The menu at Diego, the dive bar that channels vibes from San Diego and Tijuana from chef Stephen Sandoval, is ready to shake up what Chicagoans expect from tavern food. Sandoval, probably best known for Sueños, his Mexican restaurant that popped up at Soho House in West Loop, unveiled his newest venture over the weekend.
Folks who made it to Sandoval’s Soho House residency will feel comfortable with Diego’s menu. There’s plenty of seafood — snapper ceviche; a mixta tostada with octopus, shrimp, and tuna; plus a battered cod taco. The Gubernador shrimp taco is wrapped with cheese, pickled red onions, and crema. Then there’s the popular burrito with steak or shrimp. The burger, made with buns from nearby Aya Pastry, is worth noting. It’s an 8-ounce beef patty from Creekstone Farms and pickled jalapeños. Bacon and avocado can be added.
It’s a tidy menu compared to what the chef has planned for Sueños, his upscale Mexican restaurant that takes a more refined look at the Baja Med nostalgia that Sandoval, a San Diego native, grew up with. There will also be DJs on Fridays and Saturday.
Over at Soho House, Sandoval couldn’t really control the environment inside the hotel. There’s only so much he could do with music and decor with furniture, plates, and other details predetermined by Soho. That’s an obstacle that the Mexican restaurant that replaced Sueños, Calli, is contending with. That’s now a concern of chef Jonathan Zaragoza who created the new concept’s menu.
But Sandoval is now liberated from those concerns in West Town, taking over the G&O Tavern space, the one with a modest patio. Cocktails from veteran Chicago bartender Danielle Lewis include frozen piña coladas, the Guerra (Mexican honey, pineapple, cava), and the Cantarito (citrus, fizz, tequila). There’s also a Michelada with an oyster (it can be made booze-free, too). Lewis worked with Sandoval at Soho and will take her talents to the new Sueños when it debuts.
Check out more coverage soon including an update on Sueños.
Diego, 459 N. Ogden Avenue, open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday; noon to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday; noon to 2 a.m. on Sunday.