When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Tediberto's Location: 110 East Roosevelt Street Open: About a week. Eats: Mexican-inspired vegan. Price Point: $10 to $20
Since the innocuous announcement of a new Mexican-inspired vegan eatery was made in March (followed by a rather confusing shit-show of comments), Tediberto's, from owner Yin Macatabas, opened for dinner last week at its home on Roosevelt Row and I had a chance to pop by.
But the poppin' wasn't easy at first, given the restaurant's unmarked location. And once inside the purple building, walking past a silver couch into a darkened room pulsating with dance beats and colored lights coming from underneath glass tables and star lamps, I wondered if I was in the right place. A vegan restaurant or an underground urban club?
Let's just say Tediberto's is a trip -- and if you're good with that, let's take a bite.
A restaurant serving vegan Mexican food better deliver on its salsa -- and Tediberto's does, with a complimentary starter of chips and a pico de gallo that's cool, crazy-fresh, and doesn't hold back on the kick.
The menu, which a server shows guests on his iPad, changes daily and features a small selection of Mexican-inspired starters, tacos, entrees, and desserts.
There is a very good starter called the No Whey Jose Nachos ($7), a vegan take on the popular snack with "cheese," "chorizo," veggies, pico de gallo, and a chipotle sauce. Thanks in part to the spicy, it didn't hold back on the heat and was sufficiently filling and fresh.
Three kinds of tacos ($9 for three of one kind, $1 extra to mix them up) were a little shakier. The downfall of two of them -- one filled with grilled tofu, potatoes, caramelized onions, and chipotle sauce, and the other with mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, onions, and cilantro -- was the poor-quality soft corn tortillas and the unappealing un-Mexican flavors. The third, in a fried tortilla filled with quinoa, lettuce, "cheese," and hot sauce, fared much better. It was crunchy and spicy, and my dining companion likened it to the vegan version of the taco at Jack in the Box.
And (bonus!) the tacos come with a noteworthy side salad that is fresh and tasty.
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When it comes to service, Tediberto's is a lean operation. One helpful and friendly server (the guy with the iPad menu) is fine when the crowd is small, but too many diners in the restaurant and things get frustrating fast. And time management in the kitchen seems to be an issue, as well. My 45-minute wait for three tacos -- all while loud electro-pop beat into my head and there was not a vegan cocktail to be found in the place -- felt like a lifetime.
For the most part, the food is off to a good start at Tediberto's, but for it be successful to a larger vegan audience, it's going to need to dial back on its funky, clubby atmosphere, turn down the music, and turn up the A/C. And setting regular dining hours instead of changing them based on what time the sun sets might be a good idea as well.
Here's an idea of the menu: