La Catrina, an elegantly clad skeleton, made popular through artist renderings as far back as the early 1900s, has grown to be a powerful symbol of Day of the Dead celebrations throughout Mexico.
Since opening earlier this month, Catrina Tequila Bar, 34 East Ave., is bringing distinctive Día de los Muertos spirt to Riverside.
I am excited to bring some of my Latin culture to Riverside,” said bar owner Gisela Muñoz. “This is an amazing location in a beautiful community. I couldn’t wait to jump at this opportunity.”
An impressive Catrina statue greets guests upon entry, while a massive custom mural of the iconic calavera easily draws attention. Delicate flourishes including bright marigold garlands, alebrije spirit guides, trails of monarch butterflies and plentiful red roses round out the bar’s cohesive theme.
Muñoz is especially grateful to her mother, Sarah Flores, for bringing her entrepreneurial energy and decorative prowess to this new endeavor — her attention to detail even extends to the restroom.
While the artistic environment is more than enough to draw any passerby into Catrina, a selection of 16 tequilas and a thoughtful cocktail menu will easily entice folks to linger long at the bar.
Muñoz traces her family lineage to Guerrero and Jalisco in Mexico. Jalisco is known for its tequila production and the spirit has been a staple at Muñoz’s family gatherings for as long as she can remember. Unsurprisingly, tequila and mezcal are at the heart of Catrina’s craft cocktails.
Muñoz worked closely with a mixologist to develop the cocktail repertoire for Catrina. The offerings, including a quartet of margaritas, are designed to modernize classic Mexican drinks.
Catrina’s Paloma Negra is the color of the night sky and elevates a classic grapefruit and tequila cocktail by giving the drink a mysterious hue without sacrificing flavor. A refreshing cocktail, the La Calaca features tequila, lime juice, elderflower liquor, cucumber, mint and a sprinkling of spicy tajin.
Those looking for something other than tequila will be pleased to find a robust collection of mojitos and sangrias on the menu at Catrina Tequila Bar.
Muñoz was raised in a family dedicated to the restaurant business, and while she is primarily committed to bar service, she has augmented her robust cocktail offerings with a limited menu of hearty snacks and small plates.
Fresh chips and house-made guacamole and salsa verde are made to order while heartier fare like steak tacos and quesadillas make use of steak catered in from her uncle’s restaurant, Taqueria El Asadero, located in Chicago.
As a young child, Muñoz, recollects her family driving through Riverside to look the beautiful homes in the area. She fell in love with the architecture and has come to appreciate Riverside for being and active community with residents dedicated to supporting small business.
The Cicero resident is aware several bars have come and gone in her East Avenue location over the years, but Muñoz is committed to attracting locals in a way that will make her bar a staple in the Riverside community.
“We have been overwhelmed with support,” said Muñoz. “We have been swarmed with locals who are happy and excited to have us here. I love this community and cannot wait to live here one day.”
Muñoz credits the village of Riverside for her smooth road to opening day. Thanks to their support she has enjoyed her month-long soft opening but looks forward to celebrating the Day of the Dead in grand fashion this fall. In the meantime, she is looking into the outdoor dining permitting process in hopes of offering sidewalk seating outside of Catrina Tequila Bar.
Catrina Tequila Bar is open Monday-Wednesday 3-10 p.m., Thursday 3-11 p.m., Friday-Saturday 3 p.m.-midnight and Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. No matter what time you stop by, expect to find Muñoz behind the bar.