I checked it out yesterday, entering through the front to meet with co-owner Marcelo Ramirez and managing partner Tara Davies. They led me through the little restaurant, out the back door and up a flight of stairs for the big reveal in the sunshine. I hadn’t been up there in the 12 years since Ramirez first whispered hopefully to me that “One day, this will be the patio.” It had been a dark night and I don’t recall seeing much of anything except a void, so yesterday’s visit was a total revelation.
They had led me up to a big, gravel-floored back lot enclosed on its east and west sides by tall walls of old brick and weather-beaten concrete. One might call it a courtyard if it didn’t back onto the narrow alley that goes from Victory Square to Homer Street. It’s definitely a unique spot, somewhat reminiscent of the many backyard and otherwise hidden patio spaces that have long bettered Toronto’s independent restaurant scene. (This is somewhat fitting since Davies is a veteran of that city’s popular Bar Raval.)
Davies and Ramirez pointed out where a shipping container bar would soon be positioned and where the big BBQ and ceviche stations would go. Though connected to La Taqueria, they want the outdoor space to have its own identity, envisioning it as a fun, cocktail-forward snack bar, not unlike The Keefer Bar’s outdoor Keefer Yard sister project in Chinatown (albeit without the games). Guests will still be able to order tacos and such off the regular menu from the restaurant below, but the patio’s kitchen will be preparing and plating its very own line up of mostly Sinaloa-inspired dishes, much of it seafood (eg. Aguachile with octopus, shrimp and scallops). They’re calling it Chupito, which translates from the Spanish as ‘Shooter’.
To help build and implement Chupito’s signature low waste bar program, Davies is bringing out bar/beverage consultant and longtime Bar Raval bar manager, Ana Wolkowski, for a couple of weeks. The talented Wolkowski has developed several drinks for the project that employ spices and botanicals indigenous to Mexico and British Columbia. I’ve seen what appeared to be an excerpt of her cocktail list and spied some really interesting stuff, like curacao made in house using La Taqueria’s blue corn discards.
I’m keen to watch Chupito develop over the next couple of weeks and will have more on it as it nears launch towards the end of this month. In the meantime, have a sneak peek…