After Dan Salls closed The Garage, his food truck commissary and lunch counter in Chicago’s West Loop, he returned with a new Mexican restaurant, Quiote.
The all-day eatery, which Salls opened in February with co-owner Paul Biasco, is a coffee bar, mid-day taqueria, sit-down restaurant and late-night mezcaleria. With a focus on regional dishes inspired by the duo’s travels through Mexico, Salls and Biasco hope to make Quiote a destination where “people feel welcome any time of day.”
Patrons visit the neighborhood spot from morning to night. As early as 7 a.m., commuters can swing by for a cup of Sparrow Coffee, or sit down to graze on a Mexican breakfast pastry made by the local bakery Floriole.
When lunchtime rolls around, the space transforms into a casual taqueria with a rotating selection of tacos and tortas. The lunch menu is a throwback for Salls, reminiscent of the offerings from his now-shuttered mobile eatery, The Salsa Truck. For dinner, Quiote offers traditional Mexican entrees and contemporary twists on regional dishes.
The mezcaleria, a dimly lit, intimate lounge that seats 40 patrons, is located on the subterranean level of the restaurant. Boasting more than 80 bottles of mezcal, imbibers can enjoy their selection poured neat or mixed in an expertly crafted cocktail curated by beverage director Bobby Baker.
You might assume that Salls spent years developing Quiote, but he’s relatively new to the food scene. Salls left his job as a financial adviser less than a year before taking his love for cooking to the road with his first project, The Salsa Truck.
In 2013, The Salsa Truck became Chicago’s first food truck to get a license to cook on board. Long lines of customers formed to get a taste of Salls’ curbside, made-to-order tacos and quesadillas. He kept his menu simple and focused on authenticity over innovation.
As the first and only food truck of its kind, The Salsa Truck enjoyed a quick rise to success. With his foot in the door, Salls took his expertise to the next level and opened The Garage.
“The Garage was born of a necessity to run The Salsa Truck,” he said.
The Garage functioned as a food truck commissary, complete with a full kitchen and 1,600 square feet of space for mobile food vendors to park, cook and host events.
The Garage thrived as a counter-service lunch venue for nearly three years, offering signature items from The Salsa Truck in addition to a rotating menu with a daily theme. But in early 2016, new developments and rising rents in the West Loop squeezed The Garage out of the neighborhood.
Co-owners of Quiote Dan Salls (left) and Paul Biasco (right). Photo: Oaxaca
By this time, Salls was ready for something bigger. Biasco, a longtime friend and a regular at The Salsa Truck and The Garage, was a sounding board for Salls’ ideas.
After a trip to Oaxaca, Salls convinced Biasco to take the leap and join him on his most ambitious project yet. For Biasco, the decision was easy.
“Seeing the energy and creativity that [Salls] brought to previous restaurants, you could feel the passion when you came in,” Biasco said.
That’s what the duo hopes people will see in Quiote, too.
“I’ve always believed in the food,” said Salls, who never imagined the restaurant would become popular so quickly. “I’m still pinching myself.”
As for the future, Salls and Biasco plan to return to Mexico and stay connected to the thriving culinary scene in Oaxaca and beyond.
“[Our menu] isn’t static,” Salls said. “It evolves.”