“Inauthentic” has rarely sounded so promising.
Jackie Greenbaum, whose restaurant Jackie’s helped to usher in the era of suburban chic when she converted a Silver Spring auto parts store into a trippy enclave of pink pillows and quirky comfort food, is set to open El Chucho’s Cocina Superior in Columbia Heights this May, serving “inauthentic Mexican food.”
The forthcoming taqueria, located at 3313 11th Street, Northwest, will seat 40 inside, with an additional 16 seats outside and another 40 on the roof.
Greenbaum’s tongue-in-cheek description is intended as a sly “out” for the sorts of playful dishes chef Diana Davila-Boldin (whom we singled out last year as one of 13 “rising star” chefs for her work at Jackie’s) is devising for the taqueria, a mix of the “traditional and newfangled” that includes antojitos (small plates), tortas (sandwiches), and tacos.
There will be posole and mariscos, but also chicharrones with “Mexican kimchi” and “chiles rellenos with pork belly.” Expect carne asada and al pastor tacos, but also a version with tripe and foie gras and another with herb-marinated octopus.
Davila-Boldin’s family hails from Guerrero, Mexico, and a significant portion of her girlhood was devoted to mastering the complex flavors of regional Mexican cooking. She apprenticed at her parents’ three restaurants in her native Chicago, eventually becoming, at age 21, the executive chef of Hacienda Jalapenos, which garnered a strong two stars from the Chicago Tribune in 2003 and earned her the moniker “wunderkind.”
At Jackie’s, the chef works in an altogether different idiom, turning out an American cuisine that is dizzying in its global references. Her menu swings from spanakopita to brined pork skewers with Thai chili sauce, from rack of wild boar with brandied cherry sauce to burgers topped with pimento cheese, and often reads like an iPod shuffle of wildly disparate hits. But Davila-Boldin pulls it off, somehow—and with great élan.
Greenbaum says she didn’t want to squelch her chef’s ever-broadening range, and thought that calling the new venture “inauthentic” right from the start would give her the wide latitude—not to mention the critical immunity, Greenbaum joked by phone late last night—to explore her past as well as her present.
Gordon Banks, who curates the selection of cocktails at Greenbaum’s Sidebar, is her partner in the venture, and is assembling the lineup of drinks. It will include a wide selection of margaritas, including one on draft, craft cocktails, and house-made soft drinks, as well as tequilas, mezcals, and Mexican beer.
Greenbaum is aiming for a Cinco de Mayo opening. Stay tuned.