For Dave Jimenez and Tim Holm, Taco Trader at 875 Joliet St. represents more than their love of great food. The restaurant, which they opened on Jan. 28, helps continue the legacy of Jimenez’s uncle, Mario Cornejo Sr., who owned and operated the Mexican Inn at 95th and Ewing on Chicago’s far southeast side from 1961 to 1987, when he retired.
“What better way to pay homage to him than to use his original food in a New World Mexican fashion,” says Jimenez of the Mexican Inn menu items that have are experiencing a renaissance with a nod to today’s techniques and tastes.
“Tim and I are very passionate about food and how it is prepared,” he says. “We don’t cut any corners. Everything is made daily by hand with hands and knives. We use only the best ingredients and use old-fashioned cooking methods that are very labor-intensive. We don’t reheat anything.”
The partners decided to utilize Mario Cornejo Sr.’s food because many people who remember the Mexican Inn have now migrated from the southeast side to Northwest Indiana, Jimenez says.
Among the menu specialties are the Crispy Beef Tacos. The tortillas are filled by hand and deep-fried, explains Holm who received his culinary training with Disney Resorts in Florida and Chipotle Restaurants. Then the taco is gently opened and romaine lettuce, roma tomato slices and fresh crumbled Mexican cheese are added. The Beef Crispy Tacos are served with a side of salsa.
Another favorite is the Soft Cheese. A corn tortilla is smothered and filled with Taco Traders’ own melted cheese blend or with the customer’s choice of meat.
And the Trader Combo allows the diner to enjoy a choice of any three entrees with a side of rice and beans.
The 2,500-square foot restaurant seats 50 to 60 and also has an outdoor dining area. The menu is also available for carry out.
In addition, Taco Trader offers catering. Option A features 50 tacos or tostadas with a choice of meat, a half tray of rice, a half tray of beans and a half try of chips and salsa. This option feeds 15 to 20 people. Option B provides 100 tacos or tostadas and full trays of rice, beans, chips and salsa.
Ala carte trays and custom trays are also available for catering.
Jimenez, a long-time South East Side resident, says the restaurant’s location near the busy intersection of Calumet Avenue and Joliet Street (U.S. 30) is ideal.
“It felt right,” he says. “Dyer helped us and welcomed us with open arms.”
Jimenez and Holm also credit their phenomenal crews who are cross-trained in all New World Mexican cuisine and techniques.
Taco Trader is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. To call in an order, dial (219) 964-0007. The fax number is (219) 864-0006.
“We also want people to ‘Like’ us on Facebook,” Jimenez says.