One of Chicago’s favorite sandwich spots is setting up shop in that mecca of Windy City eateries, the West Loop’s Fulton Market. Cemitas Puebla—the Humboldt Park Mexican restaurant known for its hefty, eponymous sandwich—will keep the menu the same at its new location, but when it comes to design they are trading taquería utilitarianism for a clean white space full of art handcrafted by Michael Newman, creative director of estudiotres.
Newman, who studied sculpture in college, molded 60 Dia de los Muertos skulls from clay for a wall installation that references the unique heritage of Mexico’s Puebla region, specifically the intricately detailed talavera pottery. “Instead of painting these day of the dead skulls with traditional flowers and eyeballs and things like that,” said Newman, “I hand-painted each one in the talavara style.” To further integrate the display into the restaurant’s mutable modern vibe, Newman opted for black and white inkwash over the vibrant colors of typical calaveras. The shape of the installation itself references the skull piles protruding through the walls of Parisian catacombs.
That attention to detail continues throughout. Subtle patterns in the roof panels “guide the viewer’s narrative” from the street into the restaurant, said Newman, and onto a mural with more Puebla references: a street scene, a church, the Volkswagen Beetle, which has been manufactured in the region since 1967.