by Naomi Waxman | EATER CHICAGO
When Spanish Wicker Park restaurant Black Bull first opened in 2012, its owners were trepidatious. Concerned that local diners would be put off by unfamiliar offerings, menu options largely dwelled on tapas to great effect — for nearly a decade, locals and tourists have flocked to the Bonhomme Hospitality-owned spot for regional specialities and Spanish-style G&Ts. But after nine years, the group has decided that Chicago is ready for something new: Mama Delia, a Spanish restaurant, sherry bar, and ultramarino, or gourmet market, is now open in the former Black Bull space at 1721 W. Division Street.
Mama Delia’s dining room walks a fine line between opulence and modernity, with thick carpets and stylized-midcentury chairs that sit beneath geometric hanging light fixtures with exposed bulbs. It’s a brighter atmosphere than Black Bull, which tended to err on the moody side. The kitchen is open and those who want a closer look can sit at a 30-foot marble chefs counter, which connects the dining room to the ultramarino and sherry bar. There, diners can try Spanish sherries, cheese, and charcuterie, including hand-carved Cinco Jotas jamón ibérico. Customers can also pick up pantry items such as imported and house-made conservas like cockles, zamburiñas, and razor clams, along with specialty olive oils, dried spices, and more.
Outdoor dining, until recently a nice but not wholly necessary option for bars and restaurants, is now more vital than ever due to the city’s indoor restrictions, designed to help stem the spread of COVID-19. Fortunately for Mama Delia, the space features a 60-seat patio with planters and other flora arranged to keep patrons at an appropriate social distance, with string lights twinkling overhead. For those who want extra distance, there’s also a lush upstairs private dining space — a 2,500-square-foot enclosed rooftop garden called the “Botánico,” divided into two rooms and outfitted with an open demo kitchen and bar.
The restaurant gives executive chef Marcos Campos a chance to show off his favorite techniques and ingredients, and highlight what he’s learned since opening Black Bull almost a decade ago. Both Campos and and chef de cuisine Antonio Capafons are natives of Valencia, Spain, and aim to give Chicago a taste of contemporary Spanish cuisine— a “brilliant blend” of traditional fare and modern techniques, like the “Huevos Rotos Shooter” (chorizo ibérico and oyster sofrito, truffle, egg yolk, fried egg and potato espuma, fried potatoes). There’s a touch of whimsy to the menu as well, evident in offerings like “Tartar de Ternera” (bone marrow, dry-aged angus beef, piparra peppers, boquerones, Rose Finn potato chips), with plating that resembles a fallen log in a fairy tale forest.
Beverage offerings are vast and varied: there’s the wine list, stacked with natural and organic options, including 34 sherry selections, as well as a few imported beers and sangria in several flavors. A few items on beverage director Ricardo Alvarado’s cocktail list may sound familiar to Black Bull fans, but there are novel twists too like the “Mostly Good For You” (vodka, carrot juice, ginger syrup, orange juice, lemon).
And then there’s Bordel, Black Bull’s popular second-floor cocktail bar and cabaret. Fans can calm themselves, because ownership isn’t messing with the intimate, opulent speakeasy-style spot. Operations resumed in late June with live jazz and entertainment, an “abbreviated” Mama Delia menu, and plenty of drinks.
Bonhomme Hospitality, known in large part for its in-house design studio Maison Bonhomme, owns a number of crowd-drawing Chicago restaurants including newish Galacian seafood spot Porto and boho-style retreat Beatnik, along with sister spot Beatnik on the River.
Mama Delia is now open in Wicker Park. Reservations are available online.