Inside Fulton Market’s Chill New Mexican Restaurant

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The owners of the Hampton Social are replacing a Mexican restaurant in Fulton Market with their own take on the country’s cuisine. Costera Cocina Tulum takes inspiration from Tulum, the popular tourist destination on the coast of the Yucátan.

Owner Brad Parker wants the 243-seat space to feel like “entering a beach club in the jungle.” There’s also an 88-seat patio and a bar. But before exploring the new space Parker and company have designed, a word about the former tenant.

Brad Parker
Brad Parker

Under a different ownership group (they run the Roby Hotel), Chiktana opened in the summer of 2021, as the world was slowly regaining its comfort with eating out. City officials worked with chambers and other local officials to pedestrianize streets, allowing restaurants to set up tables and chairs in the middle of the road. That was a boon for established restaurants like the Publican, but the program didn’t benefit newer restaurants that needed more traffic and curious passersby. A combination of these factors led to Chiktana’s demise.

A mini trompo with pork.
The mini trompo al pastor.

That being said, Parker, who just reopened Nisos, his Greek restaurant along Randolph Street — it’s a steakhouse — saw an opportunity to immerse Chicagoans, much like he does with his other restaurants. Parker has told Eater that sometimes Chicago restaurants take themselves too seriously. And while he wants the kitchen to remain on its toes, he prefers places that are more relaxed where the people watching is on point.

The light fixtures feature a playful monkey holding a tube-shaped bulb instead of a banana. There are different textures with rattan, woven seagrass, and stone walkways. The ropework comes from the Mexican state of Querétaro.

Veteran Chicago chef Rick Tramonto is overseeing the menu which is executed by executive chef Aldo Ayala, a Pueblo, Mexico native who comes over from Mercadito Hospitality. The West Loop has seen a lot of casual Mexican food, places like Bodega, Texan Taco Bar, and Taocmbi, arrive recently. Ayala and Tramonto invest more in ingredients and presentation. The mini trompo al pastor is a spectacle with stacks of pork coming between a charred pineapple that sits upright with leaves intact. The pork shank pibil comes with the bone left in the meat. Tacos are accompanied by queso fundido, ceviche, and a burger with a mini lobster roll on the menu.

Walk through the space below and read the menu.

Costera Cocina Tulum, 850 W. Fulton Market, opening Wednesday, October 4, reservations via OpenTable.

Costera’s main dining room as rope work from Mexico.

Chef Aldo Ayala in the kitchen.
Executive chef Aldo Ayala is from Pueblo, Mexico.

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