspired Cuadros to sign a lease at 2763 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Logan Square. Cuadros. which earned a Beard nomination for Best Chef: Great Lakes, hopes to debut by the end of November. They will have 90 seats with a full liquor license for margaritas. Emily Anderson, the same firm that designed Bloom, is handling the interiors. Expect lots of bright colors. Music is also important. Cuadros wants to show different Latin cultures by playing cumbia, a folk genre originating in Colombia but played throughout the region.
Cuadros imagines about six rotating tacos on the menu, including a vegan al pastor. This will differ from the version served in Bucktown at Taqueria Chingon, as Cuadros has developed a labor-intensive method that puts root vegetables, legumes, carrots and other ingredients into a food processor , then freezes and shapes them like a classic Chicago Kronos. gyros cone. The yuca helps bind the ingredients. The cone is then sliced and crisped on a platter and served in restaurant-made tortillas. It’s an advantage Chicago’s Mexican cuisine has over cities like New York, a city filled with mediocre tortilla options.
Maintaining competitive prices is something difficult for Mexican food, where many customers continue to support outdated understandings that tacos are supposed to be cheap. Taqueria Chingon came under criticism over pricing when it opened in 2021 (an Asada steak taco is currently $6.50). This poses an even greater challenge in the mainstream vegan space, a notoriously picky and sometimes value-obsessed clientele.
Cuadros hopes he can connect with a consumer base that can appreciate the hard work and imagination he puts into his food. It does not cater to fast food vegans. He is looking for families and others who are concerned about reducing their meat consumption. Vegans who crave tortas but are shunned because telera rolls often contain lard will be glad Cuadros has contracted ButterCrumb Bakery in suburban Hickory Hills to make vegan rolls.
Cuadros isn’t 100% vegan, but he admits that eating less meat has made eating beef or chicken more enjoyable. He also has more money to buy a quality cut of meat that has been raised ethically.
“You’re so mentally programmed by the food pyramid that they came up with in the ’60s that was completely influenced by lobby groups,” he says. “That we need animal protein at every meal, and I just don’t think that’s the case.”
Look for more coverage as opening day approaches.
Don Bucio Taqueria, 2764 N. Milwaukee Avenue, slated to open in late November.