tetela by Piñatta Credit: Santiago Guerrero

Before the Spaniards showed up, nobody ate carne asada super burritos in this hemisphere. Nobody celebrated their birthday with a sombrero-topped flan. The Aztecs definitely didn’t start off dinner with queso fundido washed down with “Infamous” margaritas.

And neither will you, when plant-based, precolonial taqueria Piñatta takes over the kitchen at the Kedzie Inn this November 7 for Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up in Irving Park.

In 1967 Emilio and Santiago Guererro’s dad opened Lakeview’s El Jardin, but they didn’t grow up around the killer, high-octane margarita the spot became infamous for either. “We didn’t grow up super close to our dad, so we never were taught ‘This is traditional Mexican,’” says Santiago, who works as a server at Etta. (Emilio is the kitchen manager at the Publican).

But during the pandemic the brothers gave themselves an education in the cuisine of precolonial Mesoamerica: “How many things from Spain were brought over here and ingrained in Mexican culture like pork and wheat and dairy–things that just weren’t here before. We found a lot of it leaning towards being plant-based. A lot of the diet was corn, beans, and squash.”

They launched Piñatta two Novembers ago, and though their menus evolved beyond a strictly orthodox approach to ancient cuisine, it’s still often vegan or vegetarian, and always uncommon. This Monday they’re headlining with a cashew cheese-stuffed yellow corn masa tetela with toasted pumpkin seed mole, riffing on the triangle-shaped antojito common to Puebla and Oaxaca. There’s rice and beans, specifically heirloom mayocoba puree with garlic confit, epazote, and lacto-fermented tomato water. (The brothers are also “big fermentation nerds.”) And then there’s a vanilla-scented coconut milk kabocha squash flan to finish.

“I grew up Mexican American and I didn’t even know what epazote was until a couple years ago,” says Santiago. “Piñatta is a way to figure out our identity to a degree. We’re still learning about our own culture.” 

It’s all vegan and all Mexican, friends, and it’s walk-in orders only, starting at 5 PM at 4100 N. Kedzie. No need to preorder.

And I’m not saying Jon Pokorny won’t make you a killer margarita, but he will have something special up his sleeve.

Meanwhile, gape the full fall Foodball schedule below: