By Cat Wurdack
1615 SE 12th
Tues – Sun 11am – 10 pm
Tues – Sat 11 am to 11 pm
Weekend brunch 11 am to 2 pm
The spiffed up, orange-and-blue storefront is a vivid addition to the neighborhood at SE 12th between Market and Clay, a few doors up from the bones of the Ladd’s Addition bar.
Over many months, owner Michael Kinnett rallied a crew of skilled carpenters, metal workers, artists, and demolition experts to resuscitate the two-story building and create Teote, a one-of-a-kind destination for Latin American-inspired food and culture that Kinnett hopes will be a restorative hub of community and entertainment.
What Kinnett has created is not only a showpiece of craftsmanship and artistry but a great place to hang out and eat, sip a café con leche, study the flames in the outdoor fire pit or admire the metalwork on the staircase and the salvaged hubcaps and industrial gears integrated into the design.
The interior is a fluid, eclectic mix of contemporary, vintage and salvage that never seems over-the-top. With a backdrop of rich, brick-colored walls brightened with natural light, colorful, modern mandalas share space with an aged, stone madonna; a large-scale, hand-embroidered tapestry; a few pieces of well-curated commercial art and Tiffany-style, bevelled stained glass.
Amazingly, it all works. The disparate elements pull together almost magically in a spirit that feels fresh – not broken – warm, rustic, and welcoming.
Teote means “the end of the journey” and is understood as a place to confront truth, to rest and reflect, and renew oneself.
“The restaurant,” Kinnett says, “is inspired as much by Latin American food as the ceremony and ritual at the soul of Latin American culture”. In the Mayan tradition, he explains, “feeding the fire” –expressed in a ritual of throwing chocolate into the fire – is an act believed to keep the creative juices flowing.
You might ease into the menu with niños (which isn’t just for kids) – a bowl of black beans and rice, and a buttered arepa for $3 ($4 with meat).
The open-face arepa is the foundation for most of the $6 entrees including pork belly in a red chili maple sauce; slow-cooked flank steak with peppers, black beans and verde; and shredded beef with mole.
Enjoy one of many combination dishes including two grilled ranchero lamb chops marinated in a Morito chili sauce, beans, rice and salad, fried plantains, and a buttered arepa.
In the backyard, you’ll find an 80-seat patio with picnic tables under an old-growth red cedar and black walnut – and Mar Bar, a tapas bar with two ciders and a gluten-free beer line.
Kinnett is a painter, knifemaker, and metal worker, as well as a professional musician. He’s the lead drummer of March 4th marching band (which performed at the 2004 World Cup in Germany), and a former member of the Lions of Batucada, a Brazilian-style samba group he helped start in his garage and toured with for several years. In the coming months, Kinnett plans to integrate live music into the mix.
Friday, November 1, Teote hosts a Day of the Dead celebration with a procession planned around Ladd’s Addition, sugar skull painting, chocolate treats, and an invitation to “feed the fire”.