BYO Cuban-Filipino hot spot Bayan Ko has closed as co-owners and spouses Raquel Quadreny and Lawrence Letrero kick off a remodel to make add more tables and to eventually add a liquor license. The changes, the couple hopes, will cement the restaurant’s future near the Ravenswood and North Center border.
Founded in 2018 at 1810 W. Montrose Avenue near the CTA’s Montrose Brown Line El stop, Bayan Ko has garnered legions of fans with a menu of lumpia, empanadas, adobo wings, and Pinoy burgers. Casual and family-friendly, the restaurant also attracted critical attention and earned a spot on the Eater 38. The restaurant celebrates Quadreny and Letrero’s heritages in a way that doesn’t feel like two cultures are arbritatrily mashed together.
But as word-of-mouth spread, so did demand and the small space didn’t feel so intimate anymore. The couple has spent recent months hammering out a plan that will allow them to increase revenue while reinvesting in the community that has embraced them.
“We came to a threshold — our lease was coming up and we were actually planning to leave and find somewhere we could have a bar or liquor license,” Letrero says. “But we love Ravenswood so it’s sentimental and we wanted to figure out how to stay.”
Profit margins on alcohol can make a significant impact on the viability of a restaurant, so Quadreny and Letrero will apply for a liquor license. City approval, however, will require changes to the space, including a wheelchair-accessible restroom toward the front of the dining room. The addition demands some reconfiguration of the space as a whole, so workers will create an open kitchen that’s slightly pushed back to make additional room. It’s difficult to pinpoint how long the couple will have to wait once city inspectors tour the remodel, but Letrero says it could be as little as three weeks. He hopes to be back open by spring.
When that day arrives, they plan to unveil a limited menu of wine, beer, and cocktails (they’re also considering playful and summery frozen drinks) to complement a new food menu. Most of the new offerings are under wraps, but Letrero teases the possibility of a dinuguan sausage, his encased interpretation of a classic Filpino pork blood stew. Among the new options, however, fans will still find longtime hits like crispy adobo chicken wings and sisig nigiri.
Though the couple could have moved the restaurant and avoided the stress of remodeling, Letrero says the unflagging support of the neighborhood motivated them to double down on the original location. In the future, however, he’s keen to open a second location elsewhere in the city. “When the space [in Ravenswood] first became available, we didn’t know how welcoming the community would be,” he says. “They kept us going through the pandemic, so the thought of leaving was tough… I don’t want this to be my only project, but I think this will be our home for good.”
Stay tuned for news of Bayan Ko’s reopening date.
Bayan Ko, 1810 W. Montrose Avenue, planned for a spring reopening.