Chicago chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless debuted the new fast-casual Tortazo concept on Wednesday, a colorful tortas-focused concept created in partnership with Philippines-based Jollibee Foods Corp.
Jollibee Foods in 2018 acquired a 47% stake in Bayless’ Tortas Frontera concept for $12.4 million. The new Tortazo inside Catalog at Willis Tower, a recently renovated retail-and-dining space in the city’s tallest tower, is a result of that partnership, which also includes DOM Capital Group. The companies said more units are planned, both in and outside Chicago, but they did not reveal details.
“Tortazo encompasses the food and culture of Mexico that I have spent over 30 years exploring, creating and falling in love with,” said Bayless in a statement. “We are thrilled to debut our first location in Chicago’s landmark Willis Tower for locals and visitors to enjoy.”
On the menu are made-to-order Mexican-style sandwiches, which are “griddle crisped,” such as a Smoked Pork Cubana with pork loin, artisan bacon, chipotle, jack cheese, avocado, chipotle mustard, cilantro crema and black been spread.
But Tortazo also offers bowls, such as the Chicken Chilaquiles with chicken breast, crispy tortillas, tomato-chipotle salsa, roasted zucchini and red onions, jack cheese and spinach, topped with avocado, cilantro crema and cotija.
As at Tortas Frontera, which has several locations in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the menu also includes tortilla soup and taqueria salad, as well as churros for dessert.
The 77-seat restaurant also has a full bar for dine-in guests with a beverage program developed by Lanie Bayless, Rick Bayless’ daughter, including hand-shaken margaritas, mezcal cocktails and craft beer and wine, as well as agua frescas.
Tortazo is the latest addition to Bayless’ all-Mexican restaurant portfolio, which also includes the acclaimed Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Xoco, Bar Sótano, Leña Brava, Cruz Blanca and Frontera Cocina.
Jollibee Foods in recent years has also acquired the Smashburger chain and Coffee Bean & Tea.
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