Happy Friday! I’m so excited to share a new Dream Job interview! :) I first heard of Antique Taco while at a flea market last year. I just about died when I had their apple grilled cheese and the styling was adorable. Having saved their business card for months, I knew I needed to learn more about the husband and wife duo behind the business! Rick and Ashley Ortiz run Antique Taco in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood and they are seriously inspiring. The menu is fresh and inventive and the styling, decor, and branding is spot on. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did! A huge thank you to Ashley for answering all of my questions! xoxo
What led you to the idea of Antique Taco?
Antique Taco is combination of what we love, antiques & Mexican cuisine. Creativity is what drives both Rick and I, we wanted to do something different. Many brainstorming sessions happened before we settled on the design and the menu. When something was put into motion it sparked another idea for something else.
What is each of your roles in the business and how do you complement each other?
Depends what day you ask us (HA) We joke we are never apart, we work together and live in a loft, no escaping each other. Rick and I met working together at Soldier Field so we knew each other’s working styles. We have different roles at Antique Taco; Rick is leading the back of the house as the Chef and I am leading the front as the Creative Director. We are very honest with each other about everything “taco.” We have a vision and we keep each other on track.
Ashley, before Antique Taco, you were an event planner and stylist. How did that experience contribute to running Antique Taco?
The brand of antique taco is a big focus of mine. Just like an event has an overall style, it can be subtle but you want it to carry through from start to finish. It would be easier not to hand stamp the taco skewers that go onto each plate but its part of what makes us different. The old fashion straws, vintage mix matched plates, and tea towel napkins are all things that make antique taco fun. As much joy as I get from styling the restaurant and antique shopping, the food is what will bring people coming back day after day.
What does a typical day look like for each of you?
We are lucky to be able to walk to work everyday. First we grab a coffee or tea at Wormhole before we start our 2-block walk to Antique Taco. Rick heads to the kitchen and I start going down my list of front of the house tasks (squeeze limes for margaritas, set-up outdoor patio, make agua fresca, cut limes for tacos, make sure we have money in the register). The kitchen staff arrives as early as 5:00AM to start prepping the 65 ingredients that go into the tacos. Antique Taco has a small menu but each item has many steps. When 12:00 hits, we open the doors and it’s a whirlwind from that point. The customers can really determine the day; we feed off the energy of others. The night typically ends with Rick and I snacking on chips and salsa talking about how we will never eat chips again. Rick asks “did you lock the front door” and I respond, “YES”. He checks it anyway and just to be sure I check it again. We start our walk home and halfway down the block I ask, “did you check the doors” he just looks at me and we start to laugh ready to do it all over again tomorrow.
How did you choose Antique Taco’s location in Wicker Park?
It took about a year of many “so close” locations that didn’t happen for one reason or another. We found it hard for a landlord to have faith in (2) newcomers wanting to open a restaurant for the first time. We took a little break from looking and ended up renting a loft in Wicker Park. We never really considered Wicker Park for Antique Taco. One night we took a walk down Milwaukee Ave. and peaked through the windows at 1360 N Milwaukee and saw potential in this little corner spot. Three months later we were signing a lease and starting to pick out paint colors.
What are some of the best and worst parts of owning your own business?
Working in a creative environment
Making the rules, or sometimes breaking the rules
Being around people at their happiest, dining with friends or family
Managing staff schedules
Any advice for aspiring business owners?
*Nobody is going to care as much as you (well maybe your parents)
*Know what you are and what you’re not, and realize you can’t be everything to everyone.
*Embrace the chaos
*Listen to others advice but stick with your gut and don’t be afraid to veer from the norm
What is each of your favorite dishes on the menu?
Rick: The Grilled Ribeye Tacos
Ashley: Antique Taco Salad with Chicken
Anything else you’d like to share?
When the restaurant is busy, the music is playing, and customers are laughing Rick and I will look at each other and just smile. I know what he is thinking, this idea or dream is really happening. It is so important to have those moments; they make all the sleepless nights worth it. Whatever your craft may be, when the planning is done and the moment is here, take a step back and really look at what you have created from a simple idea.
Thanks again, Rick and Ashley! Be sure to check out Antique Taco next time you’re in Chicago. :)