Kedai Makan's announcement that it's moving around the corner to the former La Bete space created a bit of a ripple effect within its block on Capitol Hill. Now, the next wave of news: Monica Dimas's Neon Taco—a sort of permanent popup that operates inside Nacho Borracho, providing the food for the Broadway neodive—will take over Kedai's current walkup window, opening a second location.
Though Dimas is restoring Mexican street food to the one-time home of Tacos Gringos, her second location won't sell tacos. She's planning a menu of tortas, Mexico's oblong sandwiches served on hearty, crusty buns called bolillos. Thus far she's been too busy plotting her menu to finalize a name, but one possible moniker is Neon Sandwich.
Dimas says her tortas won't necessarily be bound to Mexican tradition. Some of the specials she's run at Neon Taco will migrate over here, like a lamb torta with smoked poblanos, a pork belly and kimchi number, and one stuffed with smoked fish. The menu will be a concise list of about a half-dozen sandwiches, horchata with cold brew, and some agua frescas.
The chef (one of our next hot chefs of 2015, might I add) is still thinking about a short rib torta with mole she had on a recent visit to Mexico City and would love to devise an homage for the menu. Bread is a critical component of any good sandwich, and Dimas gets her bolillos from Panderia Ideal in South Park, because they can stand up to her more sauce-drenched fillings, "and I like the way they toast up."
Like its predecessor, Neon Sandwich will provide food to bargoers at Montana down the street (place your order and get a text when it's ready). Rachel Marshall and Kate Opatz, who own both Montana and Nacho Borracho, say Dimas's rather unconventional kitchen sublease arrangement at Nacho has worked out so well, and even freed up time for them to expand the drink menu.
Speaking of unconventional arrangements, Opatz and Marshall own the lease on the Kedai Makan space (smart) so when Kedai's owners decided to focus all their efforts on their new sit-down restaurant, Dimas was the bar owners' first thought. Though I did dig the idea of Kedai retaining its original counter as a Ramly burger stand.
Dimas was already considering a second location when all this happened; while she wasn't necessarily seeking a kitchen with no seats, she did want to stay on Capitol Hill. Tortas work well within the tiny space's limitations (no hood, not enough electrical juice for a fryer) and are by tradition highly portable. Dimas says she'll likely keep the same hours as Montana.
The new torta operation will plan its debut around Kedai Makan's departure schedule; maybe look for it in September? Until then, Dimas wants to do a series of Sunday barbecues as a lead-up; keep an eye on the Neon Taco Facebook page for details. And now that Montana is home to the city's first "streatery" (civic speak for a parklet where you can serve drinks), patrons will be able to order one of Dimas's sandwiches and eat it alfresco with a Moscow mule.