By the time the cameras showed up, the corner of Allen and Kimball had gotten too hot for Milo’s Market. “People would come by like a BYOB, and we would sell food out of the back of the house,” says Gilberto Bahena. “People came out walking their dogs, ‘What’s going on?’ And we’re like, ‘We’re raising money for Midwest Access Coalition.’ They’d come back with some beer or tequila and by 12:30 everybody would be drunk. There’d be 20 people waiting for food on the patio deck. It got a little out of hand. We didn’t even own the property and the neighbors were looking. But that was a great summer.”
That was 2021, and the Saturday crowds lured by the black bean and sweet potato tacos and fried chicken café con leche-infused waffle sandwiches that Bahena and three high school pals had been slinging out of an Avondale apartment had also the caught the attention of a Univision news crew. Sure, they were donating the proceeds to social justice organizations like Inner-City Muslim Action Network and Chi-Nations Youth Council, but they weren’t exactly licensed. Maybe it was time to lay low until the heat cooled off.
Chill, they did not. Last summer Milo’s Market (named for Bahena’s oldest son) established a regular Mexican-inspired Sunday brunch at Tied House, where Bahena had taken on a prep job, along with irregular collaborative gigs at Marz Brewing with the likes of Taco Sublime and Smash Jibarito.
But next month Bahena’s leaving his regular Tied House job so Milo’s can go full-time mobile with a rapid-fire series of pop-ups that begins this April 17 at the next Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up at Ludlow Liquors.
Bahena’s been a cook for the past dozen years, starting at the late, great Borinquen (home of the jibarito) and ending at downtown’s World of Whirlpool professional demo kitchen after COVID-19 struck. With assists from fellow Von Steuben grads Teddy Braziunas, Jay Yu, and Jem Sutton, he’s been working toward a roaming full-time social justice pop-up ever since.
“I wanna take this on the road,” he says. “Every time we pop up a percentage goes to a neighborhood charity.”
This Monday, homeless services organization Homeless Feeding People Through Plants takes a cut of the proceeds from chips with Bahena’s signature roasted tomatillo salsa verde; yogurt crema-pickled red onion-cotija-loaded sweet potato fries; and a showstopping beef birria sourdough grilled cheese with a crusty Chihuahua and Oaxacan cheese exterior.
It’s the start of another great summer at 5 PM, Monday, April 17, at Ludlow Liquors, 2959 N. California in Avondale. Walk-in orders only, until they sell out.
Meanwhile, the full Monday Night Foodball schedule abides.