The countdown is on for when suburbanites can sink their teeth into Mexican-inspired food from a new restaurant that, thanks to "Food Court Wars," recently won a rent-free space at Spring Hill Mall.
Owners of Taco in a Bag, the winning team/restaurant from Sunday's episode of the Food Network show, are running around like mad to ensure their place opens March 14 in the mall that straddles West Dundee and Carpentersville.
As part of the prize, the team, made up of Chicago competitive eaters Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti, 28, and Tim "Gravy" Brown, 35, get to operate their restaurant rent-free for a year.
"I am super excited and super, super scared," said Brown, a Barrington native. "It's a great opportunity and I am so psyched, but at the same time, it's just like I know that my life is over. We are going to be at this place seven days a week for a year."
Taco in a Bag will serve gourmet nachos with all the fixings in a bag.
For example, its original taco in a bag, called "The Big Jim," features homemade tortilla chips, chorizo gravy, tomatillo sour cream, pepper jack cheese and green onions.
The restaurant will offer doughnut hole sundaes for dessert. One of the items features doughnut holes covered in Nutella.
The team hoped to name the restaurant after its Chicago food truck, Glutton Force 5, but decided it would be best to change its name to something simpler.
So borrowing from the "Cup 'o Pizza" eatery featured in "The Jerk" and the "Hot Dog on a Stick" restaurant in California, Taco in a Bag made more sense than Glutton Force 5, Bertoletti said.
Glutton Force 5 is a food tuck and a lifestyle brand that melds competitive eating, social media and marketing.
"It was just going to be too confusing. I think we'd have to explain what Glutton Force 5 is to every person," Bertoletti said.
The team is spending the week setting up its restaurant, which will be inside the former McDonald's.
Bertoletti said he quit his day job as a caterer Monday to focus on the team's joint venture at Spring Hill Mall.
"It's kind of scary that I have to try to support myself by myself," Bertoletti said. "It's exciting, but I'm a little nervous, too."
Brown works two marketing jobs and says he is not in a position to quit. The duo will continue operating their food truck in Chicago but will devote the bulk of their time to their new restaurant at the mall.
The pair haven't planned any grand opening activities just yet, but an eating competition could be in the cards once they get settled in.
"We'll do some crazy events and kick it off the right way," Brown said.
"Food Court Wars" is in its second season and all 13 episodes are featuring malls owned by Rouse Properties Inc.
Missy Heanue, director of marketing for Rouse Properties, said the company is thrilled at the national exposure the mall and West Dundee received.
"'Food Court Wars' brings another exciting and unique event to Spring Hill Mall that the entire community can enjoy," Heanue said.