May 2018 Foodie: George Muñoz
George Muñoz knows the restaurant business from every angle. He’s worked for big companies, owned a tiny taco joint, and covered every job from line cook to general manager. His stint at the Chicago-based behemoth Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group served as a kind of grad school. So it made sense when restaurateurs Peter George and Thomas Main asked him to take the reins at Festiva, their Mexican fine-dining spot on the near-east side.
He said yes to the offer of operating partner, shuttered his La Chinita Poblano taco shop in Broad Ripple, and got to work turning Festiva into the lively neighborhood Mexican darling he knew it could be. That meant ditching the fine-dining label and adding more of what Muñoz was famous for—tacos. “A lot of times people just want comfort,” he says, “and tacos bring a lot of comfort.”
The Chicago-born Muñoz also added more authentic flavors to the menu, incorporating dishes he learned from his father and techniques he picked up from his mother, who was raised on a ranch in Mexico. The carne asada, formerly made with coffee-rubbed flank steak, is now built on cilantro-marinated skirt steak. “My mom didn’t cook with coffee on the ranch,” he says. He also plans to get rid of the no-kids policy, and hopes to re-launch brunch by summer. If you’re still mourning the closing of La Chinita Poblano, buck up. Muñoz has his eye on re-launching a brick-and-mortar location down the line.
“A lot of times people just want comfort, and tacos bring a lot of comfort.”
Click here for Muñoz’s chicken taquitos with tomatillo salsa recipe.