A night scene of El Poquito, which opened late last year at 8201 Germantown Ave. (Photos by Julia Lehman)

A night scene of El Poquito, which opened late last year at 8201 Germantown Ave. (Photos by Julia Lehman)

by Mary Frances Cavallaro

Late last year a businessman named George Atterbury and his partners, together with chef Andrew Sabin, opened El Poquito at 8201 Germantown Ave., where Chestnut 7 was previously housed and, before that, Solaris Grille for many years. El Poquito serves Mexican fare, dinner daily and weekend brunch along with a selection of cocktails, a tequila list, beers and wines.

Chef Sabin has worked in some of the most celebrated kitchens in Philadelphia, including an eight-year stint with Iron Chef Jose Garces. El Poquito sources many ingredients locally, including a special Mexican coffee blend that was created just for them by Chestnut Hill Roasters and breads from local bakery Baker Street.

Managing partner Atterbury, whose resume includes The Four Seasons Philadelphia, Union Square Hospitality Group, Craft Restaurant Group and The Garces Group, oversees daily operations. Last week we put several questions to Atterbury. Here is that interview:

Whose idea was it to start/own a restaurant here? What was the inspiration?

(The owners) have extensive experience in the hospitality business … Their collaboration in El Poquito stems from a long-time relationship both professionally and as friends. In fact, several of the partners attended Cornell University together. When the Chestnut Hill restaurant opportunity presented itself, it seemed to make perfect sense … to combine efforts and partner for El Poquito.

The team wanted to create a restaurant that would serve a void in the neighborhood — a family-friendly Mexican eatery with great food, drinks, service and atmosphere at a reasonable price point. Moreover, the goal was not to compete with Chestnut Hill’s existing restaurants but to complement them with additional quality and variety.

Why did you choose the name El Poquito? What does it mean?

Creating a convivial, welcoming neighborhood restaurant and bar that folks could patronize everyday of the week was paramount to the team. What better than a Mexican cantina? Not to mention that we love Mexican food and drink.

El Poquito (‘the little one”) was inspired by the beachside cantinas and taquerias of Baja Mexico and named after the iconic motorcycle that was the favored mode of transport amongst local surfers. I coined the name and created the groovy logo. I also found and commissioned the rehab of the authentic “El Poquito,” a café motorcycle that adorns the restaurant’s bar room wall.

How and why did you choose this area?

We looked at numerous locations in the Philadelphia area. We love the Chestnut Hill area, and we believed we could fill a void in the area for a family-friendly Mexican eatery with great food, drinks, service and atmosphere at a reasonable price point.

What are the best-selling dishes and drinks so far?

Our tacos and enchiladas have been very well received thus far. Our fresh-squeezed lime juice margarita has been our top-selling cocktail. We also have been getting great reviews on our fresh seasonal juice margaritas made from fresh-squeezed juices. They can be mixed with a variety of premium tequilas that have been curated by our beverage specialist, Tim Lux.

In addition, the restaurant runs daily kitchen specials that … have included Buffalo wing tacos for the Super Bowl and an octopus dish last Friday that sold out before night’s end.

Chestnut Hill College is right down the road. Do you plan on any specific marketing tactics to attract CHC students such as salsa nights, quizzo, etc.?

From day one, we have strived to integrate into the neighborhood. Chestnut Hill is a very special place. It’s a village. That is something that was not lost on our team. We have worked very closely with the Chestnut Hill Business Association and will participate in all the seasonal festivals, including the Harry Potter weekend. Most recently, we participated in the Philadelphia Flower Show that highlighted Chestnut Hill. The Home and Garden Street Festival is May 3. It is the first street festival in Chestnut Hill that we will be participating in since joining the community.

Any weekly specials?

Currently, we run Happy Hour from Monday through Thursday, 5-6.30 p.m. We also run daily food features. Our most recent food feature was a jumbo lump crab queso fundido with house-made corn tortillas.

Any special events coming up?

We are planning to launch outdoor dining in the garden patio within the next couple weeks and are planning a major fiesta with live entertainment to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

We can host events from 12 to 50 guests in our select private event spaces or can rent the entire restaurant for up to 280 guests. We will also host semi-private events on our patio as well. Please email us at events@elpoquito.com or call 267-766-5372.

Any other information you would like to share? 

Local, sustainable, organic and non-GMO foods are important to our team and our concept and have been incorporated whenever possible. Reclaimed and reusable are equally as important, as demonstrated by the utilization of reclaimed building materials from floor to ceiling.

Our entire menu is available for take-out as well, and we have many vegetarian options and are able to accommodate any food allergies for our guests.

Our Facebook page is facebook.com/elpoquitocantina, and our instagram tag is #ELPOQUITOCANTINA. Guests are able to view our menus at www.elpoquito.com.