Parched Pug Gastropub and Gamery coming to old Tacos El Norte space in Libertyville

A love of dogs inspired the name, but innovation is the theme of a new venture planned for the former Tacos El Norte along Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville.

The Parched Pug, Gastropub and Gamery venue will feature a self-pour beverage wall, more than 200 board games and a nine-hole, tabletop mini-golf course designed by proprietor Mark Carlson.

Befitting the name, dog-centric events and features also are planned at the new venue on the south end of the village.

Parched Pug is named for Arlington Heights residents Mark and Heather Carlson's passion for supporting local dog rescues.

"We have four dogs of our own - two pugs - all of which we adopted from rescues," Carlson said. "This is important to us."

Mark is an electrical engineer and Heather is a home health care physical therapist. For five years, the couple operated Escapeocity, an escape room business in Palatine, before deciding to try something different.

"We wanted to do something that had some gaming aspect but also food," Carlson said.

Dogs aside, renovation of the space, set between two office buildings on a hill at Milwaukee and Artaius Parkway, is intended to be "more than just a restaurant," Carlson said.

Patrons will be able to draw their own beer, wine or cocktails from one of 42 taps on a "beverage wall," a first in Lake County, according to Carlson.

Locally brewed craft beer and wine, and housemade cocktails will be featured, he said.

The gastro part of the name refers to "elevated" pub-style food. The game side of the business will feature a library of about 200 board games to start, as well as a proprietary tabletop mini-golf game called Nanoputt designed by Carlson.

A May opening is being targeted, but that could be delayed depending on supply chain issues involving materials needed for the renovation, Carlson said.

Carlson is working with a consultant initially on the restaurant side of the business and is partnering with PourMyBeer for the beverage wall. Tala Coffee Roasters in Libertyville will supply the brew to be served from what had been a traditional bar.

"Mostly, it will be a place for people to get their games and coffee," Carlson said of that aspect of the operation.

The restaurant will have an industrial-style design with polished concrete flooring and other elements, and seat about 140 customers. The interior opens onto a 1,900-square-foot deck overlooking a pond.

The 6,000-square-foot space has been home to various restaurants/bars for more than 40 years. About 26,000 vehicles pass each day. Visibility and location between concentrations of restaurants in downtown Libertyville and at Mellody Farm and other locations in Vernon Hills was a factor in the decision to pick that spot, Carlson said.

"Those are big attractions, and we kind of want to be a part of that," he said.

Carlson has another connection to the village, having worked for 16 years at the former Motorola Mobility campus on the northwest side of town until the operation moved to Chicago in 2014.

  The Parched Pug Gastropub and Gamery will feature Lake County's first self-serve beverage wall and a board game library when it opens in the former Tacos El Norte building on Milwaukee Avenue at Artaius Parkway in Libertyville. John Starks/
  Mark and Heather Carlson are renovating the former Tacos El Norte space on Milwaukee Avenue and Artaius Parkway in Libertyville for the Parched Pug Gastropub and Gamery, which will feature a beverage wall and 200 board games. John Starks/
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