CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chef Rick Bayless has been a part of Chicago's food scene for over 30 years, but his latest project -- a subterranean bar beneath his Frontera Grill -- is a collaboration with his daughter, who is a cocktail impresario.
Bar Sotano is one of the liveliest basements in town. You'll have to enter from the alley to get into the new bar.
Bayless, his daughter, Lanie Bayless Sullivan; and their Chef Rishi combine ingredients from the bar and the kitchen.
"We just wanted to make a cozy space right downtown that you could feel really comfortable in," said Bayless. "It's like I've never been able to really achieve it because everything I do turns into a full restaurant and the bar is just like an extension of the restaurant so this is a bar first and foremost with a full kitchen."
The drinks take center stage. That's Bayless Sullivan's department, and much of it revolves around mezcal.
"It's tequila's smoky older brother, or smoky cousin," she said. "It's got a lot of depth and a lot more versatility to the flavor," she said.
Her Mango-Chamoy is a nod to the street stalls of Mexico City.
"Typically when you're in Mexico, and you go to get a beverage they don't like to use Styrofoam, so they'll give it to you in a little plastic bag with a straw," Bayless Sullivan said. "It's a very fruit-forward, agua fresca-like cocktail of course spiked with some tequila, and then we give it a layer of complexity by adding chamoy, which is sort of an apricot-red chile paste. It's one of the ways I'm really excited that we incorporate the kitchen in the cocktails together."
The "Taco Al Pastor" has chorizo-infused Montelobos mezcal, caramelized pineapple puree and fresh lime, then gets a vigorous shake.
Garnished with fresh cilantro, it is literally a liquid al pastor. But there is food too. Delicate tlayudas, shmeared with chipotle cream cheese, then covered with bright oranges, crunchy jicama and fatty ora king salmon, plus fresh mint and knob onions.
There's aguachiles, in this case, kanpachi dressed with pickled tomatillos and swimming in a verdant broth of lime, serrano chiles and green poblano liqueur scented with hoja santa. Their signature? Mexican paella.
"Paella is super popular in Mexico City," Bayless said. "I love paella that is cooked to-order and you just don't find it very often, cause I like the texture of the rice when it comes right out of the oven, so that is one of the anchor dishes."
A tomato-chorizo sofrito is combined with rice grains in a hot pan, chicken stock is added, then it's baked in an oven. Once removed, that rice has absorbed the liquid and begins getting crispy. Plump shrimp, chicken thighs, bits of poblano chile and peas are added to the top, then it goes back into the oven. Finally, a garnish of fresh avocados, crispy fried chicken skin, fresh limes and cilantro. That bottom should be crispy and crunchy when it hits your table. Bayless says even though he often gets the credit for his restaurants, this project has been Lanie's from the start.
"Bar Sotano is her vision and Rishi, the chef's vision; they have created a place that they are incredibly passionate about and I'm happy to be the support staff."
One of the other benefits of this father-daughter collaboration are the late hours. 11 o'clock during the week, midnight on the weekends, just in case you're craving some late night Mexican paella.
EXTRA COURSE: A closer look at one of the two desserts at Bar Sotano -- a tequila custard with ice cream and meringue
Alley behind 443 N. Clark St., Chicago
Editor's Note: ABC7's Steve Dolinsky and Chef Rick Bayless co-host "The Feed" podcast.