LOGAN SQUARE — A restaurant is set to open next month in the former Masa Azul location in Logan Square.
Ocaso, Spanish for “sunset,” will serve classic Mexican cuisine, such as tacos, tostadas and elote along with entrees including arrachera (Mexican skirt steak) and shrimp and mussels with tequila sauce. The restaurant, 2901 W. Diversey Ave., will eventually have a full bar, but it will be BYOB until a liquor license is secured, owner Areerat Potikul said. She plans to open in September.
“We wanted to do something that is kind of unique but still carries on the Mexican taste, as well,” Potikul said.
She described the menu as a mix and match of street food and high-end restaurant cuisine.
Potikul, a manager at Penny’s Noodle Shop in Lakeview, said she was encouraged to open the restaurant by Penny’s owners and longtime acquaintances Gus and Penny Chiamopoulos, who also own the building Ocaso is in. Potikul has worked on and off for the Chiamopoulos family since she first got a job waitressing at Penny’s in 2004 while she was a student at Columbia College Chicago.
Gus Chiamopoulos heard she was interested in striking out on her own, Potikul said, and suggested she look at the space vacated by his nephew, former Masa Azul owner Jason Lerner. Masa Azul began serving Mexican food at the location in 2012 and closed during the pandemic.
Potikul went to look at the space and loved it. It had everything she might need, and she said it was evident how much care Lerner and Chiamopoulos had invested in the building.
“They built the kitchen on their own. They built the basement, the walk-in cooler … they planned for it to be there forever,” she said.
Originally from Bangkok, Potikul was considering serving Thai food but said Chiamopoulos encouraged her to reconsider, in part because the kitchen was already set up for Mexican cuisine.
She tapped her friend Carlos Gonzalez, formerly of La Luna in Pilsen, to develop the menu and serve as Ocaso’s chef. Potikul met Gonzalez, as well as her fiancé, while working at Giordano’s locations throughout Chicago.
Potikul said she’s also kept in regular contact with Lerner, who’s been extremely supportive.
“Me and Jason have been talking all the time,” she said. “He’s been so nice. It’s something that he did for the last 10 years. He wanted to make sure he passed everything along to someone.”
While Potikul plans to keep some of Masa Azul’s features, including its patio space, she said Ocaso will be its own distinct entity, with less of a focus on cocktails and small plates in favor of a more family-oriented environment.
“I don’t want customers to think I’m just stepping into Masa Azul’s shoes,” she said. “It’s going to be a little different. They’re going to see different changes. But I’ll try my best to make sure everyone feels comfortable and welcome the way Masa Azul did.”
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