our restaurant story

not authentic, just delish

bad news

we’re quite discouraged today. Aloke spoke with Dave, the restaurant consultant, again.  after looking into the issue with the vents and talking with some building people, Dave seems to have decided that the DelPrado space will NOT work for a restaurant.  which means, mundo bizarro has no potential home.

but we’re not giving up just yet.  we will get more architects and “experts” in there, maybe the problem is that those two we consulted with so far didn’t have any creative ideas for coming up with not-so-obviou solutions.  we need someone who can think outside of the lines, someone who can get our vision and believe in it enough to help us find a way.

random idea: kid stuff

we went to a breakfast place up north for brunch today and found a great idea for our own restaurant.

mini chalkboards plus chalk for the kids!

instead of the usual boring coloring pages to keep the littlest restaurant customers occupied, we’ll do mini chalk boards. Finn loved his chalkboard and it’s just a great GREEN, REUSABLE idea. :-)

Madison Park space

we went to take some photos of the new possibility, the corner space on Dorchester and Hyde Park Blvd. it’s within the Madison Park apartment building, surrounded by 100% residential units. it’s super close to our house, actually, just 2 blocks away. we drive past this spot many times a week.

here are some photos of the available space:

alternate location?

we’re looking into the empty corner space on Dorchester and Hyde Park Blvd, on the bottom of the Madison Park apartment building as an alternate location for mundo bizarro.  the venting problems at DelPrado seem to be significant and may prohibit us from actually setting up shop there.  so we need other options, at least to have more ideas.  we drive past this space for lease on Dorchester many times every week, it used to be a hair salon, so i got the number off the window.  Aloke made the appointment with the office lady to show us the space. she had to check with the building owner first, to see if he’d be interested in having us, a restaurant / bar, in there. she came back with a possible yes and we went to see the place.

it’s nice. 2,500 square feet (almost double of DelPrado’s little corner), with lovely thick columns. big windows, one small existing bathroom, lots of room for the kitchen space and to build storage. the best part is the side door – we could do food and supplies deliveries away from the main dining room (as opposed to right through, which is one of our concerns at DelPrado). could we make mundo bizarro work here? we’ll have to look into this a bit more…

meeting with an architect

Aloke put up a listing for our architect job on ServiceMagic.com and he got some calls right away from prospective candidates.  the first guy who called was Prashanth and when he was up for meeting us at DePrado on a Sunday, we were readily impressed.  he was nice, young, but unfortunately not a keeper.  after a few minutes of talking to us about our vision and looking around the corner DelPrado space, he said that because of the lack of proper ventilation already existing in the building, this cannot be done.  he was pretty much saying there is no way to make a restaurant happen here.  he wasn’t pleased that we didn’t have a restaurant consultant already (we need one, apparently), and after giving us the number of a guy he works with, Dave, he promptly made his exit.

so, Aloke will talk to Dave, the restaurant consultant, about the possibilities and limitations of the DelPrado space.  but it seems to not be looking too promising because of the venting issues.

venting issues

we have a VENT problem.  there is a ventilation issue at the DelPrado building.  even though the corner space is re-zoned as a restaurant space, it lacks proper ventilation for commercial cooking.  as in it has NO kitchen VENTILATION.  which sucks.

its common knowledge that all kitchens, especially commercial kitchens, need proper ventilation.  like the small vents above kitchen stoves in any home kitchen, mundo bizarro’s kitchen will need vents.  commercial kitchens are more complicated because they need to pass city’s inspections and obtain permits.  but DelPrado doesn’t have any existing hookups for venting to the outside, and neither can we use the building vent system to hook into.  we need to vent, but we can’t seem to do it at DelPrado.

if we can’t figure out some not-so-obvious venting solution (since we can’t drag a giant black iron pipe to the roof because it’s a historic landmark building and we cannot “deface” the outside), we’ll have to abandon the DelPrado location altogether.  that would suck.

random idea: colors

i do a lot of various research in the name of the restaurant venture. some very useful (like city zoning codes or liquor licensing processes) and some the Aloke thinks are sort of a waste of time (like collage project steps for the tables or original recipes for rum cocktails). i think all of the things i learn along the way are useful. recently i found some great sites for color ideas and palettes, COLOURlovers and design seeds. this may not be the most needed resource right now, but it inspires me and may come in handy when we’re actually ready to talk about wall colors, flooring, furniture, curtains, lighting, etc.

restaurant names

we’re really having a hard time with the restaurant name.

we came up with tons of names, plus friends suggested many more. the latest “choice” was RED, but after we started looking into website issues, Facebook pages, LLCs and other stuff, RED just doesn’t cut it. we’re not thrilled with RED. other people aren’t either, even those who like it, are not 100%. so it’s time for a decision to be made. we has these discussions a million times. we explored many different angles, looked into various issues, threw around a bunch of names. here are some we considered:

and after a lot of talking, thinking, trying it out, asking people, checking domain names, checking Chicago business listings, and munch more, we decided to forget RED and go with MUNDO BIZARRO. it meets a few of our main criteria (which we came up with when looking for a potential name):

  • it’s in Spanish, which aligns closer with the menu we plan to serve
  • it sounds cool
  • it means cool stuff – “mundo” means “world”, “bizarro” means “strange, crazy, bizarre”, together they make “crazy world” which is the way we feel about life in general
  • no other businesses have similar name, no Illinois LLCs or any other bars/restaurants are even close – it’s unique for Chicago

so, there it is. from now on we’ll be talking about our plans for mundo bizarro. i have to revise the business plan and menus and all… and i need to find a cool font…

RED menus

i re-did our business plan and menus for the alderman meeting. we like the RED theme, with black all over. simple. bold. could work very well as the interior design scheme…

  • RED food
  • RED drinks


meeting with the alderman

the alderman’s office scheduled our meeting for January 4, 2012. we bought a red folder at Office Depot on the way, stuffed the updated RED business plan, the menus, and the 6 presentation pages into it, and drove to the alderman’s office at 2325 E. 71st Street. we took Finny along, as we have no babysitting of any kind.

the meeting went very well. Aloke started our “presentation”, talked about our plans for RED, the theme, menu, etc. he then moved to talking about us, who we are, why we want to start a restaurant, etc. we were very nervous about this meeting, but the alderman was very nice and the conversation quickly turned very informal. she was looking over the “about us” page of the presentation i made and she was amused that we got married at Bond Chapel in the middle of July. that was enough for us to relax and just have a good, informative conversation with her.

so what’s the scoop? she said she really likes our idea. :-) her staff was also very excited and supportive. she will support us in the liquor license process and help out along the way. she also said she will be a regular customer at RED, as good tequila is hard to find in Hyde Park and RED will have a few. she did say she thinks we need a different name, something more in line with the menu items, something Latin. we agree, of course, it’s just not that easy for us to decide on a name…

so, we’re good to go! it feels really good when people approve of this plan and seem excited at the prospect of a place like RED joining the Hyde Park landscape. this kind of positive feedback and enthusiasm makes us even more eager to get this process moving!

random idea: mosaic bar

while on vacation in Curacao, we went to a super cool Latin-American bar and we were shocked how closely it matched our own images of what we want in our place. it was eerie. and they had the coolest bar area! colorful mosaic of triangles decorated a fluid, curvy exterior and tiny blue spotlights added cool shadows from the floor. SO COOL!

we just loved this bar idea. so i’ll try to do a similar thing for our place. that’s the goal anyway…

DelPrado is in Ward 5

Aloke emailed the office of the alderman suggested by the leasing guy at DelPrado. apparently, Leslie Hairston is the alderman for that location (even though i searched online and according to the City of Chicago, we’re in Will Burns’ district, but then the boundaries got re-drawn and things have changed very recently – seriously confusing!). so we initially thought DelPrado was in Ward 4, but apparently with the new re-drawing of the wards, it’s now in Ward 5, which belongs to Alderman Leslie Hairston.

anyway, Aloke sent the email before we left for our tropical vacation and we’re waiting to hear back as to the date and time of the meeting. in the meantime, i have to update the business plan for RED and prepare some kind of a small presentation for that meeting…


we met with our favorite home contractor, Cecelia, at DelPrado today. we figured who better to get this thing started than the people who did such a nice job on our house. she brought a guy with her who can tell us more about what kinds of expenses we’re looking at as far as the electrical issues, plumbing for the bathrooms and kitchen and bar, and other larger chunks of the restaurant build out.

they gave us lots of info. the guy was more negative than Cecelia. now we need time to digest it all. this is not a simple process, as we know already. lots of things to consider. such as permits, liabilities, licenses, and more.

liquor license process

we need a liquor license in order to have a bar in the city of Chicago. i looked into the licensing process and it’s a complicated affair. we were told that before we start anything, we need to meet with the local alderman and see if we can get his/her support as far as liquor licensing goes. if we get it, the application process will be much easier and more likely to result in a YES answer from the city. there will need to be a community meeting and other hurdles to jump, but the initial alderman meeting is definitely the first step. so let’s find out who our alderman is!

maybe RED…?

we’re constantly doing a lot of thinking and talking about what we want the place to be, to look like, to communicate to customers, and we also talked about the kind of potential customers we would like to attract. and that’s how we started to have doubts about CILANTRO being THE name for our place.

for me, the name drives the rest – the overall image, the logo, the color scheme, the decor, etc. with a name like CILANTRO, i envisioned lots of crisp, clean, cool colors (lime greens, juicy oranges, bright yellows – like this awesome citrus collage) and a very modern, minimalist interior (sleek, simple chairs, chrome and white dominating the decor).

as we keep talking about the whole thing, talk to friends and neighbors, do online research, visit new bars and restaurants for ideas, we are changing our ideas about what we want. instead of a cool, crisp, bright space, we’re now leaning more toward dark, warm, cozy, and red. a soft, cushy lounge instead of a modern, sleek space. i’m thinking deep, dark reds, maybe a few accent purples, and a lot of black. and this kind of a mood requires a whole new color palette and definitely a new name. a dark red, velvety, lounge-y bar just cannot be called cilantro.

preliminarily i’m thinking RED for the name. simple. easy. and while being so simple, it also carries a lot of various inner meanings because the color red is complicated and evokes certain emotions. i like it. i updated the menus and the business plan with it and Aloke likes it too. he doesn’t love it, and i think i don’t either, but we do like it. it has some potential.

more DelPrado photos

so we learned that the space in the DelPrado was recently re-zoned to house a restaurant with a possibility of obtaining a liquor license (sometime in 2008).  there was a town meeting about it in February 2008.  and there are quite positive comments on the Hyde Park Progress blog regarding the DelPrado re-zoning, people think a restaurant/bar would do great there.  this whole thing is very interesting, all the steps that have to be taken, all the people that have to be involved. here’s the report from the re-zoning meeting.

we didn’t take any photos inside the space yet, but i got some general images of the DelPrado building: