A Mexican seafood restaurant with influences from San Diego, down the coast of the Baja Peninsula, has turned from a temporary pop-up into a year-long residency in the West Loop.
The restaurant started out as an idea for a concept, suggested during a contest for a pop-up inside the Soho House. But its popularity has grown as word has spread, and now they’re not going anywhere until after the Spring.
Nearly every day, Chef Stephen Sandoval can be found breaking down fish for a concept he’s had in his head for quite a while. Sueños – or “dreams” – is an ode to his childhood, tucked into one end of the Soho House in the West Loop. Upstairs is for members, but on the first floor, head to the right, up the stairs past the Fox Bar, and into his dream-come-true.
“We are doing what I call ‘Borderless Baja Cuisine’ – it’s an elevated mariscos concept. Ninety percent of the menu is seafood focusing on coastal regions of Mexico,” said Sandoval.
But it’s not all ceviche.
Check out the Tijuana Caesar with charred romaine, black garlic and Manchego cheese. There’s also a nod to his childhood favorite.
“So I grew up in San Diego, and burritos were a thing there, so we had something called a California burrito: French fries, crema, avocado, steak and cheese. But then we go on the other side of the border and we’ll put things like tostadas…” he said.
And his tuna tostada is a study in contrasts.
Like all tortilla-based dishes here, it starts with masa, or corn dough, formed by hand, pressed thin, then placed on the griddle to cook. In the case of the tostada, it’s fried until crisp, serving as a sturdy base for the ancho chile crema and thin slabs of yellowfin tuna. Then a squirt of house made leche de tigre – a Peruvian sauce – plus fresh avocado, a bit of salt and an assertive salsa macha made with dried peppers and nuts.
Fish tacos are a given in Baja, and Sandoval starts with fresh cod.
“For our batter we put beer as well as cake flour which has less protein and crisps up a little better. The cabbage slaw, the crema…” he said.
Plus a shake of homemade seasoning and a side of arbol chipotle salsa. Octopus and potato skewers are one of several items that see time over the wood-fired grill.
“It adds a lot more depth,” said Sandoval.
To finish, he drizzles a Mexican version of a Green Goddess dressing with cilantro, charred serrano peppers, lime and mayo, followed by a bright cilantro chimichurri. Sandoval says while the center of Mexico focuses on culture, history and heritage, it’s a different story on the coast.
“In Baja, the chefs are just having a lot of fun and we have a lot of fun with our food,” he said.
Weekend brunch is also offered, and if the fish collar happens to be available when you go, Dolinsky says you’ll want to get it. Sandoval does have plans to open a permanent space in West Town, but he’s definitely locked in at Soho House through April.
Here’s where you can go:
Suenos at Soho House
113-125 N. Green St.