LINCOLN PARK — A busy shopping corridor with few restaurant options is getting another: a grill-your-own-meat Mexican spot opened along the river in near Goose Island this week.
At the newly-opened Bistec, 1523 N. Kingsbury St., shiny hood fans hang over tables equipped with a grill.
“The concept is kind of like Korean barbecue, but with Mexican food,” said general manager Monique Mark. “I think we’re the only restaurant in Chicago doing this concept.”
Customers at the family-style restaurant choose two meats, marinades and sides, which are accompanied by tortillas and a variety of house-made salsas and sides, such as charro beans and pickled veggies. The thinly-sliced meats cook in minutes on the in-table grills, and the portion offered for a $40 fixed price readily feeds two people.
Those who aren’t into the cook-your-own concept – or who want to supplement the grilled tacos – can choose kitchen-made tacos, starters, salads, burgers, sandwiches, tortilla pizzas and desserts.
“[North Branch] is a great location and the neighborhood is really growing,” Mark said. “This neighborhood really could use a restaurant. There aren’t too many here.”
Indeed, the two closest food and beverage establishments, aside from Whole Foods directly across the street, are about a block away: Off Color Brewing’s drinks-only taproom, The Mousetrap, which just turned one, and Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient Pizzeria Bebu, which is less than two years old.
Mark had been the general manager at Kingsbury Street Café, the previous restaurant in the Bistec space, from the time she and her mother opened it in 2011 up until its sudden closure this Memorial Day weekend. That restaurant closed when Mark’s mother decided to retire and spend time in her native Vietnam.
“It was actually a sad moment because she’s one of the older, independent businesswomen,” Mark said. “But she felt that it was a lot of work and she needed a break. She wants to slow down and take care of her health.”
Mark, too, took a break but returned to the restaurant business when she “got a little bored. And now I’m… asking myself why I’m doing this again with all the stress,” she said with a laugh. “I really missed talking to the customers. They come in here, all the regulars, and everybody loved the Kingsbury crew. It felt like home.”
The two women made a name for their restaurant in an industry that can be challenging for women entrepreneurs to break into.
“It’s a little tough in this industry, I think it’s more male dominant. But nowadays there are a lot of strong, tough women out there, too,” she said.
Mark is joined at Bistec by her husband and the restaurant’s owner, Dan Mark, in addition to some of the staff from the old restaurant who are “like family,” she said. Her mother looks forward to seeing the renovated space and the overhauled menu when she returns to Chicago from Vietnam.
“The whole concept of this place is really different, it’s fun. Come out here and enjoy it with a group of friends,” Mark said. “Be open minded and try something different.”
Check out the menu here: