LOGAN SQUARE — A modern Mexican restaurant from a prolific Logan Square restaurateur is the latest addition to Logan Square’s dining scene.
La Victoria Barra + Cocina Mexicana at 2447 N. Milwaukee Ave., hosted its grand opening Friday. It’s the eighth establishment in the neighborhood from Esam Hani.
La Victoria is now open 4 p.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, and 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday – Saturday.
The restaurant is a collaboration between Hani and Carlos Alferez, longtime former manager of Bayless’ restaurants, along with chef Ryan Wombacher, whose resume includes now-closed Lawry’s The Prime Rib and The Hampton Social.
Hani is the owner, while Alferez oversees day-to-day operations as managing partner.
Robbie Smolucha, formerly of Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants group and The Hampton Social, is the beverage director.
Alferez said the team initially set out to highlight Oaxacan cuisine, which is known for its moles, among other dishes, but later decided to showcase more of what Mexico has to offer.
The result is a menu celebrating Mexican cuisine at large, different from Chicago’s typical Mexican fare. For instance, rather than serving al pastor tacos, a common offering at restaurants in the city, La Victoria opted for tacos guisados, a Mexico City staple filled with slow-cooked meat, Alferez said.
The menu also includes coctel de camarones, a Mexican shrimp cocktail popular in seaside towns, and Mexico City’s quesadillas chilanagas with house-roasted lamb birria and arbol salsa.
“Limiting ourselves to one region would’ve been counterproductive in the long run, because people want more variety than just a few things,” he said. “Moles are super complex — they’re complex to make, they’re complex to understand — and we wanted to create something that was more approachable.”
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In keeping with Mexican tradition, 90 percent of the food served at La Victoria is cooked on a wood and charcoal grill, and all tortillas are made on-site by two women who have perfected the craft, Alferez said. The tortilla makers face the dining area, so patrons can watch and appreciate the process, he said.
“The heart and soul of a Mexican kitchen is the tortilla-making process. If you don’t take that seriously, I think you’re missing out on what Mexican food is about,” Alferez said. “I want to make sure they get their due.”
To drink, La Victoria serves a rotating menu of Mexican-inspired cocktails, a wide selection of mezcal and tequila, Mexican beer, including offerings from local Mexican brewery Casa Humilde, along with wine and non-alcoholic options.
The La Victoria crew designed the restaurant to “feel like you’ve walked into another world,” using huge fake trees, a bougainvillea wall and bright accents to mimic the feel of a back patio in Guadalajara or another Mexican city, Alferez said.
The restaurant also has playful touches, including an Instagram backdrop with an “I didn’t text you, tequila did” neon sign, cactus murals by a local artist and an outdoor patio that stays open until 11 p.m.
It filled a space most recently occupied by tapas restaurant Papa Cenar. Before that, the Milwaukee Avenue storefront was home to a restaurant called Twain, which closed after just eight months.
La Victoria is named after Hani’s wife, Victoria, Alferez said. The name also represents an exciting new venture between longtime friends.
Alferez and Hani are finally going into business together after 20 years of friendship, a “victory” for the two restaurant industry veterans, Alferez said.
Alferez was the general manager of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo for 18 years.
Hani also owns The Old Plank, Saba, Café Con Leche, Harding Tavern, The Walk In, Red StarLiquor and Deli, and Mr. E’s Late Nite along Logan Square’s Milwaukee Avenue.
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