Helen Schwab

Chef bringing Hispanic mashup to Fort Mill

Chef Rivera plans street food ...
Chef Rivera plans street food ... Courtesy Tapas 51

I have two words for you: Yuca poutine.

Chef Aaron Rivera plans to open Tapas 51 in the former Passion8 spot at the beginning of May, and will serve what he calls “Hispanic East L.A. meets Bellagio”: Those are references to all sorts of dishes and street food from Mexico “and lower,” and the time he spent cooking at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

He’s also cooked with chefs such as Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, and since moving to Charlotte has run the Chrome Toaster food truck and Provecho Catering. This is a third cog in his wheel.

He’s currently renovating the Fort Mill space that held Passion8: He’s putting in dark wood floors, light walls with accent walls in a “spring moss green,” stainless steel fixtures and pendant lights from the vaulted ceiling. The patio’s getting a freshening, and he hopes to plant a vegetable and herb garden, though that may take another season.

He’s looking forward to his mother moving from Dallas to Charlotte, where she’ll be able to pitch in: “Our mother-son combination team should do really well.”

But back to the poutine: That’s the sort of mashup he envisions. Fried yuca with curds from local cheesemaker Una Alla Volta, Peruvian yellow chile sauce and a duck egg. Burrata from UAV, with grilled avocado and pickled radish salad. Nachos with taro root chips, pig skin chicharrons and a roasted poblano Mornay sauce. Street tacos with fresh corn tortillas. Empanadas, Argentine-style; ceviche Colombian-style; bottled sodas, the ones made with cane syrup, not corn, and wines and beer only from the region -- except for local brews. “I want to pay respect to places that helped me with the food truck, giving me a place to park -- but also beers like Birdsong’s Jalapeno Pale Ale really play right into (the concept).”

Expect the place to start with dinner, then add lunch, and prices to run $5 to $12 or $13 -- dishes are all tapas-style (small portions), he says.

Rivera is also planning another multiple sclerosis fundraising dinner (his mother was diagnosed with MS) for April 30, with local chefs Luca Annunziata (who’ll be coming to his former restaurant), Greg Collier and Jon Fortes on had. $85; 3415 Highway 51 N, Fort Mill; details at the website: www.provechorestaurantgroup.com/