House-made tortillas, salsas, tacos and tortas as well as a thoughtfully curated cocktail menu featuring seasonal margaritas are set to appear in the Oak Park Arts District this August. Taco Mucho, an Oak Park family-owned taqueria is poised to open in the former home of District Kitchen and Tap, 220 Harrison St.
“I’ve spent a year and half preparing to open,” said Ron Aleman, chef-owner of Taco Mucho. “I was drawn to the arts district and love its cool feeling and walkability. I love Val’s, Buzz and Happy Apple—I think Taco Mucho will fit right in with all the great things already happening on Harrison.”
Taco Mucho existed as pop-up in the Fulton Gallery in Chicago for six months in 2019. The successful stint left Aleman ready to transition to restaurant ownership, but the pandemic delayed his dream. The south Oak Park resident and father of two spent quarantine cooking for neighbors, family and friends to hone his skills in anticipation of opening Taco Mucho when the time was right.
Aleman was drawn to the building on Harrison because it was already a functional restaurant. He is in the process of completing a significant cosmetic update to “brighten and freshen” the dining room. Additionally, the layout of the restaurant has been changed to increase efficiency and the bathrooms have been updated.
Aleman, who had a hand in opening seven restaurants over the years, brings 20-years of culinary experience to his first ever solo restaurant venture. He also benefits from a formal culinary school education and uses his knowledge of French cooking techniques to enhance his Mexican fare rooted in family recipes from Guadalajara, Jalisco.
“No matter what I am cooking, ingredients will always get the best respect from my hands,” said Aleman. “I want to help every ingredient meet its full potential.”
Taco Mucho’s menu will feature an array of tacos and tortas with fillings like ribeye steak with house made asada seasoning, chicken al pastor or vegetarian poblano con queso. In fact, Aleman has given serious consideration to making vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options standouts on the Taco Mucho menu. Far from “filler” on the plate, the recipe for “grandma’s rice” has been in Aleman’s family for more than 75 years and has an ideal mix of garlic, onion and tomato according to the owner.
“If I wouldn’t be proud to serve something I’ve cooked to my grandma or mom it won’t be served at Taco Mucho,” said Aleman.
A beverage menu highlighting classic and creative margaritas will also attract customers. Made from limited ingredients, Taco Mucho’s classic margarita contains nothing more than tequila, lime, agave and a splash of lemonade. Strawberry and mango versions will be menu mainstays, while seasonal creations like watermelon-serrano margaritas will keep things fresh. Aleman also intends to utilize the 12 beer taps on site.
Aleman is “playing it smart” and plans a gradual opening for Taco Mucho. The restaurant will first open for dinner service and in time grow to include brunch and lunch service. In the meantime Aleman is building out his kitchen team.
“I want to grab some young culinarians and help grow them into the chefs they want to become,” said Aleman.