A lot has happened since March 2017, when chef Daniel del Prado announced that he was opening a pair of restaurants.

One of them, Martina, materialized in Linden Hills in November, and later earned four stars from the Star Tribune.

Since then, the second property has evolved. A lot.

Originally, it was going to be a Diamond BBQ, a casual, Texas-style setup in the North Loop with a brined and smoked brisket as the star of the show.

The location eventually moved to 54th and Penn in south Minneapolis, taking over a former service station. But both the focus – and the name – have changed. And there’s a tentative opening date.

Now called Colita, the restaurant’s kitchen will continue to concentrate on house-smoked meats, and del Prado’s interest in Tex-Mex cooking and seasonal ingredients will remain in play.

But the menu will also periodically highlight different flavors and traditions from regions across Mexico. (Born and raised in Argentina, del Prado is a frequent traveler to Mexico; that's del Prado, above, in the kitchen at Martina, in a Star Tribune file photo). The opening menu will take some of its cues from Oaxaca, the southern state on the Pacific Ocean. Expect to encounter raw seafood dishes, a wide range of vegetable-centric plates, and smoked meats paired with Oaxacan moles and house-made tortillas. 

(Colita is one of several new Minneapolis restaurants taking a deep dive into Mexican culture: Taco-centric Centro opened a few weeks ago in northeast Minneapolis, and chef Jose Alarcon is getting ready to debut its more formal companion, Popol Vuh; and Young Joni co-owners Ann Kim and Conrad Leifur announced plans to transform the former Lucia’s Restaurant in Uptown into a tortilla-driven restaurant, opening in summer 2019. And Colita is following in the footsteps of other distinguished service station transformations, including Wise Acre Eatery, Brasa and Empire Coffee & Pastry). 

Martina’s Marco Zappia is managing the bar program, which will explore fermented Mexican beverages and will also feature beers and sparkling wines. Zappia will preside over a circular bar in the center of the dining room. 

A mid-September opening is planned.

  

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